I recently got a wonderful opportunity to be part of a power-writing group. Some of the people in this group have polished book proposals and drafts, while others (like me!) are not so far along. While groups like this are such a gift, they can also hide a lot of sandpits. But if you respect your writing process and know where you are within it, you can avoid the sandpits and keep rolling.

Here Are Some Really Important Things To Remember

(PLUS a few A+ resources)

  1. Don’t compare your draft to the draft of people who have done multiple revisions, editing, etc. Those sorts of drafts will be quite polished and well crafted. Yours might be kind of NOT. That’s okay! You’re not a bad writer – it comes with the territory!
  2. In this super-sassy article, the author describes the waterfall stage (letting the words flow and fall where they may knowing many of them won’t end up in later edits!) and the samurai stage (editing and crafting). Here’s what you need to know: you can’t be both at the same time. Being a waterfall means getting words on paper even if they make you cringe. Being a samurai means getting down to the business of editing and revising. Some people will be working their inner samurais, but maybe you’re in the waterfall stage. Just love yourself and be a waterfall for now, kay?
  3. The type of feedback you want might vary according to your drafting stage (and I recommend it does!). In the early drafting process, a lot of the writing and content will suck and be cut out later. I probably don’t need someone sitting there doing line edits, copyediting, or worrying about structure right? That’s a waste of time. What I need is someone who will simply read it and say, “here are the themes I see emerging . . . here are the questions you seem to be asking . . . this feels magnetic and I’m drawn in here. . .”  For me this is food for thought and something that might likely inform me later. Ideally, it would help draw me closer to the heart of the book that’s emerging. If you happen to resonate with this . . . cool!! If you feel like a waterfall, please just be a waterfall!
  4. Recently, Danielle LaPorte said something really insightful (imagine that, right? ) She said she wished people would back off of wanting to write that “memoir” or particular “type of” piece (paraphrasing here). Basically the idea was, let the themes emerge as the bits percolate up. Just focus on the narrative bits and don’t worry so much about what the book wants to be when it grows up. This is something I’ve also said, and while it makes me feel very “of course!”, it’s actually very hard to do! The truth is that letting some control go in the early days is a viable, and often preferable, option
  5. If you’re a waterfall right now, think before you leap (into any sort of critique group, that is). It’s probably too early! It’s best to clearly define where you are in the drafting process and what you want from the sharing process. Personally, I like to protect my waterfall stage work. I already know a lot of it is dust in the wind so what’s the point?

Uncommonly Helpful Resources On The Drafting Process:

  1. You Can’t Make This Stuff Up by Lee Gutkind, the creator of Creative Nonfiction Magazine. While it’s more focused on journalistic creative nonfiction, its drafting approach and scene instruction is really insightful for all writers.
  2. How To Write –  A great “where-to-begin” article that also explains the idea of waterfalls.
  3. The Making of A Story; A Norton Guide To Creative Writing – this book has one of the best chapters about revision I’ve ever read, along with a short piece that develops from pre-draft (seed) to published draft. Being able to see the full development of a piece is not something we see a lot (unless we’re digging into archives of a famous writer and who has time for that?).
  4. The Beautiful Writers Group: This is an amazing writer’s group that is true life magic. I recommend it for anyone who doesn’t already have a rockstar writing group (or even if they do). I’ve used it (and seen it used for) connecting personally with Danielle LaPorte and Linda Sivertsen to ask writerly questions. Or to make high-level professional connections and mentors (one of them just helped me land a major deal). Or to get real guidance on writing a professional book proposal. Or to find beta readers (I myself am beta reading for one of our members right now!). There’s plenty of commiseration and inspiration going around. A member dished up a spreadsheet full of residencies. The writers are all kinds of diverse, from already published, to not knowing what their book is about, to “I write poetry, thank you” and beyond. Please check it out. Please.


Join me in my 30-day Beautiful Books challenge in August!!

We writers sometimes forget how meaningful our words really are. That’s why I’ll be posting one beautiful book  each day, on INSTAGRAM, and telling you the story of why it’s beautiful in my world. Click on the link below to see my post and follow me so you can share your stories #30daysofbeautifulbooks

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