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Monday, January 25, 2016

WRITING GROUPS {on-line and face to face}

When I started writing, I had no idea what I was doing. I spent two years writing and rewriting my first novel, and I did it mostly alone. I had one close friend who read everything I wrote, but I was too scared to show anyone else.

When I made the decision to self-publish, again I had no idea what I was doing. I went in blind and fumbled my way through, with no help from anyone else. It wasn’t until after Fall For Me was published that I started looking for ways to connect with other writers and like-minded people. I discovered that while writing is a solitary occupation, the journey does not need to be taken alone. There are so many writers out there, doing the same thing I am, and who are willing to share their knowledge and their own journey with me.

I have met many people since I began. Some have offered advice; others have offered support, and some I’m not in touch with any more. But all of them have helped me get where I am today. I’m so grateful for each and every one of them, especially those who have stuck around. I now have many on-line friends in different states and countries who I chat to on a regular basis, and they are all an immense help to me and my writing journey. But after a while I felt I needed to be able to sit down with someone and actually open my mouth and talk—real words instead of typed ones. I’m now a member of two writers’ groups. They are both very different, but they help me in different ways.

One group is a bunch of amazing women who write YA/NA in various genres. We all live within an hour or so drive from each other, and we have a lot in common. All our members are either traditionally published, self-published, or both. We meet once a month to talk about books, current projects, bettering our craft, and so many other things. Since I started meeting with these girls, my confidence in myself and my work has soared. We each have something different to bring to the table, because we have our own strengths, and as a group we work well together.

My other group is a little different. It’s more of a critique group with members of all ages writing different genres, and they focus on both prose and poetry. Each month, members bring a piece they have written to the meeting and read it aloud. Then there’s a discussion where everyone has a chance to say what they think, what they liked, and what could be better. At first I found this highly nerve wracking and very confronting, but once I got to know the members, I relaxed. This type of group isn’t for everyone, but it has helped me with my confidence and belief in my work.

I’m also a contributor to the Australian blog, Aussie Owned and Read. We’re a group of Aussie YA/NA writers who blog about books and writing. We’re scattered all over the country, with one member in the USA, and over the past few years these girls have become wonderful friends. I’ve learnt so much by being a part of this group, and I’m grateful for them because I know they will be there when I need help.

If you're seeking to connect with people on-line and face to face, here are some tips from me. If you have any other tips you think are worthwhile sharing, please post them in the comments.

Tips for connecting with people on-line:
  • Follow writing blogs and participate in forums to find like-minded people.
  • Look for opportunities to blog with a group of writers. It will teach you how to interact with an on-line group while honing your skills in many areas. 
  • Get to know someone’s work before you approach them, and show genuine interest in that person and their writing.
  • Don’t form relationships based on what you can get out of it, you should try to have something to give back—hidden agendas are nasty. 
  • Don’t be scared to ask for help when you need it.
  • Try to help others when they ask for it.
  • Be courteous and speak to others as if you are face to face. 
  • Remember that talking on-line lacks the emotional tone that speaking aloud has, so be mindful that someone may not interpret your words the way you meant them. 
  • Respect those who many not wish to form a relationship with you.
  • Always be yourself.

Tips for attending face to face writing groups:
  • Ask yourself why you want to attend a writing group, and what you would like to get out of it.
  • Search your area for groups you think would be a good fit for you.
  • Don’t be afraid to try more than one group.
  • Use the first meeting to get a feel for the group. Sit back and listen. You’re charting new territory.
  • Be polite in all conversations.
  • Listen when others are speaking and don’t interrupt. Show them the courtesy you would want them to show you.
  • Keep other member’s feelings in regard. 
  • If it’s a critique group, critique the writing, not the writer. 
  • Remember that not everyone will get along, and this is basic human nature.
  • Always be yourself. 
  • If you can’t find a group in your local area, start one.

I’d love to know if you’re part of any blogging or writing groups, on-line or face to face. How have they helped you with your writing journey?

Stay awesome.
K x

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