I heard at a writers conference once that the main purpose of a writers group is to teach us what rejection is like, so we'll develop a tough skin. I remember sitting there thinking that was very odd. That is not the main purpose of MY writers group. I guess each group has their own way of doing things, but I see a writers group's purpose as much more than skin thickening.
This week a few of us in my group ARE dealing with rejection, and we've each rallied around in support and encouragement, and I think most importantly, ideas. Being a writer of children's books in the current publishing climate is treacherous to say the least. Trying to find the balance between what the editor wants, what the agent thinks will sell, and the story you the writer want to share can be more precarious than a tightrope balancing act. At what point does the writer trump all?
Don't get me wrong here. Any critique or suggestions from an editor or agent should be very carefully considered, because they have a lot of experience at the business end where many of us have never been. And we do want our books to sell, and sell well. I'm a firm believer in listening to every critique, analyzing the 'what if's' of the suggested issues, thinking through the possible revisions entailed, and then honestly stepping back. Will this really make my story better? Honestly.
That's where the writers group comes back in. What a fantastic place to bounce these honest ideas around. Your group has read your story. They know the struggle you've had to get the characters just so, or keep the plot flowing in an interesting way. They've given their stamp of approval to the submitted draft. And now that the rejection has come, they want to know what's up too. What did they not see, or feel, that the agent did? Does what the rejection stated ring with them too? What ideas might float through their minds at the instant of acceptance?
I think there is a time when editors and agents are wrong. They are human just like writers. Again, this is where a strong writers group is invaluable. They know your work. They are your safety net. Their job is to work with you through all the ups and downs, to help you truly see your place on the tightrope, and to help you become the best writer you can possibly be.
And bring chocolate to writers group.
Writing for children is a passion - along with reading kid's books, writing plays for kids, and teaching kids how to write!