Do What Works

Just write what you love. If you are passionate about your characters, your readers will feel that way too.
-Virginia Henley

This past week, I attended three different RWA chapter meetings. Tonight, I’m trying out a local writers’ group, and I submitted the first scene from Her Last First Kiss for critique. This group is not affiiliated with RWA, and is multigenre (slanted toward mainstream and literary, IIRC, but don’t quote me) so I have some reservations. I’ve had experiences both good and not so good with multigenre critique groups, but at the same time, want to keep an open mind and give things a fair shot.

The pluses are easy: this is a local group, meets at the local library (most of the time) which is a lovely walk from my house and I do like the members, from emails exchanged and the one meeting I was able to make a few months back. In-person critique and/or support groups can be like catnip for the extroverted writer. There really is some truth to the theory of hybrid vitality, and getting input from readers outside one’s genre of choice can provide insight that couldn’t come from anywhere else. Did I mention this group will be meeting in a library? Building full of books and movies gets an automatic point in its favor right there.

Then there’s the potential minuses. Not a romance group. In the past, this could have been a source of anxiety. Maybe I should try to tailor what I write to suit their needs. Writing is writing, right? Keep the peace, fit in, all of that stuff. Now…no. I write historical romance, I’m happy with it, I’m proud of it, and if it doesn’t fit with a particular group, then that’s probably not the group for me to bring my own work. I’ll critique pretty much anything, because I love stories, period, but knowing what to share with whom, that’s a learned skill.

There is always a chance, in a multigenre group, that somebody (count on at least one) has not read the genre a particular member writes. The good side of that? Honest reaction of a reader totally new to the genre. You get to be their first. Maybe they’ll find something new they might like, and so might you. Making assumptions about who reads what based on age or gender is usually a bad idea. When in doubt, ask. “So, what do you read?” is a classic reader/writer icebreaker, and a good way to test the waters. If it’s not a good fit, say so, in a polite and friendly manner, and move on along, no harm, no foul. Reach out to any individuals with whom you feel a connection and keep on doing you.

Which brings me to today’s picture. I have a lot of books. I mean, a lot of books. Most are in storage, but one box more than the boxes I’d tagged to make the move ended up getting on the truck, and into my office. Since I’m reorganizing said office in preparation for new-to-me desk, chair and computer (which will free my beloved secretary desk for longhand writing, which is what it was built for in the first place) I’m going through things that have sat for a while. I opened this box and hello, old friends. Where I’d been casting sidelong glances at a static TBR shelf of mostly new releases and telling them the reason they’ve been on that shelf for so long isn’t them, it’s me, the sight of these spines looking up at me from their cardboard cradle made my heart go pitty-pat.

Look at all those settings: 20th century time travel, Tudor England, Medieval England, Victorian England, Victorian-era Australia, Interregum England and Africa? (Not pictured because I’m currently reading it) Don’t see all of those that often these days, do we? All of these date from the mid 1980s at earliest to 2000 at latest, confirming that my current reading interests are, at present, very comfortably ensconced in books written/published in the 1990s, give or take a few years either way. After reading two brand-new releases (thumbs up on both of them) I’m ready for these. That’s what works now, and darned if I’m not plowing through the tale of a runaway bride in the midst of the English Civil War, and a hero who I’m pretty sure is going to wind up enslaved in Northern Africa, if I’m reading this right.

There is, of course, the voice of current marketing in my head, reminding me that we’re on page x and hero and heroine haven’t met yet, and that is not done. Grab the reader now, now, now, be fast, be clear, be…shush, voice. Mama’s reading. I’m engaged in the story; that’s enough. It’s a romance. They’ll be fine. That’s all I need to know, so that voice can be quiet now.

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