I frequently have people ask me how to get started with an idea they have for a book. I generally say the same few things--go ahead and get started, see who's currently publishing/representing the kind of book you're writing, and get a critique partner or join a writing group. A few months ago a woman mentioned she had an idea for a book. Yesterday she told me she had submitted it. I was thrilled to see her enthusiasm over making her dream come true. She found a good friend who had the skills to critique and edit her manuscript, and she was able to place copies of her book in each of her children's hands this Christmas. That alone was sufficient reward for her, but as is so often the case, she felt that familiar tug that says, if this book touches them, than maybe it will touch others too. She still doesn't consider herself more than a one-time writer who followed a prompting, but she's an author now. And that's a game-changer.
I belong to two writers groups--LDStorymakers and ANWA. Both are comprised of LDS writers and authors. LDStorymakers is open to all LDS authors who've published a book through a traditional publisher. ANWA is a women's group of LDS writers and authors in every stage of the process--from those already published to those drafting a book they dream of someday writing. The groups meet different needs, and each is a source of support and camaraderie for a part of my life that is often confusing and under-regarded by other friends and family members. I chose to belong to LDS writing groups because there are special challenges for people trying to publish clean, moral, but high-quality literature in a world where "dirtying-it-up" is often the key to success.
No matter your genre, your experience or your level of success, I highly recommend joining a group to all authors--aspiring or otherwise, and here's why.
1. A writers group helps validate the creative part of you that few other people "get." You may be blessed with a supportive circle of people who encourage your gift and aspirations, but only other writers, and maybe other creative artsy people, can understand the intimate personal tug a manuscript has on your heart. Writing groups surround you with people who understand your pain, your elation, your frustration and your insecurities. This is huge.
2. They will clap, cheer, cry, and sulk with you. Your project often becomes an appendage to you. Digs at your manuscript are visceral. You need a place to vent and heal so you don't bring all that emotion to the dinner table every night.
3. Empathetic people will truthfully assess your work without destroying your dream. Anyone can find someone who'll tell you you're piece is great. You've cringed watching such people at auditions for "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance," and watched their view of themselves be destroyed when someone tells them their cheering momma and daddy were wrong. Devastating. Effusive, unqualified praise can be just as crippling as receiving a brutal, unconstructive hachet job. You want to surround yourself with people capable of providing honest, constructive feedback that will help you improve and grow, while encouraging you along the way. A writing group will do these things for you.
4. You will learn. More people means more experience, more knowledge, more insight, more opinions. If your group is generous, (mine are!) they will share the good, the bad, and the ugly side of publishing; they will steer you away from time-wasters and pitfalls. They will share tips from grammar errors to publishing ideas, from industry trends to book signing no-nos.
5. Many either sponsor or attend writers' conferences. LDStorymakers has a spectacular conference coming up in May. ANWA hosts theirs in February. These are break-out opportunities for authors and aspiring authors to take diverse classes on the craft of writing and to glean current info on the current literary market. The contacts made at these conferences are invaluable. Hear success stories, meet other authors, pitch to agents and publishers. It's AWESOME!!!
6. Open your eyes to other opportunities. ANWA breaks us into smaller critique groups. My group meets online once a month. Our lesson topic was on the self-publishing and the niche market. I left that meeting so thrilled, with new ways to use my historical research. I'm so excited to give this new idea a go!
I could list a ton of other reasons why a writers group is crucial. Do a little research and see if you can find a writers group or critique group in your area. And plan to attend a writers conference this year. I highly recommend the Storymakers conference. I'll be working at Bootcamp and teaching a class on historical fiction. The cost of the conference is very affordable, and you'll leaved revved up and inspired.
Click and come! Launch your dream!