So, maybe I’ve convinced you to look for and try to meet with other writers in your area for the purpose of making your writing stronger.
Maybe I haven’t. Still, trust me on this one. You might be a kick-butt writer…but you can only get better when someone tells you what needs work. Editors and agents need projects to be the best they can be when they get them…they can’t spend the hours and hours with you that might have been invested years ago. Yes, Harper Lee spent hours and hours doing edits with her editor. Yes, To Kill A Mockingbird was the glorious result of it. But that was a different time, a different industry, and a different economy. Today’s publishing world moves ten times faster (if not more), and requires you to hit the ground running earlier and smarter than it used to. And I still believe that Ms. Lee was the exception, not the rule, back then.
That said, where do you go about finding these people?
1) Your local library
Your librarian may well know of groups that meet…heck, they might even meet at the library itself. If nothing else, they might have a bulletin board where people could post notices that they are looking for this kind of group. If they do, take advantage. And there may be writing classes at the library itself for little to no cost that you could attend and meet other writers that might be interesting in forming such a group.
2) Your local bookstore
If you have a local bookstore that’s active in the community, this is gold. Sometimes they host book groups or writer groups, sometimes they sponsor writers to have events at their store. Get involved. You never know who you might meet, or who might also be looking for the same thing you are looking for.
3) National Novel Writing Month
There’s a lot of writers out there who have widely varying opinions on the November event. Reality is, though, if you sign up, and if there are local events, it’s a good place to meet up with other writers in your area.
The first writing group I was in formed after the end of my first NaNoWriMo. We’d all been talking throughout November about getting serious about getting published. I still miss these guys, but I just can’t pull off all the driving and expense to keep meeting with them. One of these days, I’ll have to see about making it to a meeting just to say hi and talk to them all again.
4) Your local coffee shop
This is where I found the second group I joined. A local coffee shop had flyers about a writing workshop that was meeting at the library for a nominal cost. I showed up, went to several workshops, and was eventually invited to join in their twice-monthly meetings. I’m thrilled, to say the least.
5) Writer’s conferences/workshops/seminars
I don’t just rely on a writer’s group; I also have a few (invaluable) beta readers. Every single one of them lives far enough away that I can’t meet them on a regular basis. I met every single one of them at a different conference. We keep up by phone, by email, by each other’s websites, and during conference season it’s always wonderful to see them again.
Why do I use both a critique group and beta readers? Well, the writers’ groups get the rough stuff, the zero draft, the one with all the bumps and holes and grittiness that needs ironed out. The beta readers, well, they get the draft that’s been through the crit group, and that I’ve been through again with a fine tooth comb…for the final sanding and polishing before I ever even consider submission. Then I make another pass before sending it anywhere.
What is striking to me is how much clearer and cleaner those beginning drafts are since I started all of this (yikes!) five years ago, but no matter how much better it feels, I’m always going to want someone to go over my stuff, poised at the ready with the red pen of death.