I wrote a few weeks ago about having lots of ambitious plans for the next year - in addition to writing - that all fell through when I remembered my husband's job requires a lot of travel. I clearly have selective memory - I thought that was just him.
His summer travel got pushed back, and I was able to sign up for a writing class at the last minute. It's not a normal class where they teach technique, but more of a formalized writing group. The last time I went, the group was a little dysfunctional.
Everything about this class depends on the group dynamic. There's nothing individual about it. It's all about sharing your work and getting feedback that's useful. If the energy of the group is low or there's that one person that isn't thrilled to be there, it's just not good.
When I checked in, a person I had previously attended three classes with only a year ago talked to me like I was brand new. I thought maybe she was just taking her check-in-person role too seriously. Then she said, "Nice to meet you." I reminded her I had attended several classes with her. She said something like, "Oh, huh." Immediately I had a sinking feeling I had just thrown a big wad of money out the window of a moving car. Did I mention there's no refunds if the class sucks?
But when the class started and the conversation began, everyone was very positive - even Ms. Nice-To-Meet-You. In the small group, I got paired with people I had never met. I was the only one that brought fiction. One had a memoir and another had something that was more of an essay.
I brought the first chapter of my last novel - the one where I got great reviews from two beta readers and one that was really harsh. I asked the group for feedback on the specific details that my beta reader found objectionable, and I told them - and meant it - that I was OK if they hated it. I needed to know if this is the novel I need to put back in the drawer.
As I read, they all started laughing out loud. It's a dark comedy, and I wasn't sure if that was apparent in the first chapter. The more I read, the more they laughed. I read for twelve minutes, and they kept laughing. Yay!! *burst of confetti and streamers*
I am so much more confident now that 5 out of 6 readers loved it. I finally feel like I'm ready to start writing query letters. I feel like I'm a writer - like I'm going to get my novels published - and that some (not all) readers will laugh out loud while they're reading it. If that's only a handful of people, the effort was worth it.
I feel like I'm bragging if I share this with anyone else (besides my immediate family). It's great to know I have a community (you) in which I can share my successes and know that everyone will be cheering with me.