SEPTEMBER & WRITING
Have you ever participated in a writer's group? I was in a weekly group right after Sept. 11th, 2001. As a matter of fact, the Manhattan apartment that six of us screenwriters met at each week overlooked the "pit" of the World Trade Center. The first few weeks of the group there was a burning metal smell coming through the windows -- and the smell of something similar to burning rubber -- and the busy sounds of generators and heavy equipment working non stop. It was a bird's eye view into hell on earth.
The group was fairly productive. We'd each submit 30 pages of our script every few weeks. The members of the group would read it as a PDF online and then come to the group with comments, suggestions, etc. We'd also cast it and read each script aloud. Depending on the reader/actor, we'd either cry, laugh or cringe. At the end of the reading, each person would give a verbal critique to the screenwriter. This was squirm time for most of us -- as another writer would start off positive (a rule we had) and then go negative -- suggesting we change this, change that, go in this direction, make your protagonist a man not a woman or vice versa... and before long, the writers would grow defensive, annoyed and sometimes hostile toward each other. It was kinda funny -- like a support group gone wild.
So yes, a writer's group can be a fabulous and productive experience if you crave feedback, maybe long to hear your words read aloud, or just want human interaction away from your computer. But beware, develop a thick skin and try not to take every comment personally. If you trust the members of the group, listen and rewrite accordingly, but always follow your instincts of what remains true for your story and your characters.
I'm glad I was a part of that unique group back in September of 2001. There are images and emotions that we shared in that downtown Manhattan apartment that will stay with me forever.