Writing Critiques During a Lockdown

What do you get when you put five authors and the latest drafts of their fiction works in their local Denny’s restaurant?

Nothing. Denny’s is closed for dine-in service in Southern California due to the pandemic.

What you used to get was the monthly Emerald Cove writer’s critique group meeting. Every month we would have dinner, exchange manuscripts, and comment on each other’s writing from the month before. We tended to be a little loud, so we always asked for a back corner booth. I admit that Denny’s is not exactly as close and personal as meeting in your local pub, but then we’re not exactly the Inklings either. Denny’s worked perfectly for us, and most of the evening staff who worked there recognized us, even if they didn’t know us by name.

Then came March 2020. Although we could no longer meet, we suddenly had tons of time for writing. Writing is solo activity, both easy and safe to do during a pandemic. In the middle of April, about a month after the lockdowns started, we all exchanged emails about our writing and discovered that our intrepid band of eclectic authors had one thing in common: Not one of us was writing anything.

The reasons for the lack of productivity differed from person to person, but the result was the same. Writing may be a solo activity, but we needed those group meetings, the critiques and encouragement they provided, and the deadlines they imposed, in order to write. It’s hard to look your fellow authors in the face and say, “I didn’t get any writing done last month.” It’s a lot easier to say that in email.

I’ve fared a bit better with my writing since I started this blog in May. Writing about writing has made me want to write. (Who would have guessed?) And having actual people read my posts, follow my blog, and “like” the things I write each week, is really encouraging. All you readers out there are my heroes! I am now 10,000 words into the short story for the Haunted! anthology because of all of you. Thank you!

But I digress. About a week ago, Emerald Cove decided to try Zoom critique meetings. We’re still working out the details for how and when to exchange manuscripts, but our first Zoom meeting is set for next week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

-Susan 7/10/20

p.s. I think Denny’s may have reopened for dine-in service, but I’m not sure. Circumstances in Southern California keep changing day-to-day. However, even if it has, it is highly unlikely that Emerald Cove will be meeting in person any time soon. Several of our members are either in the age-range danger zone for COVID or are closely connected with people in that age-range. We’re not taking any chances.

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