Friday nights at Barnes & Noble, you can find me at a table with a cup of coffee and three or four members of my writing group. We try to meet once a week. For me that weekly confab is extremely important–I get a new dose of enthusiasm for my writing and an honest appraisal of my latest work from dedicated authors.
However, I didn’t have the help of other knowledgeable and caring people when I finally decided to write in earnest.
In the past, I always loved writing, short stories and non-fiction, but I never believed I could write a book. How would I ever find enough words to fill 200-300 pages? I did make a few half-hearted attempts before giving up, but five years ago, I got serious.
After gathering together a bunch of books on writing, I started. Once I had the first chapter of my cozy completed, I sent it out to family and friends. Well, they just loved it! Congratulating myself, I kept going.
An expensive online writing class disabused me of my euphoria. My writing needed a lot of help. Oh, no!
Then, one of my friends suggested I join a mystery writers’ group. Through Sisters in Crime (SinC) and its Guppies, I discovered people willing to help a newbie and I also found many inexpensive online classes. Gradually, I began to understand the art of writing.
The next step scared me–joining an online critique group. What could I possibly bring to a group of writers? At the beginning, I could only contribute my reader’s perspective. But with the help of the group and classes (online and in person at conferences), I became confident enough to voice my critiques in a positive way. As for my writing, the shock of a really honest, albeit caring, critique rattled me, but I weathered it. My ego bled, but my writing improved.
At one of the writing conferences. I met my soon-to-be friend, Dianne. Together we joined a local writing group that we had found online at meetup.com. (A good place to find something in your area)
We call ourselves The Writers’ Round Table. Our genres: cozy, fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction differ. Our writing styles and voice have very little in common. We do, however share a strong commitment to writing and helping our fellow writers. Each week we read some of our work. Helpful critiques and suggestions follow. Because it is difficult for me to see my own writing from a different point of view, I’m always surprised at the feedback I receive.
This last week, I sat at the table and said, “I’m stuck. I have this half-written manuscript and I don’t know where to go from here.” The book is the second in a series I’m writing. My group has already worked with me on the first book. They know the characters and are familiar with my writing style. So, I gave them a quick synopsis, character interaction with new antagonist, and what I needed to finish.
With hardly a pause, they started to brainstorm ideas, question character and plot arcs, and force me to think outside of my too carefully constructed world. By the end of the evening, their wonderful, wild, and crazy ideas had blasted through my so-called block, and I itched to get back home and write.
As a group, we work together beautifully. We tackle the tough things together: pitches, queries, synopses, and blurbs. We back each other up on social media and share any interesting tidbits we find online, like upcoming contests or classes. And, we enjoy meeting for social occasions that have nothing to do with writing. Well, maybe we do toss around new ideas with each other. You know writers! We may not have a pen in our hands, but the writing never shuts down.
My writing group (I like to think of us as a radical, incensed posse) will definitely be part of the acknowledgements on my first published book. And, thanks to them, I know I will be published.
Remember, keep writing!