A Monty Python Fan’s View of Writing in Groups

I’m a pretty big Monty Python fan. I wanted to share this because as a member of a writer’s group, I found insight in Eric’s experience of writing with others.

Now, I realize that Eric Idle was writing comedy sketches to be performed with other members of the Monty Python troupe, but the process of writing in the same room as someone else is the same.

My own writer’s group, the Weaklings, is made up of very different types of writers. I write flash fiction and YA fantasy and I work best in public settings while listening to music. My friend Bob writes epic fantasy tomes and can seemingly write anywhere with anything going on. Andrew writes in silence and preferably in seclusion. And Matt writes poetry, which is as far from my understanding as writing upside-down while wearing a pink tutu (I don’t actually know Matt’s process that well, so maybe he does this).

During the 3-day Novel Contest, however, we all write together in the same room. When we write communally, there is a synergy of ideas, a free-flowing exchange of new perspectives that brings out the best in our work. When I get stuck in my manuscript, I shout out the problem to the world at large and my writing friends shout ideas back to me. When they write themselves into a corner, they shout out and I shout back.

Those of us who need music use headphones. And when our eyes begin to melt from staring at the screen for too long, we stop and eat together, encouraging each other along the way.

I say all that to say this: a good writer’s group has been vital to my experience as a writer. There are some folks out there who say that writing is a solitary journey of hardship, but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. Sure, when you are putting pen to paper, it is your hands following the instructions from your brain and you have the ultimate freedom to make your story do what you want it to, but there is value in sharing the experience.

If I am allowed to give a little advice, write with someone else this week. Maybe you’ll be frustrated by how they plan out every little detail before figuring out the larger story. Maybe you’ll both have such a good time together you won’t get any writing done. Maybe you’ll write in silence and question why you invited the person along in the first place. And maybe you’ll find someone who you can bounce ideas off and it will make your writing come alive.

The Writing Processes of Vonnegut, Pratchett, Gorey, and Tolkien in Links

In an interview¬†this week with a fellow blogger, I was asked who inspires me. I answered with four different authors, each chosen for a different reason (in order to find out what those reasons are, you’ll have to read the interview). This week, I decided to seek out any wisdom that my four favorites might have to share on the topic of writing.

I was introduced to the writing of Kurt Vonnegut in an ethics course offered by the Lee Honors College at Western Michigan University in my freshman year. We read Slaughterhouse Five and explored the morality represented within its pages. I’ve always enjoyed books, but I haven’t always enjoyed them when they were required reading for school. When I first read Slaughterhouse Five though, I couldn’t put it down. I think I read it twice before the due date and then again before the end of the semester. “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time…” Even just talking about Vonnegut’s work now makes me want to pick up a copy and read it over again. The link here features Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing. If you are a writer, I hope you click through.

It was sometime in my first year of working at Baker Book House when a coworker exposed me to the genius of Terry Pratchett. I think we were talking about sci-fi and fantasy stories when she told me that she was doing a paper for one of her literature classes on the topic of rule consistency when creating a fantasy world. “It doesn’t need to be just like it is in the real world, but it needs to be consistent within itself,” she said. She went on to tell me that she was using the works of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series as an example of consistency. When no flicker of recognition flashed on my face, she insisted that I read some. The next day, she brought me three books. “When you finish one of these, you are going to want another to start on right away,” she said. She was right. This link is for an interview that Pratchett did a few years back, and the relevant portion for writers begins about midway down the page.

I ran across Edward Gorey in college on a random excursion with my roommate, friend, and sometime muse, Adam. Together, we would visit Barnes and Noble and search through the bargain racks for anything that looked interesting. I picked up one of the Amphigorey books and was instantly in love with the mixture of dark humor, brilliant illustrations, and tales that forced the reader to fill in the blanks with their own imaginations. Alas, I could not find any advice to authors from Edward Gorey, but this link is for his book The Unstrung Harp or Mr. Earbrass Writes a Novel, in which Gorey illustrates the creative process of novel-writing though at the time he wrote this story, he himself had never written a novel. Still, it isn’t far from the truth.

My last author for this list is actually the one that I read earliest in my life. My dad handed me a copy of The Hobbit when I was in 7th or 8th grade and told me that I might enjoy it. I devoured it. Tolkien’s style, characters, and voice drew me in (as they do for anyone who dares to read The Hobbit). After that, my dad gave me a copy of The Fellowship of the Rings which I breezed through as well. And then I hit The Two Towers and got bogged down along with Frodo and Sam in the Dead Marshes. Sadly, I set the series down for a full year before attempting another go. But by that time, I had forgotten half of the details of the story, so I decided to start the whole thing again from the beginning. The Hobbit, check. The Fellowship of the Ring, check. The Two Towers, I powered through it this time, check. After I finished The Return of the King, I was sad the journey was over. LOTR was all I could talk about with my dad for weeks. And then he asked if I knew about the Silmarillion, which I hadn’t. So I decided to start again with The Hobbit, plowed through LOTR, and picked up the Silmarillion. Oh man, I was in nerd heaven. So many things in LOTR were explained, origins of the races, where the wizards came from, what a Balrog is, tales from the first and second ages of the world before the third age (when LOTR is set)! I am helplessly a Tolkien fan, so when I saw this post on Tolkien’s 10 Tips for Writers by the wonderful blogger, Roger Colby, I knew that it was going to be good. Colby culled through Tolkien’s writings and interviews where he discussed his craft and came up with a solid list for writers to use as a reference. Be sure to check it out, as well as the rest of his site.

How I did this week. Also, fun links!Last, for my writing report card, I’m going to give myself a B+ for the week.

I got the most hits in one day to date on Wednesday, I did a blog swap with another blogger, and I had fresh content everyday. The only thing was that I didn’t get a chance to write much on my novel, but I’m not going to let that get me down. Good job, me!