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After working for months on something that won’t see light any time soon, I had the chance to consider what I was going to do; how and if I wanted to move forward.  Aside from the “Stuff it all” knee jerk responses – a regular occurrence no matter what the rejection. One of these was “get out more.”

Not to the pub… I don’t need help there.

I decided to heed my own advice and socialise. Not easy around everything I do, but I missed the regular in-person meetups from university. At the same time I was lucky to be invited to join the Hornsea Writer’s group.

Writing groups can be a simple get together over a coffee or pint, or something more formal.

Yes, the invite was sealed in wax and delivered by messenger. Not only that, but there’s also a secret puzzle you must decipher each week to open the door. *

I know plenty of authors and those starting out who don’t like to do the ‘people’ thing, but there are good reasons to venture into (or in my case returning to) a writing group.

A Reason to Focus on Writing.

From a productivity aspect, I suddenly have face to face accountability. Online you don’t have to login and own up to not doing the words. You aren’t derailed into seventeen other conversations and a Twit-storm. You are there for a reason and with a very good group leader you stick to the reason. Writing.

Turning up regularly also causes me to consider prioritising writing over – oh I don’t know, pratting about on the latest Facebook game, and any other thing that likes to jump the to do queue, like cleaning! Writing is also me time. Something I do for me.  

Taking Care of the Writer: Emotional Wellbeing and Self Care

Something many authors need is the ability to discuss things important to them. I simply can’t hold a meaningful conversation about editors/industry/fonts/covers with my husband/kids/friends/the mum next door. Yet at a group you might find you over run because you’ve all got something to say. All of a sudden you’re not the only one fighting with sentence structure.  If like me your connection to other grown-ups is limited, seeking out that conversation helps reduce your isolation – a vital defence against the dark arts depression. While you can share similar issues in an online forum, it’s also easy to misconstrue things posted there.  Getting out of the house has done wonders for my positivity and state of mind.

Improving Your Writing Skills.

Every writer who takes their work seriously will know what they want to improve, what their weak points are. It starts at a “is this ok” and as you produce more gets to “This is the bit that doesn’t work.” An outside perspective of your work helps you analyse it as a reader would.

The Hornsea group consists of many published writers, Penny Grubb, Linda Acaster, April Taylor, Annie Wilkinson, Karen Wolfe and Madeline MacDonald being the faces I know. Stuart Atkin and Rick Sumner are more “behind the scenes”. While most will agree they aren’t too familiar with the genre knowledge, their understanding of what a narrative needs is most welcome.

Feedback from my group helps hone what I call Glassy Eye syndrome, the point where you lose your captive audience. Going to group also gives me this opportunity to speak aloud. Reading live is something that puts the fear of God in most writers I know. It’s excellent practice for readings.

Book Marketing and Story Promotion.

Most if not all the writing groups I have known of and been a part of have done something to raise awareness of either the trade or their own group as a whole. Hornsea Writers has its own blog (which I have yet to find the time to add content too). Their blog is just one example of promotion, some groups arrange newsletters and provide articles for the local press. Many hold library events, tables at fairs and as such help you get your work out there at a fraction of the cost of having your own table.  Some members if not all have a blog, or a network of friends, helping you get the word out there. If you’re really lucky the group might create their own anthology. Any and all of these allows you to get your work in print, read by others, or even bought by readers.

 Opportunity for the Writer.

As well as the opportunity to promote your work and reach audiences, it’s all about finding a home for the words you write. Going to a group opens more possibilities for you to find new calls for stories, competitions, grants, and writer events happening in the area. Not everything is promoted on Twitter/Facebook.

I became blasé about my approach to my writing, thinking I didn’t need or have time to. I won’t be ditching my online groups, though. For some people it’s the only option. Traveling distances can limit your possibilities.

If you’re happy to see the difference a writing group can make, check out The Writing Magazine’s database of groups.  If a genre specific group is the only thing you’re willing to consider, Allen Ashley recently compiled a Science Fiction and Fantasy group database for the British Fantasy Society, which includes Science Fiction.

 

*I have also developed a much better skill at parking my car in impossibly small spaces.

 

 

Cover of Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng. Purple cover with Queen Mab central. There’s been a bit of a theme in the books I’ve been reading recently. All have been set in or around the Victorian era.

Jeanette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun is an absorbing Gothic Fantasy, capturing the feel of Stoker and Bronte. Highly recommended, and you can find the rest of my review on SFFWorld.

Cover of One Cog Turning by Anthony Laken. Main colour deep blue with golden/copper cogs featured in each corner.Anthony Laken’s One Cog Turning is a fab, true to form Steampunk adventure with all the lovable rogues you’d want to find, yet with a delicious twist. Click to read my review on SFFWORLD.

Writers are used to rejection. (Here’s a collection of woe-is-me turned wow stories. There’s  this, or even this one are all relevant to the great wheel of rejection) Where ever a writer might be on the career scale, best seller or new to the market there is still rejection. It comes with the job. The story might be brilliant but just doesn’t fit an editor’s requirement; the novel might require more attention to point of view, or it’s on the wrong slush pile.

It’s a gated flow system, which often loops on itself. (It’s something they don’t tell you in workshops or courses.) Getting to acceptance generally involves: Gate one: Drafts. Gate two: Edits.  Gate three: Does it fit? Gate four: Will it sell?  Gates five onward once you get the contract. Yes, there are more beyond signing with a publisher or agent. For every gate you get past you realise your work is improving, but in balance the drop is harder. As more join the chorus of support for your work you allow yourself to believe a little more – even as you know there still might be a ‘no’ in the system.

For the past year I’ve had such a project. It’s been fun working in a world which eventually stumbled over something beyond my control. I’ve grown as a writer because of it, and it’s the main reason why my blog has been so quiet.

Whenever a rejection comes it raises demons: self-doubt, anger, frustration. Every writer has answers for these demImage of a demon, red beast with fangs and spines.oralising monsters. So close, yet so far. My demons have been busy this last month going above expectation with unhelpful advice and distractions. It takes a while for the doubt to die. But it does. Answers come if you know that you have done the work. It allows you to understand that some rejections are outside of your influence. Knowing that there are other authors out there who have mourned their own losses makes you realise it is not the end.

It’s not wasted; no work is ever wasted.  No matter how good the work and how many promises are made. Sometimes the answer is still no. My demons have become tolerated strays, and I know what to feed them to get them to shut the hell up.

These types of setbacks are part of the learning curve, yet they really do blindside you. Get used to it. Life’s not fair. Opportunity doesn’t knock in publishing. Sometimes you have to kick its door down, figuratively of course.

I had the honour of interviewing RJ Barker for SFFWorld a couple of weeks ago. He’s a fab person and his energy comes through in his work.

Subjectively Age of Assassins fell short for me, in one majorly minor way having lived all my life in the shadow of someone who is disabled. Much in the same way FTL gets in the way of other peoples read, my little grumble would cast shade over what is a fast fun read for the majority.

It does address the call for diverse books, perhaps not in the way some intend. Reading between the lines I suspect more will be addressed as the series progresses. Patience, as the say is a virtue and I look forward to seeing where RJ takes the reader next.

The whole of my interview with RJ Barker is over on SFFWORLD for you to read.

 

 

There was so much about this book that worked for me, not only the way Nik Korpon dealt with his world building, but the way his characters reacted to the world. Like all Angry Robot books, I found this a deliciously refreshing step outside of the expected, without being too off the wall and unfamiliar.
Strongly Recommend! Book Cover of The Rebellion's Last Traitor
You can read my full review here:
SFF World Review, Nik Korpon’s The Rebellion’s Last Traitor