Look into my Raven’s eye…


So you want to join a writing group. Don’t. Nothing in it for you except a rash of verbal bludgeoning and the theft of your story idea. God knows, nobody has ever written a story like the one you’re clutching in your sweaty hands. The characters are unique. The plot radiates pure genius. The idea is so original the moment you walk into the room every reader within one hundred feet is going to smell it and rush over to beat you to a bloody pulp.

Sound familiar?

On the count of three, you are going to come out of that hallucination and work  with me on recognizing reality.  Ready? One, two…oh, hand me that manuscript you’re sitting on, okay?


In the last few weeks, five people have asked me whether they ought to join a writing group. My answer? I don’t know. You are you; I am me. Betwixt us is a wealth of difference created by different lives and different experiences. I can only tell you what I believe, based on my experience. And the answer is…

On the count of three, you’re going to realize that the reason you asked that question is that you are afraid to try it for yourself. That you believe the next best thing is to ask someone who has survived the bludgeoning and come out with limbs and self esteem intact. You’re going to realize that, though I may be missing a finger or two, I wish you no harm and you’re going to believe me when I tell you a big, fat secret.

You can walk into and out of a writing group whenever you like. The old chain and ball methods have been outlawed. No more whippings. No more metal racks. No more duct tape. (Sorry, you’re going to need to go googling if you’re looking for the exotic stuff.) On the other hand, if you’re looking to find out if you fit in a writing group, you’re going to have to knock on the door to this particular experience and enter of your own free will.

So, you now realize you are ready to take that first step. You feel no fear. Yes, you can sweat a little, but no scratching or face tics. You are going to come off as smooth, confident and willing to absorb everything you can. Positive thoughts. Happy thoughts.

You will leave a note with your mother, girlfriend or boyfriend or on the dashboard of your car, saying where you’re going and when you should return. Bring food, pen and paper, ten bucks and an open mind. Everyone knows it’s the people who don’t prepare that end up duct-taped to a rack in the basement of an abandoned café with a masked villain hovering over you, whip in one hand and your manuscript in the other.

Be brave. Try. Are you ready? Good.

One, two, three…

You can go now.

5 Responses to “Look into my Raven’s eye…”
  1. JBarWriter says:

    Wait a second Raven you forgot to add leave your feelings at the door. Writing groups are about improving that writing skill and if you are there just for praise—you’ve come to the wrong place. Don’t waste the group times. I’ve belonged to several writing group (some good and some bad) but the commitment to help you improve the skill required to get published is invaluable in those groups that are willing tell you the truth and share with you their knowledge.
    I can’t praise our group enough. Trust me you could spend thousands of dollars for writing programs and not come away with what you come away with from a good writers group.
    Oh by the way…I want to do an interview with you on the subject on my blog—how about it? Are you game?

  2. ravenlaw says:

    Hi JB,

    Yes, a writer in a writing group must possess a good balance of confidence and humility. The attitude belongs at home, in a shoebox. There’s nothing worse for a writer than to share precious time and energy in providing feedback only to have the recipient of the feedback argue, pout or hide behind one of those “creative license” excuses.
    Likewise, there’s nothing worse than a flaming critique offered under the guise of feedback. It hurts everybody involved in some way or another.

    Sweethearts is an exceptional group. Usually it takes years to get the mix of writers we have and even longer to achieve the balance of mutual respect and professionalism.

    Carol’s call for writers interested in literary short fiction caught my eye. The opportunity to work with such strong writers was too much to resist.

    Of course I’ll do an interview. I’ll bring the chocolate, you bring the coffee, okay?

    Raven 🙂

  3. Jbarwriter says:

    Yes, it does take a committed group focusing on the details, studying the craft and not just arbitrarily saying something to be heard or cute or detailing things that aren’t there just because it isn’t something you as a writer would do or you are mad.
    Sweethearts has a lot of talented writers that focuses on each others style, their technique and form along with a willingness to help the other achieve publication.
    Studying Butler, this week’s chapter 8 of his book “From Where you Dream” has heighten my awareness for sensual details. It’s not something new or unique, I’ve known this for ages, but as you grow as a writer, a student of the craft, it’s like a bulb lighting around you for the first time, and you asks yourself why haven’t you already done this stupid? Sometimes it takes studying the craft along with others, to reenergizes that awareness, the perception is there, but it has lain hidden in the recesses of the mind, waiting to come out.
    I have plenty of coffee waiting, and I know you have plenty of chocolate on hand, so we are set.
    Questions, I’d like focus on in the interview with you…drum roll please, Butler’s sensory memory. Next week the group will be doing the exercise part, which is chapter 9 of his book, and I know you are working on a revising “GraceFall” previously you wrote a scene about the remains of a dead colt. Think visually back now about that scene, and how Butler pulled and I say literally pulled from Mary Jane those haring details, she viewed as she entered the mortuary where her father lay. It was her choice to use this as anecdote in class. As we read further with Butler taking them back through the anecdote, and he tells them as they begin each sentence, what he perceives as abstraction, or generalization, sometimes they would begin analyzing what they see…in Mary Jane I sensed the tightening of her stomach and fear rise in her, as she tried to tell what she viewed through the camera angle then drawback unable to let the details come out.
    1) Did you draw back in your mind, as you experienced writing the scene visually?
    2) What details do you think you could have added that would increase the readers mind visually to what Grace saw and felt as she viewed the remains?
    3) Butler says in this chapter that sometimes the narrative voice is allowed abstraction and generalization—what do you think he means by that?
    What would also be unique is to explore through sensory detail on the blogs, yours, and mine a discussion on the topic. Perhaps write a paragraph or two with a sentence starter, a scene utilizing the senses of sight, smell, sound, touch, where the writer doesn’t draw back (squelch) when the fear begins.
    You have my email address; you can email me your thoughts and ideas. I’ll facebook and twitter what we are doing, maybe some of those published authors will chime in, wouldn’t that be great if they did?

  4. joni says:

    There you are! Talking up a storm. 🙂

    I’m reading a book and I’m telling you, this woman has your voice! (Is that possible?) lol

    I don’t know why, but when I’m holding the book in my hands, all I can think of is, “This is just what Raven would say,write,do.”

    Well I get the context of the story but…it is your voice. Check her out, Melanie Wells, When the Day of Evil Comes. She don’t have a Magoo but she has someone creepier! lol

    Just stopping by Raven. 🙂


    • ravenlaw says:

      Thanks Joni,

      I grabbed her name and googled it. Looks like an interesting author. I’m checking my library to see whether they’ve got any of her books available.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: