fiction · Uncategorized

Writing Groups and Someone to Read Your Drafts

This week in my chapter updates from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott I have decided to discuss my personal experience on the two topics of Writing Groups and Someone to Read Your Drafts. For me, these are two crucial elements for a writer. Here is a look at some of my experience in these two areas:


Writing Groups


One of the first ways that I made my writing public was through a writing contest. I did not win that contest, but it was through that endeavor that I learned to accept criticism.  My story wasn’t returned with gold stars from the judges. It hurt at first because I was sure that my story was the best. A week after the contest I ended my membership with the writing group that put on the contest and went back into writing seclusion. I liked my bubble because I liked my own work. The only problem–I’m a terrible editor of my own work.

Fast forward a couple of years and I’ve come along way in receiving negative comments. I’ve written a book, many short stories, articles, and have a wealth of ideas. I’ve conducted research, read several books, and feel like I’ve blossomed in my writing. I’ve had the opportunity to receive feedback on my writing in several different ways which has strengthened my writing all the more.

I rejoined the writing group that had hurt my feelings. This time I was determined to use the negative comments to make me stronger. Immediately I was welcomed back. The feedback I received from some pieces I submitted were both constructive and positive. I was able to see things I still needed to focus on, but this time around it didn’t hurt my feelings. I’m stronger now and I know that every negative comment makes me that much stronger as a writer.

I’m currently enrolled in another contest through the same writing group. My story is in workshopping phase right now which means I’m getting several comments and suggestions a day from others in the group. The comments range from

“Very engaging story with real as life POV and characters. I enjoy a story that makes me see and feel without much work and this was a good one.”


“You have a powerful story on your hands here, well done! I was immediately drawn in and enjoyed the fast pace.”


“The style you’ve chosen tends to be heavy on the telling, which for the most part works, but in the first line I think you could create an image for us, to increase reader engagement.”

A year or two ago I would have totally been crushed by the third comment. I would have wallowed in self-pity thinking that my aspirations as a writer were finished. But today I see this comment as a fellow writer’s advice to strengthen my own writing. I’m not hurt. I’m empowered.

There’s something about joining a writing group that really does help us grow. We develop thick skin and are constantly educated in writing from others who are walking that path alongside us. The final draft for my essay is due this week and I will excitedly share it with you once it is finished.

Someone to Read Your Drafts

Just like it is helpful to find a group of writers in which you all critique in a safe environment it is also helpful to have one or two go-to readers to provide quick, and constructive feedback.

For me, my person is my sister.

Morgan is an English major wrapping up her undergraduate. She has already fixed her eyes on grad school and is intending to go on to further study English with the aspiration of becoming a college professor. When she was in high school I used to edit all of her papers. She would send them to me and I would put on my teacher hat and fix, edit, and suggest.

The tables have turned now. Instead of the being the respectable editor of our relationship she has become that editor for me. As someone who spends 75% of her time in English classes, working in the writing center at her school, or reading, Morgan has become my expert eye. I send her pieces that I plan to submit. She looks over it and we discuss it together.

In a couple of hours we are meeting for coffee at one of our favorite work spots and working on writing and editing together. These are days I really enjoy. We sip on coffee, talk about family drama, and do some writing. With coffee, gossip, and writing what could be better, right?

As a writer it is crucial to have a person or two like Morgan. Someone to read your work and respond honestly will help you to grow and communicate much more effectively. I’m pretty happy about having my person.

The Ameri Brit Mom

fiction · Uncategorized

First Drafts and Perfectionism

As I begin my second week of reading through Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott I am taking a look at the chapters “Shitty First Drafts” and “Perfectionism.” In the writing world, I’ve heard “Shitty First Drafts” referred to time and time again. This statement has become commonplace amongst writers, but really took off from the pages of Bird by Bird.

Warning! This post is extremely honest and raw. Proceed with caution!


First Drafts

Let’s be real for a moment. The first draft of anything is total and complete garbage. For the longest time I put off working on my own novel because I had the expectation that great novelists and authors naturally write well all the time. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. According to Lamott we write “shitty first drafts, good second drafts, and terrific third drafts.” After being through this process myself I must agree.

The first draft is all about getting your ideas on paper. You have plenty of time in consequent drafts to fine tune your writing, but the first draft should just be the place where you gather your thoughts and get your ideas hashed out.

Last winter I wrapped up my first draft of a book. I felt invincible as soon as I put the last period in its place. But those feelings of accomplishment were short lived. I went all the way back to the first chapter, and to my horror it was junk. I struggled with just deleting the entire manuscript I had spent two years writing. Luckily, I walked away from it that day. I let it simmer and a few days later I returned to it armed with a colored pen and a strong cup of coffee. For nine months I pushed through my second and third drafts. It was hard, but fun at the same time. And now that book has several query letters out to agents and may one day be a published book.

I found myself relating well to this entire chapter by Lamott. Somedays we have to push extra hard against  the inner critic and remember that nothing we ever read was written well in its first draft. It takes us several attempts to make an articulate piece. Give yourself permission to write a shitty first draft.


Something I had to tackle early on in my writing was the major road block of perfection. Prior to starting this blog I only wrote for myself. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a writer. Ask my parents about the state of their basement and they may tell you that 3/4 of the boxes still housed there contain notebooks that I filled while growing up. I wrote stories of fiction and also about events in my real life. To crack an old journal open and begin to read would make me cringe because of it’s raw lack of perfection. But also sprinkled amongst the stories about Homecoming and crushes you may also find a rare gem.

As an adult I’ve continued to write. And when my blog became public in 2014 it was one of the scariest things I had ever done. The most horrific part of sharing my writing with the world was the knowledge that it would never be perfect. I was releasing my errors, my garbage and words into the world. Quickly I accepted that there would be haters. Some people out there would catch every single one of my typos and judge every honest thought I published. I’ve even had people message me with their own “critiques” of my blog.

Instead of letting the fears of imperfection paralyze me I decided to move forward. So much good has come about in my life as a result of making my writing public. I’ve been given multiple opportunities that a closet journaler would never have. I’ve connected with thousands of people I would have never met. I’ve had work published in magazines and also now a short poem published in a book. I’ve become an affiliate for Stitch Fix and get paid to share my love for fashion. And, because of the love and support so many have shown me I’ve finished a novel and am currently marketing my book to agents.

Perfectionism may seem like a strength to some, but I learned through my personal journey that perfectionism is actually just a facade for fear. Being afraid of making mistakes or sharing imperfect words is truly the definition of perfectionism. Writing has made me stronger as a person and has led me to a place where I could care less about rejection or judgment. I’m happy with who I am and I recognize that my writing is never perfect. But I let that weakness become my strength as I power forward just like Anne Lamott speaks about in this chapter.

The Ameri Brit Mom