It’s been about two months since I linked up with the Liberty Hall writing group, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to summarize some of my major take-aways thus far:
1. Weekly timed “flash” challenges are a great way to stimulate creativity, improve consistency, and build an inventory of workable story ideas. Within a month of plunging in, I had several good stories in the hopper, at various stages of completion. I also found new story ideas coming to me in-between the scheduled challenges.
2. Critiques are always useful, but never gospel. They identify weak spots in a story that need development or patching, but they are personal opinion, not an objective statement of fact. Crits can be flat wrong, and chasing down every little nit they pick can lead rapidly to inertia. You can also spend so much time trying to fend off issues identified in past crits that you run yourself into writer’s block. You can always find something wrong with a story, no matter how well-written.
3. Tight prose is a virtue, but excessive zeal for editing can cut the heart out of a story. It’s important to recognize the difference between fat and muscle. Humor is particularly sensitive to timing and often relies on eccentric turns of phrase that aren’t particularly efficient in terms of sentence structure and word count.
4. You will always be your own harshest critic. This is good because you can recognize a marginal story and won’t typically send out junk. It’s bad because it can cause you to hold back a decent story and edit it to death trying to satisfy the Inner Critter.
5. There are a zillion markets for stories. Don’t give up just because one, or two, or ten say “no”.
6. You are not “all that and a bag of chips.” There are plenty of very talented writers out there. Rejoice when you win, and don’t be discouraged when you get out-competed.