Posts Tagged ‘writing groups’

Changing Support Needs

I started writing seriously in 2006, Squiders. I mean, I’d had periods before that–I’d been writing on and off since I was 8, including a fairly prolific time in high school (where I admittedly started a lot of novels I never made it very far on, though I did enter some poetry contests). I started doing Nanowrimo in 2003 and won in both 2004 and 2005.

But in 2006, I made the conscious decision to focus on my writing and to actually do something with it. Part of this was because I had a lot of free time. I graduated from college in December of 2005 but my new job didn’t start until March of 2006, which left me three months to do nothing, which turned out to be terrible. At the time I had no responsibilities and had just moved to a new city/state where I knew absolutely no one.

So it was as much a decision to save my own sanity and work my way out of depression as to work on something I’d enjoyed for most of my life.

Having been successful with the Nano model, I searched out a yearlong community called NaNoWriYe (National Novel Writing Year), which was a good start. It gave me some place to check in, had monthly challenges (including a fun one where you had to smoosh two unrelated genres together), and had team challenges as well.

The issue with WriYe was that everyone tended to start the year out strong, but few people managed to make it the full year. So it tended to be a bit dead as time went on.

Next I found April Fool’s, which was a challenge every April where you could pick your own word count goal. AF was active, and had fun perks like word count bars and winners’ pips. It also had an extremely active dares forum. AF was a good community, with people who bothered to keep track of each other’s work and goals.

And then it got hacked and everything got lost.

From there I settled into my current online writing community, where I have been for ten years now. And I got a real life group out in California that met once or a couple times a week. And things were grand! I was productive, my friends were helpful, and I was getting all the support I needed as a writer.

And then we moved back to Colorado, so I lost my in-person group, though one friend and I kept up virtual write-ins for a few years past that. And eventually I found my current in-person group, the one that I run the storycraft meetings for.

And it’s just become obvious lately that–I need something else. My online group has changed a lot over ten years. We had to close membership due to a truly ridiculous amount of spammers, so we don’t get a lot of new blood, and slowly but surely most of the people who were once regulars have been eaten by life. So it’s not terribly active anymore. And those who are left, I love, and they are supportive, but many of them aren’t writing regularly, or aren’t writing with similar goals, so they aren’t always the most helpful.

And with my real life group, well, it’s the same sort of thing. It’s dying out, and a lot of the people at the same or a higher level than me don’t come anymore.

I’ve joined some other online groups that specialize in things like query critiques, but they’re not really communities–people just show up for help and don’t really make connections with one another.

So I find myself feeling a bit adrift. As I mentioned on Thursday, I’m feeling low confidence lately, and working with people with similar goals and levels, or people who are more experienced, could be really helpful, I feel.

But for the life of me, I have no idea where to find such a group. Or a mentor might also be really beneficial, but same thing. Where do you find a person/people who might be a good fit?

Any advice you might have on the matter would be greatly appreciated. If you have a group or a mentor, would you mind sharing how you went about finding them?

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What Constitutes Storycraft?

Websites are still down. Sigh.

So, I mentioned earlier that I’ve taken over the storycraft meetings of my local speculative fiction writing group. I really enjoy these meetings, but I sometimes find it hard to pick appropriate topics to discuss.

This comes down to a couple of different things:

1) I don’t necessarily always know the level of the writers who are attending the meetings. Some members have just started writing; others are pro-writers, members of SFWA, traditionally published, the whole shebang. Some people are working on their first first drafts; others are trying to figure out how to submit to markets for the first time. I like to pick topics that will be beneficial for everyone.

2) Sometimes it feels like we’ve already talked about a lot of things–I’ve been in the group for two years, others have been around longer. How many times can we talk about plot or characters or coming up with titles?

3) I don’t know how interested people are in non-writing aspects of being a writer. Do people follow trends in our genre(s)? Do they care about discussing news about awards or controversies? Do they want to look at published books and dissect them? How open are they to doing a non-traditional meeting, where instead of discussing a writing topic, we do an exercise or read something else?

Not straight writing exercises, though. I hate those.

So, Squiders, what can be considered storycraft for meeting purposes? Do I need to stick with straight writing topics–editing, worldbuilding, aspects like pacing and conflict–mixed in with genre topics–tropes and other defining aspects? Or can I mix in other things like current events, marketing, looks at favorite books and why? Anyone have any advice for making sure a topic is useful for everyone, regardless of skill level?

Why Don’t Writing Groups Write?

So, back when I lived in California, I had a lovely group of people that I would write with. We’d go to a coffee shop, get a drink, maybe get a pastry (I am partial to chocolate pumpkin bread. Mmm), and we’d catch up for a few minutes, and then we’d write. For two or three hours at a go. And maybe we’d discuss techniques or craft or processes, or help someone with a plot issue, but the main point of the activity was to get something done, whether it was a new short story, editing an old novel, or fighting through a query letter.

We moved back to Colorado almost three years ago now, and I’ve yet to find a group whose point is doing rather than talking. I did have a Wednesday night group going for a bit, but while we sometimes got writing done, mostly we just socialized. And I’ve tried group after group, and they’re all either critique groups–which is good if you’ve got something written, but no good if you haven’t–or are craft groups, which is where people sit around and talk about how to write.

I dislike craft groups a lot. It’s not that I think I know everything about writing and don’t think I have anything left to learn. I don’t think that can ever be true of a writer. I just find that I tend to have a lot more experience than the other participants, and we spend a lot of time going over basics, or whoever’s leading’s trying to push their particular style on everyone, or we spend a lot of time working on activities designed to teach us how to do whatever, and I really really hate spending perfectly good writing time on writing exercises.

I despise writing exercises. I cannot learn through writing exercises and they make me extremely grumpy.

Every now and then I try to round up people who I feel are at a similar level to me, or at least write the same genre, and try to get a writing writing group going, but thus far it’s amounted to nothing.

What’s a girl to do? (Aside from sending the Landsquid to kidnap people, because I understand that’s frowned upon by society.) I have a lovely online group, but it’s very different to sit in a chatroom and write with people instead of doing it in person. (For one thing, your chatroom is not going to catch you if you’re off playing video games instead of what your should be doing.)

I’m going to try out a new group tonight–I found them at DCC, actually, when I stopped to talk to one of the other small presses, and while they alternate craft and critique meetings, I’m hoping I can at least network and maybe find some people up for writing. Also, the craft ones seem like they don’t always have a set topic, or someone presenting necessarily, so maybe they’re more discussion group-y, and I would be okay with that.

What do you look for in a writing group, Squiders? Have you had luck in your area?

A Slight Feeling of Isolation

It’s no secret that I believe in the more social aspects of writing. Writing groups, critique groups, writing partners, the whole nine yards. I love writing, I would do it regardless, but there’s something very satisfying about working with other writers to hone your craft.

It just seems like recently, nothing is working out to help me get my other writers fix. I went to a critique group a few weeks ago, but it meets at the unfortunate time of Saturday night, but I have a social life and a husband and am rarely available then. It’s hard to build relationships when you only show up once in a blue moon.

My Wednesday night group seems to be meeting less and less often, and we can’t seem to find a reliable location that fits everyone’s needs. We have an online part as well, but most of the non-local people have dropped off. I haven’t even heard from them in a few months now. More and more often I find myself alone at my local coffee shop, which is admittedly more productive but less satisfying.

Even my online writing community, which has been a staple for the past five years, seems a bit quiet. Most of the people I’m closest to have been busy and distant, and even my writing partner has been so busy lately that last week was the first time we got to work together in several months.

I know socialization isn’t essential to the writing process, but there are times when I can’t help but feel a bit lonely, especially in the middle of the day when everyone else is at their “real” jobs.

Any suggestions, Squiders?