Why join a writing group? Because writers understand each other. In order to develop as a writer and not become too much of an introvert, a person needs to find a writers group populated by like-minded fellow strugglers.
I belong to three: the one I founded that meets on Zoom and is an affiliate of OWFI (Invite to Write), one for romance writers (Oklahoma Romance Writers Guild), and one for mystery writers (a chapter of Sisters in Crime). All three have Zoom options for attending, so not being close enough to meet in person, I can attend meeting. Options exist, if a person really wants to be in a group and improve his/her writing skills and network with other writers.
For people serious about their writing dreams, a writers’ group can help fulfill those dreams in several ways. Now, let’s get personal and discover a few reasons how writing groups can help.
First, family and friends may read your manuscripts and pat you on the back, but unless they’re writers, they’re not likely to comprehend actually what you’re going through or qualify as advisers. You want someone who’s been where you are and is willing to be honest.
Second, most writing groups include mini-workshops to help develop and improve writing skills. Some offer publishing opportunities for those who have developed those skills.
Finally, whatever your challenge or questions, someone in your writers group has experienced the same thing and gained insight they’re happy to share.
We now understand that a writing group could be a help, maybe even a necessity, but how do we find a writing group, whether online or one that meets in person?
Finding an online writers group is as easy as searching for your interest. Google or announce in social media your desire to interact with other writers in your genre or for general writing. Some people write multiple genres or don’t know yet what they want to write.
True, in-person groups offer more dynamic interaction, but you may find online groups easier to have meetings you can attend. Asking others can give you information about existing groups, but below is a sample of ideas to help you search.
For in-person writers groups, check:
For online writers groups, check:
Do realize that often writers’ groups have dues, and some may be more expensive than others. If funds are as tight at your house as they are at mine, the amount of the dues may limit which group or groups you may be able to join.
When I moved to an area where I couldn’t find a writers’ group, I started one. Due to a small population and few who were interested in writing, it became a virtual meeting. Zoom became my friend.
You’re not alone. And you may be surprised at how many options you find.
Remember that joining a critique group or a writing groups that has critique options means inviting other writers to respond to your work. And, that can hurt. The saying that writers need a thick skin is very apt, and to be able to use suggestions and edits, we must fight giving ourselves a pity party when people are trying to help. Along this line is a word about critiquing other writers’ works – be kind but honest.
However, beware of groups that are all about criticism. Even worse can be groups who only praise each other’s work. The result of either is no one is getting better or getting published.
Writers have often asked me, “Can you tell me what makes good writing? I mean in a few words, not a class.” Hmm … that is definitely asking too much, especially since I studied writing for many years, and I’m still learning.
However, the first point is 8 Cs of Good Writing, things that are necessary for good writing: clarity, conciseness, concreteness, correctness, coherency, completeness, courtesy, and characterization.
Next, know and use correct grammar in the narrative of the story or in paragraphs. If you don’t have strong grammar foundation, find a good grammar book or teacher. Readers must be able to understand the message and meaning of what is written.
I know of no easy way to learn how to write well, of no shortcut. One thing that isn’t often realized, though, is reading: reading well-written books, reading poorly-written books, reading books about writing, reading books in your preferred genre, and reading books in other genres than what you like. Learn from good writing and from bad writing. Don’t take for granted “experts” know it all. Don’t be afraid to try their ideas, but don’t be afraid to discard what doesn’t work for you – expect for the fundamental “musts” of writing (plot, characters, setting, good grammar in the narrative, etc.).
Finally, find a good writing group to join and grow thick skin. If you want your writing to improve, you need advisors and readers who are honest, not ones who only want to make you feel good.
I cover many tips and advice about writing, and this article does not substitute for more in-depth workshops and lessons. I only shared a general overview of writing, just a starting point.
Poetry is my therapy. I put thoughts, dreams, anger, sorrow, excitement, joy, and sometimes despair into the words that become poems. Some poetry competitions exist, and I will enter when I feel brave or the contest is legitimate and needs entries.
What do I mean, “I will enter when I feel brave”? I found over the years that many poetry judges only like poetry that’s written the way they would write. They are blind to beautiful words bound together exquisitely into a tapestry if the colors aren’t the same that they would use. I’ve read poetry and taught poetry for more years than many people have been alive, and I can recognize writing done differently than I write IF it well-done. Anyway, back on topic, as I would tell my students.
The Oklahoma Romance Writers’ Guild holds an annual contest of published works in several categories, but they also offer one unpublished category – poetry. I support the organization because it’s run by people to want to promote good writing, so I enter the poetry category each year. Last year, my entry made the finals. This year, my entry, “Dreams of Loving,” won. Excited? Oh, yes. Glad I entered? Definitely. Will I enter again? Of course.. A win gives me motivation to continue entering competitions I may never win.
Sometimes entering a contest does pay off with a win.
Writers don’t write to become rich; although, a few manage to become rich. Writers don’t write to fill award shelves or displays; although, a few do fill multiple displays. So, why do writers write? What drives them to put in long hours hunched over a hot keyboard?
Writers write for the rewards. What? Oh, you mean I already stated that few get rich or collect multiple awards. But, rewards aren’t always money or trophies or certificates; although, they may be.
All right, all right, I will stop writing in circles. Let me tell you what rewards keep me writing so that judges can tear what I write to pieces and insult me. Those judges that actually read and understand what I write and send me encouragement through good feedback or who stamp “winner” on my writing reward me. Knowing that someone read and liked what I wrote keeps me wanting to write.
Today, I heard one of my short stories won a writing contest for unpublished short stories. The story is one I wrote years ago and filed away. When the contest rules were posted last year, I began searching for a story I could rework, improve, polish, and/or use. I liked the concept, but my writing has improved over the years between when I wrote the piece and now. I took a hard look at the many problem areas I found. Took a deep breath. Began to rework the story.
Two weeks later, I thought, “Now I think it’s worth entering in a competition.”
I entered the story and forgot all about the contest until today when I discovered that story took first place. Someone liked the effort I exerted into creating a story I felt good enough to enter. The reward wasn’t money or any kind of physical item. The reward was a sense of success – knowing that someone “liked” what I wrote.
I entered an unpublished manuscript for a novel in a contest earlier this year, hoping for feedback that would tell me whether my beginning hooked the reader (in this case, judge) or not. Did what I write work? From a large number of entries, mine took 2nd place. The feedback, though, was the reward. The judge gave suggestions that made the work better, but that feedback also let me know that my idea for the hook worked.
Why do I write? I write because I have stories to share, tales to tell, and rewards to collect. No riches, even if that would be nice, no Pulitzer Prize, even if that would be gratifying, but knowing my words made a difference. I write because I can’t stop
Every book I write runs like a movie in my head until it becomes a manuscript ready for review, editing, and revision. Living with a continuous movie causes a great need to get that manuscript written. However, life does not always cooperate, no matter how demanding the movie becomes.
I started my historical suspense, mystery, romance Burnt Offering two years before my husband died. At least, the movie in my head began. To be sure the factual parts of the story agreed with actual facts, I researched life, culture, religious practices, the worship of the idol Moleck, and other necessary items from the 8th Century BC for a year, and the writing done during that time included tons of notes. One interesting side note, Moleck can be spelled multiple ways, but I chose one to use in the book.
As I researched, the movie continued. I would awaken at night with the story rolling through my head. During the last part of my husband's life, his care demanded more and more of my time, and Burnt Offering had to wait. But, it refused to wait in my head. The urgency to write the story built until I had to take time out of the night, when I should sleep, to write another section.
When Robert died the end of March 2015, the book became my obsession, perhaps saved what sanity I still had. I wrote, rewrote, read, edited, revised, wrote more, checked my notes, wrote more. All this time, the movie continued. It might change a bit as I discovered facts that made a difference or a character decided he or she wanted a change (other authors will understand). However, the movie would not let me forget my job -- write that book and hurry.
Finally, April 2, 2019, Burnt Offering became a reality, and the movie ended.
Two months later, I discovered a three-ring Rawleigh notebook that held a manuscript I began writing in the late 1960s, early 1970s: some pages typed on my old manual typewriter, some pages still handwritten. I read the words a younger me wrote over 45 years ago and liked the story. I wanted to enter those words into my computer, finish the story, and discover the final project's worth.
A folder on the computer held three chapters before problems reared their ugly heads. Oh, not with the story or the manuscript but with life interfering with my work time. I still managed to take a fifteen-to-twenty-minute writing time every day (as best-selling author Jodi Thomas says every writer must do), but the short periods of time didn't slow the movie's demands. Life didn't slow its demands, either.
4RV Publishing's authors, editors, illustrators, projects, and problems: All needed attention NOW. Poor health taxed my energy and concentration ability. Living alone (except for a black cat named Panther, who also required attention) meant I must fix or do all meals, cleaning, and other necessities. Still, in my head runs a different movie, the one triggered by the found manuscript.
Yes, I MUST write because of an inner urge, demand, requirement, but life does get in the way too often.
The important aspects of my life are Life, Love, and Bubble Wrap. Life means I still exist and have purpose. Love revolves around family, friends, and my faith. Bubble wrap creates a protective barrier between me and the trials and tribulations caused by the first two.
I will share my thoughts, research, and experiences as I deal with life, love, and bubble wrap.