One of the best pieces of advice I received was to get involved in writer’s groups. I ignored this advice for a long time. I think the reason is twofold. First, I grew up writing in seclusion. I didn’t want to be labeled as different amongst my teenage peers, so I told very few people of my ability. This is an avenue I would strongly discourage. Second, writing is a solitary profession. Yes, I may seek others to help generate ideas out of a block or to suggest ways to improve a piece, but ultimately the majority of my time is spent alone at a computer. The thought of branching out and joining a group seemed contradictory to the act of writing.
As in anything in life, joining a group has pro’s and con’s. There are, of course, those people who believe that their word is perfection and that they know everything about the business of writing. There are those people who believe they write better than any other writer in the world, but that people are too stupid to recognize it. Those of course are extremes. More often, the downside of writer’s group is that all discussions involve an issue that is close at heart. We love writing. Therefore, feelings tend to get hurt quicker when opinions clash. But, writers can gather a lot of valuable information from networking in groups.
I have learned about how to market books (although still feel lacking). I have learned about trends in marketplaces, how to build a platform, what publishers are looking for, and the new avenues of publication (to name a few). I have met people whose drive inspires me to do more. I live in the Southwest of the United States, which means most groups in my area are related to westerns, romance westerns, or mystery. I have found four groups (the online groups I frequent more often). One is southwest related, two mystery and one fantasy. The ones most active in offering opportunities for publication, contests, etc are related to mystery. I used to think I fit in this genre (I think an author can justify fitting in most any genre), but have come to accept the fact that I am not. The fantasy group is awesome, but mainly discusses the craft of writing and praising successes (which all is valuable as well).
I think it is like my job. I find I can relate better to teachers in my same field. We can “speak the language” and get excited about details others wouldn’t. I think I need to find that in my groups. I need the fantasy groups because it would offer more opportunities to expand and grow. YA groups are more difficult because I find myself surrounded by teens. I just need to find my place amongst a group that will accept me in my situation. Isn’t that just like everything else in life? We are all just searching for a place to belong.