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.
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.