Focused feedback and where to find it.

When I lived in London, writers’ groups sprouted everywhere, like dandelions. But where to look in Switzerland? I put out a plea on an English-speaking website, and one person responded.

Only one, but what a find! The Narrative Ninja.

An experienced editor, creative writer and wicked wordsmith, she was also great company. We hit it off instantly and spent many happy hours in cafés, arguing over narrative, nuance and the n-dash.

Buoyed by this success, I tried another writing site. Someone recommended it by saying ‘This is like leaving school and going to university’. It certainly was. Far more useful, incisive critiques and ideas flourished in abundance. Some fascinating minds, supportive people and outstanding writers. But the parallels to university were more apt than I first realised.

Early on in my undergraduate days, I encountered the roll-up smoking, faux-cynical gang of punk-Goths, who sat sneering in a corner, affecting world-weariness and superiority to everyone else. And here they were again. In the minority, but vocal, vindictive and like a silent trouser-cough, deadly.

So to a wider platform, with the opportunity to lure supporters and professional attention. In about three weeks, I twigged that if I reviewed, posted, reciprocated and commented as much as was necessary to raise my profile, I’d never write anything else.

I began to think I would never belong to a writing community. Bitterly, I moved my papers into the garret and took up absinthe.

That’s when an invite arrived for a smaller site. Friendly, helpful people sharing advice, honest critiques, thoughts, arguing ideas, tip-offs, experiences, laughs, applause and absorbent shoulders – I’d hit the jackpot. The most constructive and supportive place yet. Moral: if you hang around enough sites, reading, writing and making yourself useful, sooner or later, you’ll find your kind of people.

Now I’m about to take my first baby steps into the non-virtual world of critiquing groups. In other words, real live writers.

Wish me luck …

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