Buiding a Platform Introduction

Building a Platform

Platform: 1. a raised flooring 2. the flat area next to a railroad track 3. a set of principles

Now is the time to add another definition to your Webster’s. If you are a writer, or you would like to be a writer someday, definition #4 is essential.

Platform: 4. an accumulation of skills along with various methods of broadcasting that information to the publishing world and the reading public

Building a Platform in the 21st Century

It isn’t enough for today’s writer to merely write the novel or short story, or for that matter a non-fiction piece, newspaper article, or screenplay. Today’s writer needs to get noticed. Does that mean be a flaming exhibitionist? Yeah. Sort of.

As described in definition #4: a “platform” is an accumulation of skills along with various methods of broadcasting that information to the publishing world and the reading public. And this can be started before you have a book in print. In fact, it should have been started before you are knee deep in trying to promote a published book.

If you have visions of your future publisher footing the bill for your world-wide book tour or arranging your multi-city American book tour, wake up, sweetheart. More than likely, you will be doing this yourself.

But, if you have developed certain skills and have laid a foundation (a.k.a. platform) for getting your name out in front of the public, you are ahead of the game. But a “platform” isn’t just a website or a blog. It’s a plethora of things.

If people (agents, publishers, booksellers, and librarians) know they can count on you to get a job done, you build your credibility. Sometimes that means just showing up at a literary event and helping out. If you exhibit this type of capability, your agent and publisher will consider you a professional, especially if you have this part of your budding career taken care of before you drop your first manuscript in their laps. And let’s face it, when you sell your book, you won’t have time to learn these new skills. Take the time now, while you are still polishing that second or third draft, to get yourself up to speed.

Now you might say, “But, hey, I just want to be a writer.” (Boy have you got a lot to learn.) Unless you actually have the next Harry Potter book, or Twilight series stacked up around your computer, you have things you need to do now. Both Ms. Rowling and Ms. Meyer have people to handle this. Unless you have “people,” you will have to do this part yourself.

For the next few weeks Writers in Residence will Bullet Point many of the ways you can build your own platform. This will include creating a web presence, getting your face out there (short of on the Ten Most Wanted list), and discovering who you really are in the first place.

Roll up your sleeves and join me as we polish the gems that we are inside.

Please note: I am primarily a mystery writer, so I will use examples based on writing mysteries. But a writer is a writer. These skills fit all shapes and sizes.

Gayle Bartos-Pool, mystery writer

Outlining: Necessary or Not?

An Outline. Some writers depend on its structure; some writers consider it the death of creativity. Do you outline? In detail? Why or why not? First we’ll hear from some of our WinR’s, then we’d love to hear from you!


Jackie Houchin

Yep.
And nope.

For me, outlining is crucial for writing FICTION. I need to see the story, or at least the plot points, all neatly displayed. It can be a literal A-B-C outline in a ruled notebook or Word.doc, or a tabletop covered with index cards or Post-its.

Seeing everything together at once helps me identify potholes, traffic jams or major disaster areas, and I can easily shift, shuffle or scuttle what doesn’t work.

In my “Great American Novel” (Ha!) that is currently residing half-finished in a bottom drawer, I have three major characters. Each of these girls gets a color. As I lay out my “deck” of index cards that represents their lives, I can see clearly where they cross, collide and ricochet off each other as they each push towards their individual resolutions.

If I’m writing a mystery, I map the paths of the victim and the killer in one color, then the sleuth and the killer in another. In these bare bones of the story I check for illogical leaps and inconsistencies.

Next, using a third color, I slip in the other suspects and red herrings, making sure nothing is too obvious. Then – usually in gold – I hide the tell-tale clues that will keep readers a bare half step behind my crime-solving sleuth.

Lastly, I pack in points about the weather or setting (in green, what else?) if they are important to the story. (Yeah, I know, a virtual rainbow.)

And then, of course, I must write the fully fleshed-out yarn from these tiny scraps of data.

Now for NON-FICTION, I hardly ever outline.

My interviews and reviews usually come “pre-loaded” with their own paths to follow. Maybe I’ll clump facts into two or three vague sections, i.e. intro, main, conclusion, with a possible “research” column, but that’s all. I simply write these articles “from the seat of my pants.”

Or wherever else I’ve scribbled my notes.

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The Great Debate by GB Pool

When I first started setting up author panels for Sisters-in-Crime at libraries and other venues in and around the Los Angeles area, one of the questions I asked the panelists was: “Do you outline? Why? or Why not?”

After asking the same question for about a year, I came to the conclusion that half the writers did outline and the other half didn’t. The half that did was fairly prolific in their writing. The half that didn’t outline was just as prolific. Both sides were very strong in their decision to do the outline or not.

Everything I have written to date was not outlined. I started with page one, wrote a little, edited and little, wrote more, edited more, and finally came up with a book. It took about a year to finish a novel, except for the spy trilogy. They took ten years, but they are long and quite detailed with historical facts and many locations, all of which required loads of research to get right.

So, after hearing some pretty good writers like Pamela Samuels-Young who is a lawyer and who outlined her books (In Firm Pursuit and Murder on the Down Low) and Bruce Cook who is a physicist and who also teaches screenwriting as well as an author (Philippine Fever and Tommy Gun Tango), I decided to try my hand at knocking out an outline.

In a matter of two days I blocked out the main plot points of the next in my Gin Caulfield Mystery series, Damning Evidence. I then started to write the story.

I can’t say I write any faster with an outline, but I know where I am going. And I don’t feel the panic of wondering where the story will run off the tracks or where I will have to plug up the holes. That alone was worth the two days it took to do the outline.

Another thing writing the outline prompted me to do was write out brief sketches of the main characters in the story. I now know exactly who the bad guy is. I know why he is doing what he is doing. And most importantly, I know the roadblocks he is going to be throwing up along the way to thwart my heroine.

Something I learned from examining one of my own stories was that the bad guy in a mystery, if he is going to play an active part in the story and not just do the crime and leave the scene until the hero tracks him down, is the person who runs the show. Every thing the protagonist does is basically a reaction to something the bad guy does.

Remember: if the crime hadn’t been committed in the first place, nobody would be doing anything about it in the second place. The villain now has a vested interest in not getting caught. He or she will do anything to stop anyone from discovering their identity.

By writing the outline, I know places where the bad guy will be waiting to set a trap for the hero. If the hero gets too close, the bad guy will throw a monkey wrench into the works. But the villain runs the show, always trying to stay one jump ahead.

The outline made it much easier to set those traps, throwing the hero off kilter, making the hunt a mental exercise. It will make for a story with more tension if it is plotted that way rather than letting the story flow in a more random pattern.

I’ll see when I am through with the first and second draft if this theory holds true.

Books have been written in many ways, so the best advice is to write the way you find that gets the job done. Finishing is the goal.

***

Jacqueline Vick

I’m afraid I’m going to be wishy-washy.

When I first tackle a novel or short story, I always have the plot in mind. I doodle questions on a pad of paper. What would this character do in that situation? What else would he do?

Since I write mysteries, I want to know the crime, why it was committed, and how. I’ll assign possible motives to the other suspects, building the relationship between them and the victim.
That’s a sort of outline.

It’s after the first draft that the outline comes in handy. A brilliant writer I know (initials GBP) suggested that I outline the story once I’ve got it all on paper in order to show what’s missing. It works like a charm. I pretend I’m preparing the outline for an agent or publisher, so it has to be detailed and it has to spell it all out.

The canyons of missing information, the stuff that doesnt’ make sense, it all becomes clear in that post-first draft outline. It’s too embarassing to tell you what I’ve discovered missing. It’s like looking down in a crowded room and discovering that you forgot to button your shirt. And not in that hot-body-on-display kind of way. In that threadbare-bra-exposed-bellyroll kind of way.

I’m too arrogant to believe that my characters speak to me and that they’ll move the story in the direction they see fit. I speak to them, and it’s usually to say, “Move your fanny!”

How Sunday School Led Me to Celebrity Interviews

I used to be very shy. Whenever I tried to speak to a group of people I’d get flushed and start shaking and sweating. My vocal chords would squeeze shut and my voice would come out in a squeak!

On oral report days at school, I would stay home and take the bad grade.

And then, by a fluke, I was elected leader of a women’s group at my church. “No, no, no!” I protested in panic. “I can’t do this!” They smiled and patted my quivering hands. “You’ll be fine,” they said.

The first meeting was excruciating. I’d prepared. I’d brought my notes. Everyone waited expectantly. I opened my mouth … and squeaked. They smiled and nodded. I squeaked again then managed a few words. Another squeak and a few more words. And then, thank God, it was over.

I tried to quit a dozen times, but they wouldn’t let me.

Gradually…I stopped squeaking. Then one day I realized I was having fun.
What happened? What had changed abject terror into exhilaration?

Then it hit me, I’d changed my format from talking to asking. I’d put the pressure to communicate on the others. Nicely, of course, and with genuine interest in their answers, but nevertheless, requiring them to respond.

Yes, I prepared questions, and yes, those questions led to the point (or lesson) I wanted to make, but they were doing the talking, and I was doing the listening.

It was an epiphany. I could lead/teach a class by posing (prepared) questions. (Do you see where this is going?)

I also discovered I’m nosey. Why do people act and speak they way they do? What motivates them? What makes them mad? sad? hurt or lonely? How did they get started in their job? Why are they are getting a divorce? a tattoo? breast implants?

So I ask them and I take notes. Then I compile the answers into an article or story and submit it for publication. Voila! An interview!

Most people want to tell their story (especially celebrities), and some will tell you anything if you promise not to print it.

(Confession: Sometimes in an interview I ask questions I’m personally curious about but never plan to put it in a story. Oh, the things I could tell you!)

That’s how – when they were filming the TV series “Sons of Anarchy” in front of my house – I could walk up to Ron Perlman and talk to him like he was my “Uncle Fred.”

Piece of cake!

The Perfectionist Ghoul

Perfectionism: rigorous rejection of anything less than perfect (Encarta Dictionary).

Perfectionism can lead to misery, frustration, and long nights of ranting to the dog because he’s the only one who will listen. Meanwhile, Fido wonders why he ever wanted to leave the pound.

Once you’ve finished the chapter (or paragraph, or manuscript), gone over the grammar, tweaked the dialogue, and clarified plot points, how do you decide it’s time to let it go? Or, until the date it’s accepted by an editor, do you continue to go back and do rewrites?

How obsessive are the WinR’s??? How obsessive are YOU? We’d love to hear how you handle this dilemma.

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Bonnie Schroeder

Since I haven’t been published a lot, I have the luxury of continuing to tinker endlessly with my work. My short pieces usually get at least ten revisions. After a few rewrites I read them aloud and/or get trusted colleagues to give feedback and then revise and revise and revise. (Does the word “perfectionist” starting resonating about now?) Longer pieces I probably rework at least five times. The first draft is generally so hideous I don’t show it to anyone except maybe the dog; I revise until it’s fit for human eyeballs and then workshop it two or three times, and even then I find little things (sometimes not so little) that I’m shocked to have missed before.

At some point though, quite honestly, I just so darn sick and tired of the piece it that I can’t face another read-through. It goes in the drawer, and some things have sat there for years. Then one day I’ll drag one out, take another look, and go, “Well, this isn’t so bad. If I just changed . . . . “

Does anyone ever get a message from the Muse that says “enough?” If they do, I’m jealous! I don’t like to read the published version of my work, because I’m always afraid I’ll spot some huge flaw that snuck past the editor and me. I’ve gotten pretty good at disconnecting from the writing by then and can (almost) pretend it was written by someone else.

***

GB Pool

One Last Polish

“Only God is perfect.” The rest of us strive for just being good at what we do. As a wise man once said, “You might be stupid, but you don’t want to look stupid.” So we keep polishing that sentence, or paragraph, or novel to make it not only look good, but also, surprise, surprise, it might actually be good. And if you persevere, it just might be great. So each pass of the polishing cloth gets us closer to “good.”

Here is another saying: “Don’t beat a dead horse.” If everybody tells you something doesn’t work, start over with another approach. Or maybe bury it. Lazarus had help coming back from the dead. If you don’t have Divine help, get over it and move on. Time’s a wastin’.

But don’t polish you work for so long that the toes fall off. The Pieta in Rome has had the feet of Christ replaced numerous times because people keep rubbing the toes for good luck. I hope they got their good luck, but your work will only end up toeless if you don’t finally say: “I’m done.”

But as with all wise sayings, here is my favorite. My father told me after I had moved to California to write, “No matter how good you think you are, I think you’re better.” So my friends, find people who are in your corner. People who will give you heartfelt encouragement and constructive criticism. You need both. And then, do the toughest thing of all: trust yourself.

After all it’s your work. Have faith, do your best, and let it go.

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Jacqueline Vick

My Work of Art!

Have you ever gone back and read a piece that you “finished” last month (last year, last decade) and been horrified by the errors? What happened to your clever story—the one that was going to win the Pulitzer? Who the heck broke into your computer and destroyed your masterpiece!!!
Experiences like that make writers neurotic. The fear is that we’ll send out substandard stuff and that editors will add our name to the Black Book of the Damned—writers they would only read with a pitcher of cocktails and their BFF’s with the intent of having a giggle.

There has to be an end point or you’ll drive yourself mad. (An insane writer—is that redundant?) 1. Always set your work aside and get back to it after at least a week’s rest.

2. Expect that, when you pick your piece up again, it will have errors. This is good. You’re finding them before it goes out!

3. After this edit, you can allow yourself one more rest and read cycle. Unless you rewrite the whole thing from scratch, trust that you’ve found what needs to be found.

4. Have an objective set of eyes look at it. This is where a good writing group is invaluable.

5. Let it go.

There’s a line of thought that says you have to let things go in order to attract new things. Imagine all the writing projects you’re missing out on by obsessing over this one piece. Is it worth hanging onto for the rest of your life?

We all want to do our best, and that’s all we can do. I will make mistakes. I’ll learn from them, forgive myself and move on. Nobody’s perfect.

Meeting Your Writing Needs Through Blogs

There are so many writing blogs available on the web that it’s difficult to decide which ones to read. Fortunately, there is something available for every taste and need, as reflected by the variety of Favorites we have listed on this site.

1. Looking for Inspiration

Writing is solitary by nature unless you’re part of a team like Morgan St. James of the Silver Sister Mysteries. When you need to connect, there are blogs available where writers share their process, write about everyday events, and simply offer a connection to another creative person.

Under the Tiki Hut mixes writing advice and life observations. Carol Kilgore shares her writing processes in a personal way that leaves one feeling that they’ve been privileged to share her day with her. The same can be said of Kristol Holl at Writer’s First Aid. The observations at God’s Teeth are a bit more biting, (I couldn’t resist) but I’m working on making my point without indulging in self-righteousness.

For those who write for children, What a Mystery! will take you straight into those young minds. Read stories written by kids and get a feel for what they like.

If you need to jump start your imagination, there is nothing more interesting than the truth. You can read all sorts of fascinating and sometimes creepy articles by Dr. D.P. Lyle at The Writer’s Forensic Blog.

Good writers also read, and it helps to have dependable reviews to guide your buying (or renting) habits. Jackie Houchin’s News & Reviews is such a site. Whether you’re looking for a good book to read or you can’t decide which play to see this weekend, Jackie can point you in the right direction.

Other book review sites include Kevin’s Corner and A Book and A Dish. At the latter site, reviews are accompanied by recipes!

2. The book or story is done. Now what?

The Rose City Sisters is a flash fiction anthology that’s a delight to read and also a place to submit your work. In between the stories are quick bits of information including contests looking for submissions and writing tools.

When you’re ready to promote, Number One Novels is the place to go. Make sure you read the guidelines before submitting your work. Interviews are posted on Monday, and you can link to Rebecca Chastain’s personal blog from here for a closer look at NON’s author/creator.

Go to The Official Site of GB Pool and check out her Events & Signings page. This is what it looks like when an author gets involved in the writing community. Hopefully, you’ll be inspired to get out of the house and network with other writers.

One of my favorite blogs JA Konrath’s A Newbie Guide to Publishing. Here, I can laugh at his observations about both critics and writers or giggle over one of his outrageous author interviews. What the site is best known for is the amazing amount of information about marketing. I consider Mr. Konrath a genius at self-promotion, and writers would do well to observe and take notes.

3. The crème de la crème

Backspace lets you sample blogs from all over, with new posts every day from different writers. If you can only take time to visit one site, this is it.

Whenever you visit a blog, make sure to sample from the sidebar of Favorites. You’ll discover new blogs that provide what you’re searching for, whether it is information, inspiration, or a chuckle to help you out of a funk.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Ripped From the Headlines!

The question this week for our WinR’s and readers is: How much do real world events–from natural disasters to political fiascos–impact your writing?

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Jackie Houchin

The “real world” has a lot to do with the kind of writing I do, in fact my web site is titled “News & Reviews.” But I tend to go for the softer sort of news, i.e. art gallery openings, classic car shows, author panels at our local library, and interviews with interesting business and career people.

Yep, you got it! I’m a chicken. The two or three investigative stories I’ve written – while providing good “press” – resulted in some nasty backlash for me and even a few threats. Yikes!

I did learn two things however. Confirm EVERY detail you get from your sources no matter how reliable they are, and be sure to cover BOTH sides of the issue thoroughly. Then take your punches like a … woman. (Oh, and be sure your editor doesn’t add his two – unconfirmed – cents to your article!!)

Politics? I avoid discussing them like the plague. Of course when controversial issues appear in the books or plays I review, I address them, but it’s in the context of the story presented. My personal convictions do occasionally leak through, however.

I write more about human-instigated disasters than those presented by nature (God). I interviewed an elderly shop keeper once who had been robbed and beaten by a gang of punk kids for the few bucks in the till. Terrified by the incident, he decided to close the small neighborhood market. You see, he knew the boys; had watched them grow up.

I also chronicled the burglary of a local Catholic Church, where the thieves walked off with the entire safe. The Priest’s pleas that the safe or at least the communion instruments inside it be returned went unheeded even though he promised “no questions asked.”

Another story was about a woman who was injured by an inattentive mechanic while having her car repaired. The owners and employees conspired to make her look the fool. Thank God for a part-time worker in a neighboring business who was willing to come forward.

These are the things that “get my dander up.” But I just report on them. If ever I were to write fiction, the sense of injustice I feel when interviewing these victims would assure a very nasty “reward” for my antagonist. Take that, you scumbag

***

Bonnie Schroeder

The biggest effect real world events have on my writing is as a sometimes unwelcome distraction. Bad news scares away my muse, so I try not to read the paper or turn on the radio until I’ve done my morning’s writing (easier said than done). It’s hard to write if you’re worried about some unfriendly country launching a nuclear warhead at us. And politics is endlessly fascinating but more of a time-waster than a useful tool for the type of fiction I write.

I have used an occasional local story in my fiction. Key scenes in my recent novel take place during one of Southern California’s notorious October wildfires, the Santa Anas roaring in the background. And I keep a clip file of events that might sometime pop up in a story – a murder or a particularly flagrant white collar criminal, usually. I keep trying to find an irresistible heart-warmer to use, but so far that hasn’t happened.

Since I also publish an online newsletter for the local Red Cross, disasters do have a direct and immediate impact on that side of my writing. Our chapter deploys volunteers to national events like last year’s Gulf Coast hurricanes, and they also come out for local disasters like brush fires or even single-residence fires, to support the victims and the responders. I’m always attuned to news reports because if our chapter volunteers are deployed, I need to know and to report it to our readers.

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Jacqueline Vick

As far as story line, real world events don’t really impact my mysteries or children’s books. However, I can’t resist some commentary.

I wrote “Logical Larry” (an early-middle reader) out of disgust for the way children are targeted, whether it’s by commercials luring them with “must have” toys or a rogue teacher forcing young elementary students to wear pink shirts to support the union’s opposition to pink slips, threatening them with “NO PLAYTIME”. Larry attempts to teach children to think for themselves. They need to learn to question things at an early age.

In my mysteries, characters may make comments that address issues rather than actual events, such as when Deanna Wilder, feeling left out, considers calling herself a Euro-American.

Events tend to come out more in my blog, God’s Teeth. This is where I raise issues that drive me nuts and find a way to make them a useful writing exercise. The difficulty is how to make the point without being flat-out mean.

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GB Pool

Real life incidents are a great jumping off point for many of my stories. My first novel, Media Justice, was a conglomeration of all the wall-to-wall news accounts of every “trial of the century” last century. It was that super saturation of media frenzy and instant experts that seemed to come out of the woodwork that made for a compelling story.

But I prefer to pick my own villain rather than use the one in those headlines. It makes it far more interesting to develop the character when I can create their personalities. It is the essence I am looking for, not the facts from any particular case.

And what is even more fun is to take a well-worn news story, one of those that the media beats to death, and rework it so the bad guy ends up the victim and the original victim turns out to be the villain. It makes the story fresh and it keeps the reader guessing. Fact is great, but fiction is better. (Sometimes.)

I do have a spy trilogy, as yet unpublished, that follows my father’s military career and actual historical events. Most of the events I depict, at least from my father’s POV, are fictional, but there are many things I don’t know about his career. He was cleared to Top Secret, was a command pilot in the Air Force, and he didn’t talk much about his exploits. He did read the first draft of the first book. He sent me a letter and mentioned a few things that I got wrong. And here I thought I just had a great imagination.

But history and the headlines are a great source of ideas for any writer. I just prefer to rewrite aspects of it for a story. I don’t want to misrepresent history. That happens enough without my help. But I do like to flavor stories with real things so the reader doesn’t know where the facts end and the fiction begins.

Writing: A Solitary Profession?

Writing is generally a solitary act. But does it need to be? What do you think about writing groups? Are they beneficial or a waste of valuable time?

After you read the responses from the WinRs, let us know what you think!
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GB Pool

The Loneliest Profession

Writing is basically a one-man operation, unless you write for television or the movies, where a committee does it. But the traditional author sits in front of a computer, typewriter, or a piece of paper and writes all by himself.

Belonging to a writers’ group, above and beyond the constructive criticism and brainstorming sessions, gives you people to talk to about your work, this precious commodity that you have created, nurtured, and hopefully someday will send off into the world to entertain and enlighten other people.

Having “a second pair of eyes” is a perfect way to see things that you missed, hear things that you didn’t know were there, and point out things that aren’t working. And if you are in the right group, they will see the good things in your “baby” as well.

I originally belonged to a larger group of writers. Their styles ranged from Science Fiction to experimental to Women’s Fiction to Mystery. Good writing is good writing. I can read anything and enjoy it if most of the basic rules of English Grammar (and Common Sense) are adhered to.

There in lies the rub. When a portion of the group doesn’t recognize the basic Parts of Speech, proper syntax, and know how to use Spell Check or even a dictionary…Houston, we have a problem.

A few of us broke away from the herd and started our own group. Two more writers joined us and we have the group we have today. We have watched each other grow, improve, learn, and it has made us all better writers. We learn from our own and each other’s mistakes and achievements.

But of all the things a group, any group – sewing circles, car clubs, collectors’ groups – brings to their members, the best thing is it gives you a place where people who are doing the same thing you are doing can come and talk about their dreams, their learning experiences, their frustrations, and their successes. It lets you know you aren’t really alone in this wonderful world of writing.

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Bonnie Schroeder

I belong to the Alameda Writers Group (AWG), Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) and the awesome WWW — which I think stands for Wednesday Women Writers, even though we sometimes meet on Thursdays.

Have I found these groups helpful? A big fat YES!! I have gotten honest, kind and insightful feedback that has (I hope) improved on my fiction immeasurably. Equally important, I’ve received encouragement and the immense comfort of knowing others share my Terror of the Blank Page.

From a craft standpoint, I believe it’s essential to have other writers read your work and give notes, and the people in my critique groups are serious readers as well as wonderful writers. They know what makes a piece work, and what brings it down, and when I’m too close to my work to see the most glaring errors, my fellow writers gently but honestly let me know where I went wrong. One of our wise members has remarked that she learns as much by reading others’ work as she does by getting feedback on her own, and that is so true.

When I see another writer struggling with an issue of plot, character development, or just trying to get those words in the most effective order, it teaches me something about my own process. My writing groups have supported and inspired me, and I can’t imagine life without them. Heck, I’d hang out with them even if I didn’t write.

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Jacqueline Vick

One of the best moves I ever made as a writer was when I accepted the invitation to join the WWW writing critique group.

The only writing feedback I had received prior was either paid for (I highly recommend Pilar Alessandra of On the Page for screenwriting) or anonymously delivered through contests, and sometimes the latter feedback was either vague or snarky.

I can’t stress how much my writing has improved from the perceptive comments of my group, all delivered in a caring way. If someone were to tell me that I was indulging myself in a certain passage, I could be confident that it was a valuable bit of information, not a personal criticism. And a writer needs people who will tell her when she’s amusing herself and not her audience!

On a broader scale, I belong to Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators. The speakers made available by both SinC and MWA provide great insights and tips. All three have Yahoo lists that offer discussions on almost any topic, and you can ask others to share their experiences, which is priceless. Add to that newsletters chock full of information–writing tips, research advice, market guidelines–and the price of admission is well worth it.

As with anything, the more involved you get, the more you get out of it. I’m the type that has to force myself to attend meetings, but when I do, I’m always glad I did. I talk to other writers about what they are up to, find out the latest happenings in the publishing arena, and just enjoy my fellow scribes.

Writers have to fight the urge to remain isolated, and a writing group can put you in touch with others who share your passion.

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