Wednesday, March 30, 2016

It's all in the details...

One of the many parts of the current illustration I'm working on for my next children's book. You're looking at 20 tiny hand-cut pieces of paper, carefully glued together to compose a picture frame that will sit on the wall of a whole room filled with toys, books, and playing boys. Imagine how many pieces that will take - probably hundreds -maybe I'll count when it's finished. You may ask why I do this to myself.  It really is a lot of work, and a looot of patience. But surprisingly, I enjoy it. It's like putting a puzzle together. And when each illustration is complete, it's so satisfying. So hey, at least I'm having fun. 

Why every writer needs a writing group



This is a picture of my writing group. I love these women! Just looking at this picture makes my heart happy. These are my girls. They are amazing and I don't know where I'd be without them. Yes, we are a pretty small group, but don't be fooled. It only takes a a few talented writers coming together to create a highly productive, incredibly helpful, and completely awesome writing group.

You may ask yourself: what is a writing group and how does it work? Well, every writing group probably does things a little differently. But basically, it's this:

You team up with other writers in your area and say: "Hey, lets meet every week, (or every other week, or once a month) at such and such place". Before you all meet, each group member sends out something they've written via email so the whole group can read it beforehand. (Note: It's important to have a maximum number of pages to send out so that the group isn't overloaded with 500 pages to read in a 2-week time period). Each group member will edit the writings and make notes for each author. When the group meets, everyone will take a turn to get what they wrote critiqued by the entire group. The author can ask any questions and get feedback on how they could improve on what they've written.  You can also discuss any related topics, like querying agents, marketing strategies, and whatever you want really.

And that's that! So...

Are you a writer with goals of turning your stories into something more than they are now? If the answer is yes, my next question is: Are you in a writing group? If not, then you should be! And here's why:

1. If you want your writings to be the best they can be, YOU NEED CRITIQUE! No matter how good you think your writing is, there's components of it that you just can't see need to be changed on your own. You need a new pair of eyes and a fresh brain to read it over and point out what may be obvious to everyone else but you. Is is intimidating to put your writing out there for others to edit? YES! But that's why you invite nice people into your group, who will tell you the truth (extremely important that they are honest) but in a nice way. :) And hey, getting advice doesn't mean you HAVE to change your story, it's just incredibly helpful feedback - and you should get as much of it from as many people as possible if you want your writing to improve.

2. Writing groups keep you MOTIVATED TO KEEP WRITING! Even if you think you write pretty often already, being in a writing group forces you to keep it up on a regular basis and gives you incredible motivation to FINISH projects. For example, my writing group meets every other week and we each are expected to have written something new each time. How motivational is that! Are you working on a novel but stuck in a writing slump? What about an idea for a children's book that you just haven't got around to putting on paper? Not finishing writing projects is what happens to 90% of wannabe authors - making any dreams of publishing impossible. In a writing group, having to have new material written every two weeks FORCES you to at least get something down on paper, even if it's not perfect. And after a few months of this, you'll be finishing that book in no time!

3. Writing groups connect you to amazing people who will increase your opportunities and skills! In writing groups, you'll meet other artists, other creative minds. People with great ideas who can help inspire your work. People with skills that you may be able to learn from - knowledge of other writing clubs, classes, or resources. Maybe someone in the group knows how to use Photoshop really well and you need to learn that to create a successful book cover. Maybe someone has connections with the local library and can help you get an author reading day set up there. Maybe one is an illustrator and can help you illustrate your book or give you information on someone else who can. Collaborating with other authors helps you find out about local author events, gives you other authors to split table costs with at the craft market when you sell your book, helps you find out about writing conferences or helpful websites, or other books that relate to your work (which is helpful in finding the right agent for you). If you are all writers with similar goals who are all researching ways to get your books out there - then you are all bound to learn and gain something valuable from each other. 

4. The Support is just the best! Being in a supportive group of other authors, cheering each other on, buying each others books and helping to spread the word for each other, having friends to go to writing conferences with or just to talk about writing with in general, having that support - emotional and physical - is just priceless. It makes all the difference. It keeps you going. It encourages you. It makes writing FUN. It's seriously like a party every time you meet. But then again, make sure the members in your group are nice, like mine...;)

5. You can meet in your PJ's and bring cookies. I think that pretty much speaks for itself. It's awesome. 


So I know it might be a little intimidating, but trust me, being in a writing group is SOOO much better than trying to figure everything out on your own. It may get you out of your comfort zone, but for those serious about writing, believe me, it's what you need. And hey, maybe you aren't really serious about writing and it's just something that gives you joy and you don't really have any goals for your works. In that case, a writing group can still be for you! If you just have a desire to share what you are writing or to just get free grammar editing, or just positive feedback, let the group know, and if they're nice like mine, then they'll be more than happy to oblige. :)

So, ask around. Find out who likes to write just like you do. You'll be surprised at how many people do! Try to find those who are truly talented and passionate writers, who will be honest - people who will inspire you and help you rather than be TOO nice to give you any critique. And then organize a writing group with these people. Even a group of two or three is better than one. If you can't find anyone you know , look up groups in your community - they are all over the place. And when you do, let me know how much your writing is improving and how much you are loving it! Because I know you will!