Since we are mere weeks away from the annual writing phenomenon of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org), I think discussing the importance of being involved in writing critique groups and in the larger writing community is a good idea.
The writing community is called that for a reason. After all, the publishing industry is filled with far more people than just writers. There are agents, editors, story cover artists, marketing consultants, public relations workers, book distributors and retailers, and most importantly, readers. All writers are readers. We read our own work and we read others’ work. Part of the fun of being a writer is the fact that the more I learn about this business, the more I appreciate reading the written word itself. I get excited about my writing sessions and cannot wait to read and critique other people’s stories.
If you can do nothing else as a writer, join a good writing group. In the early stages of my career when writing fiction was little more than a hobby, my various critique groups helped immensely. When I got busier later on, beta readers took the place of critique groups. In either case, I look for a group of people who enjoy reading things similar to what I write and who are honest (sometimes brutally) in their critiques. An honest critique of your work is sometimes painful, but it is worth ten insincere pats on the back. Your ultimate goal for your work needs to be to make it as good and memorable as possible. The writing should please you and please your readers. If it does not do both of these things, it has failed. A good writing critique group should show you your strengths, but also graciously indicate where your stories are weak.
My suggestion is to find a local group or start your own group with writers that share your genre interests. One of the easiest ways to do this is to check if any colleges or universities in your area offer creative writing classes. Talk to the teachers of those classes to find out about either taking the course or joining any known private critique groups. You can also find numerous online writing courses such as some of the University of Kansas courses (http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/courses.htm) and join cyber critique groups that such as Critters (http://www.critters.org/).
I suggest genre-specific groups because their advice usually will help you far more in the long run than that of generalized groups. I have also enjoyed going through a couple of paid courses over the years, but I will caution you to always choose a course or critique group that deals specifically with the genre of writing that you want to publish. I have been involved in a generalized literary course where I was forced to write mainstream literary fiction instead of fantasy or science fiction. I will never make that mistake again because my caliber of writing suffers when I cannot write what I love.
There are myriads of writers on social networks and forums such as Twitter, Facebook, and Kindleboards Writers’ Café that can help involve you in their respective communities and update you about events affecting the writing community in general. You can also follow other writers’ blogs and comment on them. I myself check Hugh Howey’s blog regularly for news specific to the science fiction genre and the publishing industry in general.
Fair warning: certain etiquette is required for blog and social media sites. You are welcome to comment, but not to harass people. Do not try to hard sell yourself or your work. Just be yourself and participate in the community. You will learn great information and make excellent contacts this way. These contacts will come in handy later when you do need to market your stories, but just enjoy the new friendships for now. Case in point, posting the occasional update on a specific story’s progress is fine, but if all people hear is “Please buy my story!”, they will usually start ignoring you because you have no “useful” information to share. You need to engage others about many different common interests. Tell others what excites you: a new book, a new movie, a new game. Then discuss it with other people. Write a blog on your own website about different aspects of writing or other related hobbies that fascinate you and add the links to your posts to your social media pages. Post links to interesting YouTube videos. Have fun with your participation in the community. The more people get to know you as a person, the more likely they will support you in your artistic endeavors if you are tactful in mentioning your work.
Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!
The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!