Q for the writers in the room…

Pardon this interruption to the regular blogging, but I need advice from the writers in the room. I belong to a writers group that has a pretty strong contingent of seasoned but unpublished writers. Some have agents, some are still on the agent search, all have been to every workshop out there. I’m hoping some of you have been in this spot. So here is the question, when the workshops and craft lessons start sounding old hat, what do you most need as a writer? What could a writing group provide that would help you? I know networking is one thing, but aside from bringing in an endless (expensive) parade of agents and editors, what type of networking or support? We also have a wonderful online contingent in the group, so we can all crow and cry together when the need arises. I have a small critique and support group that is invaluable to me, but I have no idea how to expand that out to a wider group.

Please share your wisdom with this humble blogger. I promise next post, back to SciFi!

10 thoughts on “Q for the writers in the room…

  1. That’s a very tough question to answer. Because most writing groups are a mixed bag, finding subjects/lessons pertinent to the group as a whole leads to the same-old. I would imagine published writers’ needs focus on the how’s and where’s of marketing. They may also be in need of new ideas/plots for contracted stories.

    Unpublished writers range from the very new to those who’ve got it down and are on the hunt for an agent or editor. The newbies are in need of the basics that the other two groups are tired of going over. The hunters would like up-to-date information on who is acquiring, who is open to new clients, and what are these agents and editors hungry for.

    When a group meets, I suppose breaking out into 3 separate workshops is the best approach to meeting the needs of everyone while not confusing the newbies or boring the old hats to tears. How to divide the allocated time for a meeting is a whole ‘nother question.

  2. Okay babe, I have no idea where to begin. There are so many ways to handle this. I have a degree in Creative Writing – I worked as an editor in the International Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa. I’ve been invited to some high profile writers conferences over the years. I’m a member of RWA – just joined this past year, but I am not a member of a local chapter because there is none in my area. I do not belong to a writing group of any kind. Zip. I don’t have a critique group and I don’t want to be part of one.
    So…for what it’s worth:
    1. Writer’s conferences are not worth the money. I have never gotten anything out of a single conference because most authors are there to get a paycheck and promote themselves, not you, and most agents and publishers – at least in the past – are there for the same reasons – a free trip. It may be a little better now because the publishing world is changing so rapidly.
    2. A writing class can definitely be worth the money – either the occasional class offered by a local RWA chapter or a class at a local college or community college. For instance – I took a two evening class in self-publishing offered by my local chamber of commerce and taught by a well-known author who had just begun to self-publish – it was meat and potatoes and well worth it.
    3. Find a published author you respect and ask them to edit a portion of your work as a real life editor would. I’ve done this for beginning authors – edited a chapter or two so they can see what it’s like and become familiar with what an editor will ask of them. When I was first starting out, nobody would give me the time of day – and I don’t blame them, but I made a decision that if someone asked for my help, I would do my best to at least respond.
    4. I don’t have an agent – I gave up looking years ago because I got sick of rejection. Too much negative energy. I also gave up on the big pubs, again, sick of rejection. I realized, as I explored the world of e-publishing, that e-publishing is offering a service to writers and readers that the big publishing houses used to – epubs are publishing short stories. They may be called Quickies, but really, they are what the big pubs used to call short story anthologies. For many years, I was introduced to many wonderful authors by their short story debuts. Start sending in short stories to e-publishers and get some credentials under your belt – watch for calls for submissions for short story anthologies and send in work. See what happens. You have nothing to lose – the worse they can say is ‘no’. Big deal, try again.
    5. Now is the time. E-publishing is the way of the future – yes, there will still be print books, but this generation – my kids – will be reading books, stories, comics on e-readers. Throw your had in the ring and hope for the best.
    Good Luck! j

  3. I think I’m sort of in this situation. I’m a member of my local RWA. I go to the meetings mostly because I love being around other writers. Same thing with conferences. Sure, there are some people who go with the intention to promote themselves, but I just want to hang out and talk. My real life friends aren’t writers, so these meet-ups are the only times I get to be around my people. 🙂

    I’m in a crit group and have a bunch of online friends to chat about writing with, but honestly, the thing that has been most helpful to me is the book group me and another romance writer just started. Because I really wanted to figure out what our chosen author did that made her win the RITA, I read that book closely, marking pages with sticky-notes with my thoughts written out. Thoughts like: “this author has great metaphors,” “this is the best description I’ve read in a while,” “this makes the hero extremely unlikable and creepy,” etc.

    That’s helped me learn what I like and don’t like about stories. It’s shown me places where I might want to try out metaphors in my book, and I’ve figured out what types of descriptions work for me (descriptions are one of my weaknesses). I think this is something that can be helpful and eye-opening to any level writer. Plus, it’s freaking fun!

    • Hi Sandy! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I know you are super busy – new contract girl. 😉

      I like your idea of the book club. I think you are exactly right – digging in to good books is a super learning tool. Lots of our members are looking for the next level of craft – beyond basics – but what is that and how do you learn it? LOL. Talking about books is always fun, but how would we do it as a group? Hmm. Must think. I remember someone giving a workshop and said her chapter did something like that in addition to the meetings. Wish I could remember who it was. Yes, I’m liking this idea, if we can make it work.


  4. Charlie –

    I really enjoy the How To sessions, but I also feel like I need the What’s Next. The work isn’t done when the ms is complete and polished (or even submitted). What are timelines / industry standards?

    I understand the days of the publishing house-sponsored book tours and major promotions are over, especially for new authors. So, how does an unknown become a known? Future contracts rely on past sales, and if it’s up to us to boost those sales, HOW? What things can I do as an unpublished, uncontracted, unagented writer that will help me when I get to be those things? What can I do NOW, without a book cover and release date to print on a bookmark / promote at a conference? … Without hiring a PR department. 🙂


      • Great post, Charlie!

        As a someone who recently landed a contract with a smaller publishing house, I’d like to see more information about what comes next.

        1. Taxes: Once per year RWA puts out a tax info article in the newsletter, but there are so many questions, you cannot ask of an article. It would be great if someone could give a workshop on what aspiring and published authors should and shouldn’t do regarding taxes.

        2. Marketing: A marketing workshop would be helpful. There are arguments for and against using the social network to enhance marketing. I’d like to see a breakdown of pros and cons of using it.

        3. The truth about epublishing and print: A more balanced look at epublishing and NY houses would be nice too. While our chapter is pro e-pubs, that’s not true of all other chapters. (This could also draw more people to a conference.)

        4. Realistic Timelines: As Ava said, a break down of industry standards and timelines of what to expect after the ink dries on the contract. Also, what are boilerplate no-no’s authors want to avoid. While Preditors & Editors warn about houses not being “author friendly” it would help to know what exactly that means.

        Now, having said all that, there are always newer writers joining the ranks. So it would be helpful, like Lis’ Anne said, to have break-out sessions for new writers vs. writers taking the next step.

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