Why I joined a writing group or three

Hi there.  J here.  Welcome to our very first Scribe Theme Week!  Have you been enjoying it?  We have more of them in the works…just you wait.  So I want to tell you why I joined a few different professional writing organizations and community groups over the last few years and what I got out of them.

I began working on my first novel way back in the dark ages of 1996.  I never finished that book and I think in part it was because I loved Little Women as a kid.  I imagined myself as the modern-day Jo March, scribbling away, alone in my cold garret room, my fingers black with ink.  What female writer didn’t have this picture in her head at some point?  What I didn’t know was that I needed a community to get the job done.  Perhaps that isn’t the case for everyone, but it was, and is, for me.

In 2003 I began writing The Cordovan Vault.  I was lazy and wrote in fits and starts, oh so busy with my 50 hour a week job.  This was during my life pre-kids when 50 hours was about the extent that I worked.  I actually can’t imagine how I wasted so much time!  But by January 2006, I decided to take this dream more seriously and I joined the writing group at my local library.  I can honestly say that I am where I am today for taking that first step.

The writing group led me to my first Writer’s Conference, CAPA – U held each May.  I did my first Editor Pitching and learned many important things, especially that I wasn’t going to get anywhere until I finished writing the book.  I also met a woman there who told me about NanoWrimo.

If you don’t know about NanoWrimo, they you need to follow the link and check it out!  This is an online writing contest designed to spark creativity and get words on the page.  I participated the first time in 2007.  The weekly pep talks from published writers were invaluable to me.  Even well-known writers had been stuck, as I was.  They said the only thing to do was push through.  Rewrite later.  I took that advice and made it more than 2/3 of the way through the manuscript before hitting the next milestone.

I met Susannah Hardy in January of 2008, again at my local library’s writing group.  Susannah’s encouragement was critical to me finishing The Cordovan Vault.  She pushed me to finish the first draft, and then to revise it, making it a much better story.  And she’s the one who pushed me to get it published.  THANK YOU, Susannah!  🙂  Now we all need to push her, because I’ve read some of her stuff (and you can too!) and her finished novel is wonderful.  You will want to read it.  I guarantee it. 

In late 2009 ish, I met Casey Wyatt (the soon to be published Casey Wyatt, that is!  Congrats!) at my library’s group too.  Casey and Susannah met PJ Sharon, who introduced us to the CTRWA, where we met Katy Lee and Jamie Pope, among a bunch of other kind, encouraging and fun writers. 

Today’s secret: While joining one of the larger professional organizations like CAPA or CT RWA is great (I get tons of support, marketing help, and other opportunities that I desperately need) I have to say that taking the first step and joining the writing group at my local library has been invaluable to me.  If you aren’t ready for a big professional organization yet, maybe a small group is the write (get it?!) one for you.

Today’s question:  Did you ever have a Jo March moment?  Is being a writer what you expected it to be or is it something different?


11 thoughts on “Why I joined a writing group or three”

  1. Nice post J. I’m so glad you perservered!

    The only imaginings that I had about being a writer came out of my love of watching the Walton’s and seeing/hearing John Boy narrate his wonderfully heartwarming and dramatic family stories to the world. I thought how cool would that be to be so passionate about telling your story.

    I wrote poetry and short stories, and journaled through many dramas of my own, never imagining I could actually become an author. Many of my passions in life have been things I’ve stumbled upon, taking a likeing to, and then more or less become obsessed with mastering. Writing is one of those things. I’m a firm believer in the “ten thousand hours of practice to become an expert” theory. After writing twenty hours or so a week for six years, I figure I’m about four years away from being a really outstanding writer. My trajectory is directly related to my involvement with other writers. I’m with you, J!

    1. I used to watch the Walton’s too. I forgot that it was all told by John Boy’s narration…hmmm. With all this is it any wonder we became writers?

  2. Somehow, I knew Jo March was going to make it into this post, J! I love Jo too, and I especially love that Gabriel Byrne was cast as the professor in the modern film. 🙂 Now, what’s this about a public call to push Suze into submission? I mean that in the sending out the manuscript again sense of the word, or do I???? Thanks, I think! (This weekend, FYI)

  3. Right now my Jo moment is when she was writing and the professor was honest with her in saying he didn’t “see” her in the work.

    I am struggling with that now. I want to write the books of my heart, but those don’t follow market lines. And I’m trying to write to the market right now, but I keep veering off. It’s like my brain can’t do it. And I honestly have more fun and am more creative when I just right the books of my heart. They mean a lot more to me.

    1. That’s a tough one! Of course you want to write your books, but you also want them to be marketable. But, they say to write your story rather than chase the market…of course what do they know?

  4. Hi J,
    I never had a Jo March moment really. I have been writing since I was 8 years old. I did put it aside for ages, years, eons even, until 2009 when I was extremely dissatisfied with my life path and wanted a change. A series of events led me to writing again, and an entirely different series of events led me to CTRWA. What I didn’t know about writing a novel is how difficult the road to publication can be. Joining the writing groups, however, helps a great deal in navigating that path.

  5. Katy – IMHO – please don’t write for the market. Write what’s in your heart. There are so many publishing options now that you are not confined to traditional boxes! I just finished a book about a vampire stripper who is forced to live on Mars. I wrote it because the story needed to be told. If I don’t find a publisher interested in it, then I can always indie pub it.

    J – I sort have a “Jo March” moment whenever I start writing my next book (funny – my first book was started in 1996 too). This other part of my brain takes over (thank goodness!) and the story comes out. How I feel about the story once I’m done is a whole other ball of wax. And that is when being part of a group helps the most. Encouragement and real honesty are a winning combination.

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