Joining a writing group is probably one of the smartest things I’ve done in the past year or so. Because of this talented, helpful, diplomatic group, I’ve learned things that I’d never have thought of on my own. Nor have I read them in any book or heard them in any class. That’s not to say that I always like what the members tell me. And yet, their most recent advice has been extremely helpful. (They wouldn’t like that I used extremely in that last sentence, but time is of the essence this afternoon, and I can’t think of a better way to describe how helpful they’ve been.)
I’ve been working like a maniac on an e-book about what technical and community college students need to know in order to be successful. My goal was to have it “launched” before the beginning of the fall semester and until last week, I considered the book pretty much complete. Yet something kept nagging at me. Was the information organized in a logical fashion? Was there too much information? Or worse, was there enough? Were all topics covered adequately? Were the opening vignettes appropriate? Were the photographs well placed?
The only way to breathe easily about the “project” was to let this choice group of people take a look at one of my chapters. I selected the one I had the most difficulty writing, the one about admissions counselors, academic advisors, and financial aid specialists. All of those people and their roles in aiding students are of great importance, and I wanted to say just the right things in just the right tone, motivational but not didactic. I sent the chapter to the writing group for critiquing and anxiously awaited the morning of our meeting.
The group met Thursday morning, and although I felt a bit downcast and disheartened when I left the bookstore, I knew that every single comment had some merit. Every person began with something positive and then proceeded to the heart of the matter, the things I needed to work on. “You’re a good writer,” each person said (one person even said “great” writer). And then, “This material is great. And it’s much needed too.” And then they lowered the boom with what I need to work on:
- Paring down the use of “to be” verbs. I have am and is and was all over the place.
- Using fewer adjectives and adverbs and incorporating stronger verbs.
- Using more bulleted items and fewer paragraphs.
- Making the opening vignettes more positive.
Right now I’m letting the e-book marinate, a term my friend June used in a conversation last week. By the time the group meets again, however, I’ll have that chapter redone and ready for inspection. Sure, I could go ahead and upload it to Amazon and a few other sites, but if waiting a little longer and working a little harder will make the product better, then it’s worth the wait.