I felt a bit of a fraud attending the Renegade Writers’ Group but without anything of my own to contribute – that was my initial thought when I first visited the group. But I need not have been so worried. I was made to feel more than welcome, and I was enthralled by the talent in the group and with the quality of the work. I only write what I call ‘rhymes’ that are on a par with Pam Ayres; that is not to say I do not admire her poetry and skill. But Renegades mainly concentrates on prose so there was little I would be able to contribute. I went along my partner who was writing a book at the time and found the atmosphere contagious. I came out of each meeting feeling enthused and encouraged to dive into the arts. But why should I feel that way if I had no contribution to offer?
I also asked myself, what would be the reason to read out anything of my own – that is, if I had anything? Would it be just for the praise from those sitting around the table, for them to say how much they admired it and how good it was? I soon realised that the main reason to bring one’s creation to the group was to acquire feedback, both negative and positive – to see if the piece ‘worked’ or ‘ran smoothly’, not just grammatically on paper, not just to the reader him/herself, but also to the listener. There is a vast difference between these.
The reader of any story or book may ‘say’ each word in their head; they may easily put words into the story which are not actually on the page. In fact, this happens often when writing – hence proofreading is essential. But when the story is read out loud, that is when the listener notices any adjustments that need to be made in the narrative; that’s when the acute listener picks up on the unusual, things not conducive to the story itself or the characters therein. Gradually I realised how important it is to listen to the authors as they read out work in progress.
It is remarkable how a plot is developed, how the book is produced, the emotions and hard work that are involved. Only the person who is writing the piece knows exactly what they wish to present. That becomes apparent when they read out their work and realise the words they wrote do not convey that emotion to the listener. If the author can not put this across, then that is where the listener is able to suggest other ways to achieve the writer’s aims. The listener should not only be able to listen to the words but also to visualise the scene in order to make his or her contribution to the constructive critiquing of the group. The two together are very important.
In that manner, I no longer feel a fraud because the listener is a vital contributor; he/she is a key element in any writing group, along with the writers who bring their work to be dissected and repaired, of course. These are the elements that constitute an all-round professional and well balanced writing group. Like Renegades.