Why You Should Join A Writing Group

Five reasons every writer should belong to a critique group.

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*** Originally written for The Odyssey Online in 2017 . ***

The very title of this post probably has some of you cringing. Join a writing group? Where I actually have to let others read my writing, or worse yet, read my writing out loud to people who might not like it? Shiver. I could never!

Ah, but you can—and you should! I have belonged to a writing critique group for around nine years and have been moderating that group for at least four. During this time, I have learned a great deal from my fellow group members. Without further ado, here are some reasons you should seek out a critique group—and, you know, actually go to the meetings. 😀

1. It Will Hold You Accountable

We all know writers love to procrastinate. Attending a writing group will force you to produce consistently.

2. You Will Learn How to Take Criticism.

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As a writer, learning to take criticism is a must. We often don’t see the flaws in our own work, so other people need to point them out for us. Helpful group members will be respectful but honest about your work and you will grow accustomed to receiving real feedback.

3. It Will Help Keep You Inspired

Nothing fuels inspiration like reading or listening to other people’s work, which is what you will be doing in a writing group.

4. You Will Make Human Connections

Writing can be a lonely craft. Meeting other writers will get you out of your own head and you may even make new friends, or meet people who work in other fields related to writing, such as editors or publishers.

5. It Will Sharpen Your Editing Skills

Critiquing other people’s writing will help hone your own editing skills, which will make you a better writer. Win/win situation.

So where can you find a writing group? Your local library or college are usually good places to start. So get up and get going! You owe it to yourself!

 

Write On!

Cover Image Credit: Pixbay

Music and Writing: Like Peanut Butter and Jelly!

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I have always thought music and writing went together like peanut butter and jelly. (Or in my case, Nutella and jelly, on warm bread.) They are both arts and both can inspire the other.

Since childhood, I have always loved music. As I grew, my tastes widened and my appreciation for music in its various forms deepened. I enjoy all sorts of music from classic rock and pop to classical and opera. I have also found music to be a great help with my writing.

Sometimes songs have inspired me to write certain scenes or stories.  With each novel I have worked on, I have had at least one unofficial “soundtrack” — a collection of songs I gather on my laptop and play while I am writing. For my current WIP I have two different soundtracks — one focusing more on the love theme and the other on the darker moments. Sometimes the songs are from the time period I am working in and sometimes they are contemporary songs that resonate with a theme or scene in the story. Other movie scores also make great music for writing.

I frequently take my music along in the car so the spirit of my story remains with me while I am attending to real-world matters, such as driving to work. I really feel that these small actions have proved very successful in motivating me to continue on my project and even given me fresh fiction ideas. Sometimes music even helps alleviate writer’s block. Now if only I could buckle down enough to master an instrument. But that’s going to have to wait until the book is published! 😉

Do you have soundtracks for writing or even for different parts of daily life? Share with me!

Write on!

Why I Have Decided To Self-Publish

With proper time and effort, self-published books can look and be as good as traditionally published books.

Book and daisiesBefore I proceed, I have not written this post to disparage those who work in the traditional publishing fields such as editors and literary agents. I am sure these people work hard at their jobs and are passionate about the written word. But I have chosen a different path.

After a great deal of thought, I decided to self-publish the novel I am currently at work on. This avenue had been suggested to me before by other people in my midst, but I fought the idea tooth and nail, justifying it with my erroneous belief that truly talented (or “real”) writers don’t need to self-publish. I thought no publisher would overlook something that is truly good and readers would sniff contemptuously at anything they discovered to be self-published. I have thankfully broken free of those beliefs. Why? Because they are false.

Many fine books have been rejected numerous times by the big houses only to become best sellers. It was only due to perseverance on the authors’ parts that we have those books to enjoy. They persisted but I wonder how many other skilled writers gave up after one too many discouraging e-mails, the gems they might have penned relegated to a desk drawer forever? I also happen to know other very talented wordsmiths who have received rejection notices even after rewriting and having their manuscripts professionally edited. Contrary to popular belief, books do not always get rejected because they are bad. Sometimes, the publisher has already published a similar work and cannot take on another, or it simply didn’t tickle someone’s fancy enough.
 
So far I have poured three and a half years into my novel. I would hate to see a project I have given my heart and soul to languishing in a slush pile forever. The writing world these days is highly competitive and the odds are pretty heavily stacked against new authors. They are just too risky to take a financial gamble on in a world where producing and marketing books is so expensive.
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Another variable that makes self-publishing an attractive option is not needing an agent. As great as I am sure agents are, they are difficult to acquire and, well, also have to be paid fairly for their work which dips into my author income.
 
My third and honestly, biggest reason for self-publishing is (almost) full creative control. I am free to chose the cover design, book length, publishing house name, and make the final call on what ultimately gets cut and what stays in the story. I can also set my price and earn higher royalties. These are all particulars I understand traditionally published authors have little control over.
 
Am I worried that readers may not buy my book if they know it is self-published? Not a great deal. Some readers do balk at self-published books over concerns that they are low quality. Admittedly, there are self-published books that are low quality, but that isn’t simply because they are self-published or the authors lack talent. From what I have seen as a reader, writers get so excited over sharing their book with the world that they forget to revise and take their time crafting a quality work. I share that excitement, I truly do; but years of working in sales has taught me that in order to make a good name for yourself and build a loyal customer base, you must offer a product that people love, that people are willing to spend their hard-earned money on, a product good enough that they will come back for more. These sorts of products take time and I intend to polish my work to the best of my ability.  
                                                                                    
Will people be able to tell my book is self-published? My guess is no (unless they read this blog. 🙂 ). With proper time and effort, self-published books can look and be as good as traditionally published books and I intend to put in the time and effort. I am sure self-publishing will be a big challenge, but I plan to give it my best. (I might be a Libra, but I have strong Virgo influences in my chart and Virgo is nothing if not exacting. 🙂 ) The internet has opened up a whole new field to writers and the publishing landscape is indeed changing. Follow my blog for updates on my progress!
 
What are your thoughts on self-publishing? I would love to hear them!

Saturday Serendipity: The Perfect Desk Acquired!

deskpicSo today I paid a visit to a huge garage sale with one of my besties (who also happens to be a writer and hopeless book worm, like me!). After the usual intense hunt through the book shelves and bins, we moved over to the furniture area. I have been hunting for a small but cute desk to do my writing at for some time now. A nearly perfect (or what I thought was a nearly perfect) specimen slipped through my fingers back in late August due to indecisiveness on my part. My friend knew that I had been looking and spotted one little desk that was in essence my style, but not in the greatest condition. I was hesitant to purchase and I walked away on the caveat that I would make a decision while we were looking elsewhere–and that if it was sold when I came back, I was not meant to have it.

As we were headed for the jewelry tent, Writer Bestie spotted another desk tucked inconspicuously into another corner of the furniture area. I went to look at it, and there it was–my darling, the sort of desk I had been looking for! A cream colored number, with four drawers and cute little pink flowers on the front. Shabby chic-ish, but certainly not in shabby condition! Large enough for my laptop, papers and research materials, but small enough that I wouldn’t have to scratch my head thinking of a place to put it. Thinking this one might be a bit out of my price range, even for a garage sale, I asked the volunteer on duty what the damage would be. To my delight, I was told $15.00.

A match made in Heaven.

An hour later, Darling Desk made its grand entrance into my house. With a little Amish Milk it looks next to new. It has been positioned next to a window overlooking the backyard and I am writing on it right now. Just need to hunt down a cute chair and some wonderfully- scented sachets to line the drawers with!

With all the work I have done over the last two weeks with cover-hunting and blogging,  I can’t help but feel this was a little bit of serendipity, a confirmation from the Universe that I am being helped in my quest to turn my passion into a profession. Gone are my days of typing in the dining room or squatting on the couch. I am building my writerly habitat! ❤

Paper Or Plastic? (AKA, Pen or Keyboard?)

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f you are over the age of twenty-five you’ve probably been asked the question at check-out lines. (The ones manned by actual people, not machines.) While this question in supermarkets is on the verge of extinction, I couldn’t help but think it describes another question writers often ask each other or get asked: do you prefer handwriting to typing?

Ultimately, manuscripts need to be typed up so that they look professional. But in the beginning stages, when inspiration has just struck and is leaving me giddy and excited, I prefer writing by hand. It makes sense as my process is a little bit like playing connect the dots, or discovering old coins from a sunken ship that float to the surface of the ocean. Ideas for scenes pop up sporadically which I then order and string together into what I could say is a vague outline of sorts.

My love of pretty little journals really drives my handwriting too. I currently have a stash of them in my writing drawer. Several of them are Punch Studio beauties. Whenever I see one I like, I buy it and keep it for future use.

And the pens…oh my goodness, there are so many amazing sorts of pens to write with! Fountain pens, pens with faux diamonds, pens topped with cute cats inside of bananas! (Seriously, look this up, they are called Bananya.) And there really is nothing more writerly than the smell of ink on paper, preferably mingled with the scrumptious scent of coffee or pastry. Hmm, pastry…

Anyway, I digress. What is your favorite way to write your new ideas? Get the conversation started in the comments!

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