In our last blog, we discussed goal-setting. No sense starting to write unless you know what your objective is. Now that you’ve decided you not only want to write but want to become a professional writer, what’s next?

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Unless we’re experienced columnists or reporters for newspaper or magazine, in which case we would have made the decision about becoming a professional a long time ago, we probably need some help. Very few of us were born with the knowledge of how to write, much less how to market ourselves and our writing to agents, publishers or the reading public.

Where can we get that help? If you’re a recent graduate with a teacher or professor who has real knowledge of writing and the publishing industry and with whom you have established a strong rapport, you might seek him or her out.

If your aunt happens to be Nora Roberts, or John Grisham is your brother-in-law, you might go to them. If you can catch them with the time to sit down and talk to you.

Most of us don’t happen to number people like that among our relatives and close friends. What do we do? Where can we turn for help?

How about a critique group? We can find them in most major cities—and a lot of small towns—across the country. Surely we can find one, even if we have to drive to the next town for the meetings.

But wait—are all critique groups created equal? Unfortunately, no.

So, how do we decide what group, if any, to join?

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Who is in the group? Are there any writers who are successfully getting published in the field we’re interested in? If everyone there writes poetry and we want to write novels, the group probably isn’t going to be that helpful.

Okay, here’s a group over here where everyone is working on a novel, but the only one who has one published is a guy who self-published and has sold 300 copies in the two years it’s been out. Do you think we’ll find the kind of expertise we need from that group? Somehow, I doubt it. If it’s the only group around, it may be better than nothing. We might find help editing our typos and misspellings, but that’s about it.

We need to find a group comprised of people working on the same sort of thing we want to write—preferably one where at least one member has had some success at it. If our bag is short stories, we need a group with several short story writers.

Oh, I forgot—you wanted to be a novelist. Okay. Good choice. So you need to find a group that includes knowledgeable and successful novelists with a handle not only on how to write a novel but also on how to market it.

Unfortunately, we’re not likely to find a group that includes J. K. Rowling. What should we do? One place we can start is to attend some writers’ conferences. We can Google them and find what’s available in our area. Then we can attend and rub elbows with the other attendees, asking questions about writers’ groups in our area.

We can talk to the speakers who present sessions at the conference. Most of them are friendly and willing to speak to us. See what suggestions they have to offer.

We can also friend people like Kristen Lamb (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/) and Bob Mayer (http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/) on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. Both are successful authors who understand today’s market and can offer a wealth of insight.

Kristen Lamb, my Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp co-founder, has an on-line group. She also leads our local group which meets weekly, and there’s a lot of progress being made in both groups. In fact, one of the members of the on-line group, Donna Collins Newton (www.donnanewton.wordpress.com), has been in Hollywood recently working out the details for a tv series based on her screenplay.

Another valuable tool is reading blogs of other writers. We can take advantage of the experience (read mistakes) of others and make the way for smoother sailing for ourselves.

Writers used to live in caves, isolated from the rest of the world, but we no longer have to be hermits. Nowadays, we are not alone, to steal from the title of Kristen Lamb’s best-selling book, We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media. As writers seeking to break through, we need to take advantage of every opportunity for help we can find.

Ø Are you taking advantage of all the help available to assist you in reaching your own personal goals?

Ø Is there a local critique group that is right for you?

Ø Do the group members help one another with characterization, plot and so forth, or do they just critique a few pages of your prose?

Ø Interested in joining Kristen Lamb’s online group? Start following her blogs at http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/, as well as following her on Twitter and maybe friending her on FB. Then send her a DM or a FB message inquiring about joining.

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