by Gareth Hewitt Views: 1730
About eighteen months ago, I entered a television-based publishing deal competition. I was writing in isolation, inexperienced and naïve. Scouring social media for competition announcements, I stumbled upon a group of like-minded hopefuls. They were mostly loud, brazen and irreverent, and I was smitten. I’d found writing people talking about writing stuff; it was irresistible. In the aftermath of the competition they formed a writing group and I joined. It was quite open at first, but people gradually fell away until a core of originals and a couple of newcomers formed the closed membership of twenty-something writers. Everyone currently involved is very serious about their writing and we all share a determination to get published. It feels like a bit more than people sharing a hobby.
Within the group, people are at different stages with their writing, but everyone is progressing. The improvement we’ve all made since coming together is immense, which has been reflected in competition success and agent interest. It’s a very supportive environment in which we share critiques and opinions and insights into the writing world. As much as my writing has developed, I’ve also learnt so much about the professional aspect of writing through the group. Sometimes, the support can be found in something as simple as having a moan about not having time to write or an unsupportive spouse! Whatever it is—success, rejection or everyday writing stuff—we go through it all together.
It was the sharing philosophy that led to Mash becoming a regular fixture. A couple of members entered and shared their feedback. It caused a bit of a stir. It was fairly early on and we were all becoming a little despondent about never knowing the reason for a rejection. It all seemed so ruthless. That’s when I entered. I was desperate to know what other writing people thought about my stuff. There were a few Mashers at first, but the list has steadily grown. I can only think of a few people in the group that haven’t had a go.
Sharing our stories pre-submission and the subsequent feedback, as well as discussing keywords, themes and the current shortlist, became infectious. For many of us, it’s now part of our process. There’s always a real buzz about any Mash related success, which always feels like a collective achievement.
We’ve become very close, which means we know where everyone is with their writing, from style and genre preference to strengths and weaknesses. This works really well because any feedback and critique can be tailored to the individual. Because of how comfortable we are with each other, there’s the odd clash, but it gets sorted very quickly (usually!). The only real downside is that it’s very easy to lose a day’s writing to all the simultaneous discussions!
Most importantly, we’ve developed trust within the group, allowing the open and honest sharing of ideas and concepts, tips and tricks, feedback and suggestions. The very specific setup we have has allowed that trust to flourish, which in turn has pushed everyone towards their goals and potential.
In many ways, it’s a bit like a mini, self-enclosed Mash community, which is perhaps the reason we’ve embraced Mash so whole-heartedly.
Consumed by wondrous tales of fantastical worlds since childhood, Gareth Hewitt writes fiction inspired by mythology and legend. On occasion, he enjoys an irreverent foray into the mundane. He lives on the cusp of Lancashire and Merseyside, where he works on his first novel between school runs. Happiness is an autumnal walk on the beach, a victory for Everton Football Club or writing in the local coffee shop. Follow Gareth on Twitter.