Where Do I Find a Writer’s Group?

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.

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Why Should I Subject Myself to a Writer’s Group?

Oh, where to begin? I’m a big believer in writer’s groups. I think a lot of writers are. If you’re not in a writer’s group, you should at least have a critique partner and/or a beta reader looking over everything before you send it out. The idea of sending something out without someone else looking at it sends a Deliverance-style river of sweat down the back of my neck, complete with accompanying banjos.

1)      Wouldn’t you rather have a select group of people you know (or are getting to know if it’s a new group) commenting on it privately before you end up with lots of anonymous comments from strangers on the internet?

Boy oh boy would I. I spent a number of years with a group of dedicated writers who also became friends over dinner, meetings, frustrations, and celebrations of each others’ successes and commiserations over each others’ failures. I’m not with that group anymore, due in large part to me moving almost an hour’s drive away from them (gas prices making it impossible to continue meeting as I was with them).

We ended up with our own lexicon, laughs we’d shared when we’d caught some writing foible someone had inadvertently committed, inside jokes we all were in on, and ended up with friendships of people we trusted to see the inner workings of our brains before we unleashed our own personal brand of crazy on the world.

First thing I did when I moved…started looking for a closer group. And I’ve found one. They’re priceless.

I’d much rather have someone like this hack and slash my work when it’s still rough than a stranger I don’t know yet. It’s a trust thing.

2)      You never know what you might learn from another writer.

In the group I used to be in, as well as in the group I’m in now, members all go to different workshops, conferences, bookseller’s meetings, library associations, and classes. Everyone picks up something and brings it back to the group to share. I’ve learned something at just about every single conference I’ve been at.  Even if it’s “don’t waste your money on that conference”, you always learn something to share with the others (I’ve only been to one that I’d say that about, but I was horrified at the wrong information that they were giving writers who didn’t seem to understand just how bad it was….needless to say, my first comments about it to my writing group was that they should NEVER attend that conference.)

I also have beta readers. One of them tipped me off to a contest that turned into my first paid writing credit. You share all kinds of information…and you never know who might share something that fits you, or when you might see something that could help someone else.

3)      It keeps you moving forward by giving you a deadline.

People have a stake in giving you feedback when they’re also getting feedback from you. Hence the idea of a partner or a group; it keeps you working, writing to meet a deadline. Even today, I’m doing the…I’ve got a meeting tomorrow and have been wrapped up in release details for a couple of different things…better get something written tonight mindset.

4)      It’s not the same as getting feedback from your mom, sister, uncle, or best friend.

Face it, your mom is supposed to like your stuff. Your mom is your biggest cheerleader. Ditto your sister, your uncle, your best friend, or your spouse or significant other.

On its own, cheerleading doesn’t help me get to a finished project. The copious notes and edits I did with my writer’s group helped me get it to where it needed to be, where someone could help me look for typos and grammatical mistakes.

But Mom’s not someone who is prepared to rip apart her daughter’s work. Most moms aren’t. Why put your mom in that position? That’s not fair to her. It’s not fair to you. And it doesn’t help you be a better writer.

What makes us better is marking up with the proverbial red pen. I’ve said more than once to crit groups…”make it bleed” with red ink. Because that’s how you find the weaknesses. That’s how you spot the minor tweaks and the major plot errors.

And after you clean it all up and have a finished product, it’s all worth it. That’s when you get to hand it, proudly, to your mother, and say, “Look, Ma, what I did!”

5)      Writers groups and crit partners help you get ready for what edits will be like when and if you ever sell the darn thing.

I know, I know. You’ve been through edits yourself. You’ve been through workshops and critiques. You’ve rewritten and edited and plotted and changed and futzed and hem-hawed through the whole thing a million times. You’re almost sick of your own story you’ve been through it so much.

Guess what?

You’ll go through it again when you sell it. At least a couple of times. There’s edits. There may be more than one round. There’s copyedits. There’s galleys. And there may be ARCs and other release versions to look at.

It amazes me when an editor asks if I’m open to making changes. Because I expect that there will be edits and changes.

Chuck Wendig gave an interview on the I Should Be Writing podcast, where he said he approaches editors like Fight Club. In other words, he wants them to (figuratively) hit him as hard as they can in the interest of making it all as good as it can be. I agree 100% with this approach. I feel the same way.

I can’t fix it until and unless I know what’s wrong. If my critique partners pull their punches, I don’t know if my work can stand up to an in-depth edit. I look at editing and critique groups as a way to learn more…more about myself as a writer, more about the plot and the storyline, more about the characters, and more about the craft of writing. It’s an opportunity. It’s not personal. It’s about making the book or the story the best it can be.

And learning to take editing notes starts with a good, trusted critique group.

 

NEXT TIME….how to find a critique group.

Doolittle’s Tokyo Raiders

At the beginning of the U.S. involvement in World War II, plans were drawn up for a daring raid on Tokyo after the devastation of Pearl Harbor.

If you’ve seen the movie Pearl Harbor, you know the raid I mean. The air raid itself consisted of 16 B-25 Mitchells, carrying 80 airmen dropping bombs on an enemy city half a world away. That doesn’t even include the carriers, seamen, and other personnel and equipment that it took to pull it off.

It amazes me that these men stripped their planes down to nothing and pulled off such a brave attack. Three died. Eight spent time as prisoners of war. Fifteen planes were destroyed.

Lt. Col. James Doolittle, USAAF, led the raid, and the men have come to be known as the Doolittle Raiders. Every year, the survivors have an annual reunion. Five airmen from that raid are still alive today.

Living in Ohio, I am constantly amazed at the rich aviation heritage in our state. I was even more amazed this past weekend when I got the opportunity to see restored B-25s at Grimes Airport in my own town.

This week is the anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, and there are activities here in Urbana and at the National Air Force Museum, in Dayton, Ohio (actually down the road from where I used to live when I lived in Dayton!). We do have a small aviation museum, but like a lot of locals, it’s real easy to overlook the cool stuff we have when it’s right there every day. I’m awfully guilty of that…just like many of us are.

So…off we went, camera in hand, to take a look at restored B-25s and to take a moment to stop and just appreciate the bravery of the men who took this on. It wasn’t a huge tactical victory…instead, it was a huge morale boost to the United States, after Pearl Harbor, and a huge morale blow to Japan…who had been flying high after their successes.

We watched planes taking off, planes on the ground, watched them overhead in the sky even after we went home. All weekend we heard the sounds of the planes, a constant, steady reminder of another time and another place, but of a national pride that still exists.

Take a look.

This next one isn’t a B-25, but it’s kinda cool. Behind the pilot was a place for a wounded soldier to be airlifted to safety.

Fairy Tale Shows

I gotta admit. I’m addicted to both Once Upon A Time and Grimm.

I think they are both doing outstanding jobs at incorporating old stories into a new storyline.

Here’s my thoughts on both.

ONCE UPON A TIME

I am thoroughly enjoying this show. There are times I think that the show itself borders on cheesy, but sometimes cheesy works…and it definitely works here.

As a writer, I can see that the writers of this show seem to be having the times of their lives putting this thing together…along with the production staff, the actors, and everyone else involved. The sheer joy in the performances is easy to see.

I am definitely rooting for the Mayor to get her comeuppance. I hate that character, but at the same time, she is the bad guy. Viewers are kinda supposed to hate her. I can see that the actress playing that part is doing so expertly and no question that she’s having a great time doing it.

This show is the epitome of writers and actors and everyone involved knowing that they are working on something special, enjoying every minute of it, and it shows.

GRIMM

This show is so much darker, in tone, in content, and in setting, than OUAT. That’s not a complaint.

I’m liking the introduction of fairy tales into modern police work. And I have to say that my favorite character is a tie…between the completely human Hank and the not-human Monroe. But the character surprising me is….Juliet. She’s definitely coming into her own as a supportive girlfriend who’s not afraid to kick a little ass from time to time, to stand up to Nick’s lies to cover the fact he’s a grimm. I’m good with that…makes me like her even more!

I have to say that there have been times that I’ve wondered where the mythology is coming from. I’ve done a metric ton of research in writing my upcoming novel (using fairy tales), and can’t place them. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist…and every writer is entitled to put their own spin on them. That said, I keep getting distracted from the plot because I’m trying to figure out where it came from. Maybe that’s my own personal foible. Very possible.

COMPARISONS

I’ve had several people ask me recently which is more like the book I wrote. I have to say neither…because the book is different in plot, in storyline, and in characters. That said…it’s closer in tone to Once Upon A Time than Grimm, but I think fans of either show might enjoy The Grimm Legacy.

 

New Stuff and Free Stuff

UPDATERY!!

FREE KINDLE BOOK!

I’m thrilled to tell everybody that TODAY you can see MYSTERY TIMES TEN 2011 for FREE!!

You need either a Kindle, or a free Kindle application, available from Amazon for your phone, tablet, or computer.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=dig_arl_box?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

Here’s the link to the free book!

http://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Times-Ten-2011-ebook/dp/B005OMBV84/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1334243534&sr=8-2

Go check it out! Not only is my short story in there, there are 9 others that are pretty darn cool!

IN OTHER NEWS…

KINDLEGRAPH

I’m signed up with Kindlegraph…which means I can e-autograph MYSTERY TIMES TEN! I’m still working out the kinks on this one…which means the electronic signature is kinda sloppy, but my signature is kinda sloppy anyway. Interested?

You can go to http://www.kindlegraph.com/books?utf8=%E2%9C%93&search=mystery+times+ten to request a Kindlegraph from me…you need a Twitter account to do it. (and if you’re on Twitter…you can follow me, too….I’m @addiejking)

Heads up…

1)      Kindlegraph sends me an email letting me know about requests, which means, unless I’m staring at the computer, I might not see it right away. I check my email more than I probably should, so it probably won’t take long, but still, don’t expect it to happen immediately…I’ll do it as fast as I see it.

2)      I have no idea if there’s a cost for the Kindlegraph download. There might be a nominal cost…Kindlegraph is a separate site from Amazon, and therefore have different policies regarding their costs. It’s worth checking out before you clicky on the button!

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

I’ve got an Author Page at Amazon…you can find it HERE https://www.amazon.com/author/addiejking

AND….you can watch my Twitter feed and read my blog entries from the Author Page!

I’ll eventually add links on my blog to take you to all these fun places, but until then, you can always find me with the links above!

Welcome to Crazytown, Population: Me

There’s a lot going on here at Chez King, but not a lot that I can talk about. Needless to say, plenty of stress, plenty of holiday, plenty of family, and plenty of fun…and editing deadlines and conference appearances and writing, oh my!!

Lots of overwhelming gratitude and thanks go out to Jamie-Kristal Lott and Matt Teel, my editor and the head of the Urania fantasy imprint at Musa Publishing, respectively, for being prompt and thorough with all their work on my book, and for their patience in dealing with an author who is still figuring out how to make deadlines work with real life thrown into the mix. Now wait, that sounds bad. I did hit my editing deadlines with time to spare, but still, it was nice that they were so understanding about my questions and concerns. And they GET the book. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I’m just days back from MARCon, where I appeared on some interesting panels. Those who know me, know that I’ve just about always got plenty to say about just about anything…the question is whether I’ll say it or not. The panelists were all interesting and knowledgeable, and I hope that the people who attended got as much out of them as I did. I had a blast! Got to see some old friends and make new ones, and enjoyed the heck out of the time I spent there.

The only downside to the conference was that I was on LATE panels and driving back and forth to sleep in my own bed, and Easter Sunday was the last day of the conference. I chose to go to church with the family and eat way too much Easter dinner rather than come back for the third day when I found out that I was not on any panels on Sunday. I’d make the same choice again, although, next time I might need a steady IV of coffee to get through it all!

I’m through a bunch of edits on my novel, THE GRIMM LEGACY, which is still scheduled for release on May 25, 2012. I’m hoping to have more news soon regarding this, and some fun stuff for when it comes out, but those are still in the works, so rest assured…stuff is being planned. More stuff is being talked about. Miscellaneous stuff is being pondered. (And yes, Brother, that joke still works).

I’m finishing up some legal work tonight, and then hoping to dive back into writing tomorrow night, where at least two (and possibly three) projects will be claiming my attention. Plus we’re making plans for fun activities for the weekend. Life is all kinds of hectic, but in a pretty darn good way.

Meanwhile, Fuzzy Minion wanted to say hi.

And now I must step away from the computer and pay homage to the Fuzzy Minion. You see, it’s her house. I’m just allowed to live in it and pay the bills.