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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Writers Groups: Sweet, Not Scary

I remember my first foray into a writer's group. It was twenty-something years ago. A neighbor suggested I try it after reading some silly rhyming clues I'd written for a neighborhood scavenger-hunt. I thought she was nuts. But the idea was intriguing. I was a stay-at-home mom in desperate need of an identity. I called.

They met in the lower level of the local library. Their leader had already published a YA novel. I was in awe. She was an actual author. I'd never met a real one. Everyone seated around the table were writers.  What was I doing here? But I took my seat and listened.  

Before long it became the night of the week I looked most forward to, and quite the heady construct for me. "I'm in a writers group," I'd drop demurely now and then. But the cool part couldn't be denied, I was learning . . . learning to write well, learning to critique, and learning about the industry. I'd never thought myself a writer, but the possibility seemed less and less remote as the months and years ticked away. 

Today I am a writer. And the most valuable asset I have in the realm of improving my craft and continuing to produce is my writers group. They expect me to write. They expect me to submit. With something as simple as a query letter, their input is indispensable. A group is invaluable for keeping current with constant changes in the industry, historically tracking editors movement from house to house, presently in the acceleration of technological publishing and promotion. It is shared knowledge that makes each of us more singularly knowledgable. There is no doubt that without a group of people that come together bi-monthly with words of encouragement, insightful criticism, and a true desire to see each other succeed, I would have stopped writing long ago. In fact, I would never have started.  

Many people do well writing alone. And it's true that not all groups have constructive positivity as their mantra. But, if you can find, or put together, a group with the qualities listed below, you will greatly enhance your chances of success.    

  • Meet regularly, whether in person or electronically.
  • Keep your critiques positive but constructive. 
  • Share group time equitably.  
  • Have a leader, whether rotating or consistent, but someone to keep the subject matter on point.
  • Talk about the industry, about names, about houses, about trends.   
  • Attend conferences and report back to the group
  • Stay supportive of each other and revel in each other's success.

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