The Importance of Community OR Why We Need Writer’s Clubs
By Leeann Betts
I thought I could do this on my own.
Seriously. I envisioned sitting at my desk, pecking away at the keyboard for hours a day, producing the next Great American Novel. No editing needed. I don’t know how I thought they’d be published—just that some elusive publisher would snatch up every book I wrote and run with it. Oh yes, besides writing, I’d go to the post office box and collect my royalty checks.
The life of a writer
I wrote my first novel in 2002, and before I even got to the end of it, I realized that I didn’t know whodunit or why. I went to the library and checked out some books on writing a novel, writing a mystery, and crafting a bestselling novel. Devoured those books. Learned a lot. Finished that first novel and—according to the books I read—I revised and polished and sent it out.
And got rejected. Over and over again. “Not a fit”: means they already have enough badly-written mysteries. “Compelling premise”: means they like the idea but the book didn’t deliver. “Perhaps you should attend a writing conference and join a critique group”—aha! the first piece of useful information.
But I didn’t know about critique groups. I mean, who wants to be criticized? I went to the first conference I could find in my area and learned about critique groups from attendees. I joined an online critique group through a national organization I also joined as a result of that conference, and received invaluable information. I joined a couple of smaller, local writers groups and went to their critique groups. Once, when I traveled out of town, I even attended a critique group in another city just to see how they operated.
I learned a lot from my membership in both the national organization, the local chapter, and the critique groups I took part in. If you’re struggling with why you should join, or if you should renew, here are some things to consider:
1. You can’t do this alone. Sure, you can try, but there is simply too much information out there to be able to pick and choose what you need to know.
2. You shouldn’t do this alone. You might have something to encourage somebody else or steer them in the right direction.
3. You need a shoulder to cry on. Or somebody else might need one. When the rejections get nasty. When the revisions get messy. When the stories get old. Or the muse doesn’t show up and you have a deadline.
4. You are more than a writer. As an author, you also need to be a cover designer, a typesetter, a copywriter, a marketing specialist, an accountant—and if you aren’t, community helps.
5. Membership will help you grow. As a person, as an author, as a businessperson. Joining a writer’s group will get you involved doing things you might not want to do, like serving on a board, or organizing an event, or getting on social media.
6. Connecting with other writers will pay off. I made contacts for book deals at several conferences, and heard about a publisher who was looking for a specific kind of story at a local writers meeting.
The dollars I pay each year for membership in groups pales in comparison with the value I receive. I’m a member of several writer’s clubs, because they each offer something different in terms of community, expertise, and activities. I couldn’t do what I do without them—and honestly, although I’m in introvert and meeting with large groups of people is sometimes awkward and uncomfortable—I push myself to step out. I never know where my next contract or friend will show up.
Leeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. She has released seven titles in her cozy mystery series, By the Numbers, with number 8, A Deadly Dissolution, releasing in June. In addition, Leeann has written a devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk, Counting the Days, and with her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, has published two books on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold and More Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays, articles, and exercises on the craft. She publishes a free quarterly newsletter that includes a book review and articles on writing and books of interest to readers and writers. You can subscribe at http://www.LeeannBetts.com or follow Leeann at http://www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com All books are available on Amazon.com in digital and print, and at Smashwords.com in digital format.
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About A Deadly Dissolution:
The total lunar eclipse of October 2004 leaves more than Bear Cove, Maine, in the dark. The town’s newly-elected mayor, Walter Akerman, hires Carly to audit the town’s books but is then caught in a compromising situation with his secretary Evie Mack. A journalist in town to cover the eclipse turns up dead. Tom and Sarah’s adopted son Bradley comes to stay overnight to see the eclipse, then goes missing on a walk in town. When Mike’s car is in a serious wreck which the police say is an accident, Carly thinks somebody is trying to send her a message to stay away. How can she solve all these mysteries while not completely wearing herself to a frazzle?
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for the info, Leeann! Some great ideas for beginning writers and reminders for those of us who’ve been around for a while.
Thanks for hosting me, Thonie. I’m honored to be your guest.
Always a pleasure, Donna/Leeann!