Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Happy first Monday in November, when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative, craft or business matters. So ask away using the comment box below, or share your experiences as a writer with others.

I’m sorry that comments need to be moderated to avoid a lot of spam and rudeness we can all do without. To have your comment or question appear immediately, just click on “sign me up” to subscribe. I don’t share email details with anyone.

To kick things off, here’s a question I was asked at GenreCon in Brisbane recently. Why should writers join groups?

We all know the noble answers – to support other writers, share knowledge, give back to the profession yada yada yada. But what do YOU get out of belonging? Here are my five “selfish” reasons. See if you agree.

1. To find your tribe.
It’s human nature to want to belong. We’re tribal animals. As soon as I moved to the country town where I live, I went looking for a writers’ group. It turned out to be one primarily set up for new writers, but I joined anyway. Despite being at different levels of craft and experience, all the group members are writers, first and foremost. They understand the ebb and flow of ideas, and how hard it is to get started sometimes. They are my tribe.


2. To get inside information.
In writing, insider trading isn’t a dirty word, it’s a necessary part of finding your way through the publishing maze. The more you get to know agents and editors via conferences and group newsletters, the easier it is to submit work to them when the time comes. You get to know what they’re looking for and how you should present your work. And they see your membership of a group as a sign of professional commitment.

3. You get encouragement and support

Yes, you support the other group members, but they are also there for you when you need it. Mention that you wrote 200 words today, and your non writer friends will look at you as if you’re crazy. Only 200? What did you do with the rest of your day? Only another writer understands that sometimes writing words is like pulling teeth. Dragging 200 or even 20 words out of your brain is an achievement to be celebrated. Ask anyone taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) throughout November, and they’ll tell you what a struggle it is to keep up your word count day after day, with the goal of writing 50,000 words by month end. You need your cheer squad.

4. Misery loves and needs company
Getting a rejection from a publisher or agent can be crushing. They’ve told you that your brain child is ugly. This is a lot to bear, and only your fellow writers fully get what you’re going through. They also understand the importance of a “good” rejection, when your work may not have crossed the finish line yet, but it’s still in the race. Non writers don’t understand a good rejection, but we do.

5. Celebrating your milestones
In the writing business, the steps to success can be a long way apart. From an editor requesting your partial manuscript, to asking to see the full (manuscript), then sending suggestions for revision, perhaps in a couple of rounds, to accepting the book – yay – can take a year or longer. Non writers only see two steps – submitting the book and becoming J K Rowling. Nothing in between makes sense to them, the way it does to us. Other writers will help you celebrate each step and cheer you on to the next. They won’t think you’re a failure because your book has taken a year of work and still isn’t “out there.” We know you’re making progress.

What do you get out of knowing other writers, either online or in person? Share your experiences via the comment box below, or ask a question and I’ll do my best to answer, cheer you through whatever stage you’re at, or pop the virtual champagne when you get there.


on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

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Comments on: "First Monday mentoring for November – 5 selfish reasons to join writers’ groups" (8)

  1. Well said! It can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling to surround yourself with like minded individuals.

    • Thanks for visiting, Wendy. Sometimes it can be a matter of survival, too, assuring us we aren’t crazy when we hear the voices of people who aren’t real, insisting we tell their stories.

  2. “You become like who you hang around” is something I’ve heard a lot lately. I’d have to say that’s true. I’ve hung around for the last several years with writers online, and after years of trying to match the right story to the right publisher, it finally happened. Valerie is one of the writers I was blessed enough to meet on the Harlequin boards, and along with other generous souls, she’s helped me tremendously in the Grand Quest for Publication. (Sounds as though it ought to be a fantasy story, doesn’t it?)

    What really rings true is the bit about “getting it.” Hanging out with other writers, whether online or in a face-to-face group (like our local group), gives you people who understand. It’s not all blockbusters and six book contracts and movie deals. Sometimes, it’s staring into space, letting the characters you imagine have room to breathe.

    Thanks for letting me be part of your tribe, Valerie!

  3. You’re most welcome, Marion. Yes! So true about staring into space imagining your characters into existence. We need people who “get” that and us, and it’s a relief not to have to explain ourselves because other writers understand exactly what we mean.

  4. For me the best, apart from the fun (spec ficition writers as a whole seem to be delightfully insane which makes for an interesting tribe) is working on feedback on each other’s writing. I am a better writer because of that. My ability to critique has grown which has both helped me work with others and improved my own writing (seeing ‘problems’ in other people’s writing that I then see in my own). And this in turn helps lead to identification of and success in getting more work in print.

    • Good point, Ross. Giving feedback to other writers and volunteering to help judge writing competitions are great ways to see how to strengthen your own work. We all gain from helping each other.

      • It doesn’t have to a tribe in person. I spent some years doing story crits online with Forcing yourself to have a critical review of other people’s work also helped with developing not just my ability to do said critical review but again helped in developing my own work.

  5. So true. Part of the appeal of social media is connecting with like-minded people aka our tribe.

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