September 30, 2001
FOR IMMEDIATE USE
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Diana Barnum (614) 529-9459
Make the Most of Your Writer’s Group
Writing for different genres can be lots of fun and inspire creativity into everyday writing, as well. But the thought of trying to write something out of the old comfort zone or main field of interest seems downright scary. Competition can be fierce out there! And who has all the tools necessary to complete a fantastic manuscript? Who has all of the skills, workshops, classes, texts, experience, etc. to write for all of the genres? A writer’s group does! Maybe not all in one location, and maybe not in one simple package, but the tools are there.
Here are some ways to uncover all the help necessary to experiment in other fields through writers’ groups (Hint: if there is no writers’ group in your area, check with your local librarian to learn more about starting one):
Write at the meeting! “I can’t believe that many writers do not write at the meetings,” said Jenny White, freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio. “Notes on everything that goes on in each session are kept in a special notebook for reference. And they are actively used, too! If someone mentions a job opportunity, I highlight it, then add it to my calendar for follow-up when I get home.” White does the same thing with mentions for article requests, writing tips, etc. Each is logged, and then transferred to another file at home.
Get to know other members. Become friends with fellow writers. Use e-mail, snail mail, telephones, but don’t be afraid of grammar. Just because someone is a writer, doesn’t mean each correspondence needs to be a piece of art. Once you get over the fear of being critiqued each time you e-mail a writer, you will find many wonderful, fun folks out there. Break down those barriers and guess what you’ll find? There will be people who’ve taken writing classes and workshops. There will be people who have writing texts, dictionaries, computers, e-mail, websites and other helpful tools. There will be people with experience. Share and grow!
Take advantage of critique sessions. “After getting over my fear of being thought of as a ‘poor’ writer by my fellow members, I jumped in with my first article to be critiqued,” explained Bernie Martin, writer from Hilliard, Ohio. “Others brought theirs, so it was enlightening on both sides of the fence.” Write down all comments offered by each member. Then later at home, go back and actually revise the manuscript. “I did this a few times, and my pieces went on to win several contests this year,” added Martin. One manuscript placed in the Inspirational category of the 1999 Writer’s Digest contest. Another was a first attempt at a travel piece. An article on Martin’s hometown came in first place in the Get It In Writing contest. And two fiction pieces revised after critique sessions went on to place in an on-line writers’ magazine called All Mixed Up Writers’ Ezine. So don’t be afraid. Go for it!
Follow up between meetings. Take that notebook out with meeting notes, and make sure you update your calendar with new leads, workshop dates, coffee house get-togethers, etc. Make that meeting work for you. Revise with critique notes. Do you really use ‘really’ in every paragraph? Too many adverbs? (What IS an adverb?) Now is the time to call around, e-mail, read books, attend workshops, create, revise, re-create. If you don’t follow through, why waste your time and membership dues?
Participate in each meeting (if that’s possible). One local writer’s group in Central Ohio passes around a goal pouch. Group members write out a goal for the next month, place it in the pouch with $1, and pass it along to the next member. A goal can be writing only one more chapter in your book, even just one more page. Then at the next meeting, the group leader asks, “Who has accomplished these goals?” Based on the honor system, anyone who has completed a goal raises a hand. Everyone who raises a hand divides up the money. In cases where no one has met a goal, the group can put the money in its treasury, or donate the funds, etc. This is a neat way to push yourself a little.
Another way is to keep a list of accomplishment(s) for the month, and as the group goes around sharing news, jump up and share yours. This way it becomes more real, and others can be a part of your progress. Then at the next meeting when Jane Does says, “I had an article published in The Christian Communicator,” you can say, “That’s great! I just revised that piece from last month, and added another chapter to my novel.” Writing isn’t just about getting published. It’s a process.
After trying new styles, you will find much more enjoyment in life. You will find that it’s possible to write a travel article, spiritual short story, personal essay, anything you want. You will be able to use more ideas than ever before to build and create - new characters, scenery, plots, wow! People that you’ve never noticed before will seem to jump out, waiting to be placed in your next novel. And colors so vivid that they’ll blind, will beg to be written into that next Sci-Fi description. How about those Dungeons & Dragons folks dressed in costumes at the police station last night? What a twist for a Mystery plot! Go get ‘em, folks! Let’s write!
For more information contact Diana Barnum, a freelance writer in Hilliard, Ohio, and member of writers' groups. Diana welcomes email at firstname.lastname@example.org and calls at (614) 529-9459 ext.1. She is the president of Moving Ahead Communications. Visit online for FREE tools - Ezine with tips, classes and more at http://www.movingaheadcom.com.