My Writing Group Saved My Manuscript



Since childhood I knew I wanted to write a novel. I’d curl up with my copy of Little Women or Charlotte’s Web and dream of creating stories of my own. But I wasn’t able to begin the work of fulfilling my dream until many decades later. My career in journalism helped me learn the fundamentals of writing a story, how writing doesn’t really begin until rewriting, and the importance of a good editor making a story even better.

But journalism was all consuming. As a reporter covering stories about missing children, murders, tragic accidents and severe weather events, I had little time or mental energy left for creative writing.

All that changed once I concluded my journalism career. I enrolled in a low residency MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University and wrote my novel within the two years required to get my degree, then sent out sample pages to agents. The rejections rolled in. I did revisions. The rejections continued to roll in. Seven years after completing my manuscript I made my pitch to a literary agent I met at a Women’s National Book Association gathering. She was encouraging. I was jubilant. I thought I had crossed the threshold from an aspiring novelist to a soon-to-be published novelist.

The agent spent months working with me on revisions. But ultimately she turned it down, stating that it needed more work. I was devastated. I told my husband, who is also a writer, that I would toss my manuscript out and start over with a new story with different characters and themes. He advised me to “pause.” He suggested that I look for a writing group. He thought I should get support and feedback from my peers before looking at next steps. He thought I should get out of my own head and find out what a sizable group of literary types thought.

I went to and found the South Shore Scribes, a group of writers who met weekly at the local library. They included playwrights, horror writers, poets, short story writers and novelists.

Each week I presented seven to 10 pages of my manuscript. I got excellent feedback. The group reassured me that my story was compelling. They looked forward to each week’s sample pages. They thought my story had narrative drive. They felt invested in my characters. They also gave detailed suggestions for revisions.

Their feedback convinced me to keep at it, which led to eventually getting my novel, The Talking Drum, published by Inanna Publications, a women’s press in Toronto. In April, my memoir in essays, Dancing Between the Raindrops: A Daughter’s Reflections on Love and Loss, was published.

I’ve since moved on from the group but hear from the members every so often on social media. I’ve also seen some of them at literary events. They congratulate me on getting published and tell me how proud they are of me. I’m glad I didn’t give up.


Lisa Braxton is the author of the award winning Dancing Between the Raindrops: A Daughter’s Reflections on Love and Loss, published by Sea Crow Press, and The Talking Drum, published by Inanna Publications. She teaches writing at Grub Street Boston.