Right now, we are six strong, with five ladies and one out-of-state, male e-member. We have a mom with elementary school children who is working to find her writer’s voice. There is a journalist who seeks to break into fiction, and a seasoned self-published writer. We have a traditionally-published Christian suspense author of one fiction work with another on the way, and an up-and-coming Christian historical fiction writer. And then there is our western writer who routinely wins writing competitions.
We’ve had in our midst, since our beginnings in a now defunct restaurant in Florence, poets and mainstream story tellers. We’ve had as many as 14 and as few as one at our monthly meetings and decided two years ago to begin meeting weekly. If we’re going to get published, we better write, right? And the weekly support group keeps most of us focused on that goal.
Following the closing of the restaurant, we moved into coffee shops and libraries. We evolved. We adapted. And we wrote. We’ve now settled on meeting on Thursday mornings at 11 a.m. in the Starbucks in the Barnes & Noble at the Magnolia Mall on David McLeod Boulevard. If you’re in town on a Thursday, stop by and visit.
Typically, we e-mail passages for critiquing a few days before the meeting. With the reading behind us, the critiquing begins. We quiz one another about style and content, discuss what pushes a plot along and what makes a stronger character, and speak frankly about what “reads well and works” for us, and what doesn’t. We challenge each other to write better.
We accompany one another to workshops and offer books for reading on topics discussed. What writer hasn’t needed support from some group at one time or another? Just as the summer was coming to a close, I visited Asheville, N.C., touring the Thomas Wolfe museum and standing on a corner with an inscription dedicated to O. Henry. Nearby, Carl Sandburg’s home-turned National Park beckoned. And I was reminded of the larger writing groups these authors were a part of. Think Paris, 1920s. It was likely there, among friends, that Ernest Hemingway learned what he has been quoted as saying: “The first draft of anything is shit.”
It is this group of writers in Florence that challenges me to write better. To ditch the “background” and go for the “guts” of the story. As Stephen King has said: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
Dianne Poston Owens is a weekly newspaper editor, freelance writer and member of the Florence Chapter of SCWW. One day, she will finish writing a book and have it published. She lives along the Lynches River in the Hannah community of South Carolina. You can follow her on Twitter @dianneinhannah.