Writing is a Lonely Business: Tips to Joining a Writer’s Group

I finished my novel in silence, leaned back in my chair, and sighed, “It’s done. After all of these years, it’s done.” Other than the two women in my Goal Group and my daughters, I had no one to tell, no one with whom to share the experience. Oh, I have tons of friends. Life with children—most of my peers can relate to this subject and discuss it into the wee hours; divorce, same story. But writing a book—only one friend to call. I’d been to the San Diego State University Writer’s Conference and the San Francisco Writer’s Conference, and, at each, I met “my people,” my “birds of a feather,” who can gab into the wee hours about character arcs, plot twists, social media marketing or creating the perfect query letter or synopsis, but the conferences are only once a year.

I looked up writer’s groups in my area and made a list. I chose to begin with just one (like social media—Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, I found it’s best to choose one at a time and work at mastering it. Otherwise, it’s overwhelming). But does “work at it” apply to joining a writers group? Emphatically—yes!

Groups, just like social media, are of no value unless you expend your energies and get involved. A group is only as good as its members. If you attend with the mindset, “What can they do for me?” instead of asking, “What can I do for the group?” do not be surprised if you leave empty-handed. No offer is too small. You may not be an expert in your field yet, but you can give of yourself. First, attend several groups and identify one that matches your level of expertise and time commitment (is the group open to new writers or experienced ones; how long are the meetings and how often). If one group is not right for you, search for another. “Your people” are out there. They are waiting to embrace and welcome you.

These groups do not just offer peers with whom to chat. Some groups offer keynote speakers, experts who are skilled in their field and open to answering questions and making connections. Others offer critique groups or ways to submit your writing for local or national publication.

As soon as I attended a meeting of the California Writer’s Club, Orange County branch, I smiled. There they were—my birds of a feather—peers, not by age but by our shared writing experience. The day I paid my dues and officially joined the group, I began to participate. I edit the newsletter. And I volunteered to help staff the club’s booth at Chapman’s Big Orange Book event (not to self-promote my novel but to promote my club), and I met a myriad of writers who stopped by the booth, because, like me, they sought a group of fellow writers with whom to share the road. Your group is out there—waiting to welcome you.

 

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