When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.
Today’s tip: Join a Writers Group
It’s been almost a year since I talked about writer’s groups. I haven’t changed my mind. I still think it’s one of the important steps new writers should take. Established writers: The right group is a godsend to your future books–but it has to be other published writers who are knowledgeable in your genre.
In this internet age, it’s not as hard as it used to be to find a writer’s critique group. Try:
- a bookstore
- the local library
- Goodreads under that category
- the local community college
I found mine (it’s in Aliso Viejo California. Add a comment if you’d like more information on them) through the local bookstore.
Here’s what’s important: Find one with writers whose work you like and who are supportive of each other. Lurk and learn by reading their comments and critiques until you are ready to write. Many agents want to know your work has been edited before they look at it. A writer’s group will get you started without spending the hundreds it will cost to have a mss professionally edited. They’ll get you close before the pros take over.
Writers Digest described the different personalities you run across in a writer’s group. As I read this, I identified every member of my group. The people they don’t describe are the good writers who sincerely want to help others. I have a few of those, too, but maybe they’re a rarity:
Some yellow brick roads lead down dark alleys where unsavory literary types lurk. These are the Critique Group Killers. While different personalities bring depth to a group, personality clashes bring depth with an anchor attached. If you want a group that makes you want to write, to improve, to succeed, avoid the following:
Drama Queens. “Hello, spotlight.” These writers were born ready for their close-up and will do anything to make sure the group revolved around them. If you want theater, buy a ticket.
Non-Writers. You’ll know them because they don’t give out review pages. To anyone. These smooth operators have a great line and some fabulous stories. Don’t allow them to talk you into letting them join, or remain, in your group.
Self-Professed Prolific Writers. They’ll give you tons of pages—pages that need vast amounts of work. Equitable is best. An eye for an eye, a page for a page.
Universal Know-It-Alls. These are the writers who know absolutely everything in the universe. Expressing one’s opinion is only half a benefit. The other half is being able to listen.
Deadly Silent Types. They quietly bask in the attention. They absorb every word of your critique like a sponge. But when it’s time for them to give criticism they come up with generic favorites like, “Um, that was nice,” “I liked it,” or “It’s good.” These writers haven’t read your work, don’t care to read your work, and have no intention of helping you or anyone else become a better writer. Lose ’em before their lackluster attitude sinks your group.
If not for the writing suggestions, a writer’s group gives you a couple hours a week with like-minded individuals who are struggling to do what they love. I like that.
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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.