Writing Groups Work in Mysterious Ways…

I’ve never been particularly lucky when it comes to writing groups that work for me. It seems that I always end up finding groups that focus on how to write and get published, instead of getting something written. I know those are very important steps, but there comes a time in every writer’s life (can you hear the coming of age music?), when ideas and how-to stuff must take the shape of written words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters… stories.

I enjoy talking about the writing process as much as the next storyteller. Words are our thing. I love group camaraderie, too. But when every group meeting turns into a coffee and tea drinking symposium, I get pissed. I have better things to do with my time—writing comes to mind.

If you are anything like me, you are probably already saying, “Well, if you hate the meetings so much, then why are attending, whiner Witch?”

I usually don’t. But after Book Expo America 2013, a writer friend told me that his group was getting together to discuss how self-publishing short stories might improve a writer’s chance of getting traditionally published. “You’ve already taken the first step with AlmaMia, he said, let’s talk about what comes next.” 

I found the topic rather interesting, so agreed to attend.

We met his group at a coffee shop…

I walked to the counter, bought a pastry, and asked the barista if it was okay to drink my own coffee (nothing but Folgers French Vanilla goodness for my sophisticated palate, you know?). I sat down at one of three tables that had been pulled together, and read the title of a pamphlet that had been placed in front of each person. “The Writing Programme,” it announced. I opened, and read, “The aspiring writer’s PAID website: How to turn yourself into your own product!”

“I am going to eye-gouge you, then jam this paper into your eye sockets,” I told my friend.

“It must be some kind of segue,” he said. “Give it a minute.”

“Fine,” I said, and gave it twenty minutes of my time.

After I had ran out of gory ways in which to make my friend pay, I decided to join the general conversation. I signaled the person who had asked the latest question, and answered her inquiry with a few questions of my own: “What do you have to say about yourself that is so amazing that it will make me want to read your fiction?” Okay, so maybe I was still a tad pissed. “Making yourself into a product might work if you’re planning to write memoirs, but what about your personal life will make me want to read vampire and zombie novels?”

The heat of my friend’s dismay was leaking out of his eyeballs, and burning my neck. “Magaly…?” he said.

“Wait,” I told him, “let her answer.”

He sighed.

The girl said a lot of things: “I’ve read all kinds of vampire fiction… I follow publishing trends… I’m a member of… Twilightand Amanda Hopkins—”

I cut her off. “Before Twilight, no one knew Stephanie Meyer,” I said. “And Amanda Hopkins wasn’t interesting to anyone until after she sold millions of books. The stories they wrote made their names important, not the other around. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a website—I have two! But I think that to go around telling people, especially really young and really broke writers, that their sites must be on a ‘paid’ platform is kind of a bit too much.”

Some people nodded in agreement. Others glared. My friend told me he wanted to leave.

I grabbed my bag, my thermos, my perfect coffee mug and began to walk away.

Then I stopped, sighed, and walked back to the table. “Look,” I said, “that was mean of me. I was mad at him,” I pointed at my friend, “and took it out on you. That was wrong. Sorry.”

After the mood went from vastly livid to barely apprehensive, I suggested that if they had money to spend they should probably use it to enter paid writing contests. “I refuse to enter anything that requires money to read my words,” I said, “but if you have the cash, by all means go for it. Once you have something to say about yourself as a writer—I won a Glimmer Train contest, for instance—then you can spend all your loot in a gorgeous professional website that describes every minute detail of your writing wilds.” That evoked some laughs that inspired me to say, “Or you can use your online presence to get support from other struggling writers, and from amazing readers, until you can write the entry you’ve always wanted to write: I’m a published writer.” 

Why did you start your blog, website, forum, internet empire…, my Wicked Luvs?
This image has absolutely nothing to do with this post…
but I’ve been reading Holly Black’s Doll Bones and I wanted this little face to creep you out, too. 
Boo!  

28 comments:

  1. First of all, you are right about Stephanie Meyer and others like her... Let's face it, people can't handle the truth... I bet there are several readers who feel the same about the woman who gushed all over Meyer's writing and told my daughter and me how great the book was.. We couldn't get past the first chapter...As far as you being questioned as to why you went to that group tho you weren't fond of it, it isn't rocket science.. Curiosity of hearing opinions is the key!. Maybe you wanted to give it one more chance? I may be in the minority but, I agree w/what you've said... Human curiosity is just that... i.e. we all hate car accidents, then again, why is it most rubber neck it when we come across one?

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    1. my bad! forgot to answer your ?... I started blogging on 360, then multiply now Blogger .. Curiosity got me on 360- kept seeing the ad attached to my messenger box... also, I used it as a journaling tool...met some interesting folks --- which opened my eyes up to the fact of how ugly folks can be- deceiving, u know the kind... also I came across a few genuine folks who are friends to this day!.

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    2. Many times (perhaps, too many) people forget that taste has nothing to do with quality. There are some amazingly written book that I really dislike. And I'm sure some of the stuff I love is considered crap by people, regardless of how it's written.

      I started blogging because I thought I had something to say (I still do, I guess lol) but I've realized that I've learned even more. And the friends? Yay! for that ;-D

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  2. I love the advice you gave the group before you left. I also admire your patience -- the group meeting sounds like something that would just raise my hackles and make sure I didn't give it any of my time. As I get older, I have begun to realise the value of my time, and I am getting selfish with it. ;)

    Why did you start your blog, website, forum, internet empire…, my Wicked Luvs?

    I started my blog on Wordpress.com to give myself permission to speak. Before starting to work in my current job, I worked in a place that systematically eroded my sense of self-worth and choked my voice into silence. They like to do that to everyone who isn't their little archaeo-darling (which means anyone that doesn't swallow their pet theories and kiss their arse hourly).

    After I gained my confidence, I moved to a self-hosted Wordpress.org blog. I did this to keep control of my content. Wordpress.com has some strict TOS clauses about what constitutes graphic/mature content and some of my fictional works wouldn't fit comfortably within their definitions. I decided I'd rather pay $8 a month and not censor myself.

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    1. My first blog EVER was written because certain groups, attached to my work at the time, were getting on my nerves. They had all kinds of ridiculous beliefs, and their personal issues were hurting prospective clients. So, I totally get it.

      I wouldn't be able to survive for too long in an environment where I couldn't be me.

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    2. It's actually sad that any of us get it when we talk about nightmarish places of employment. Would that the work-a-day world were a saner place. At least now I'm in a place where I can be more myself -- and have a lot of naughty fun letting other aspects out under the radar.

      Yes, I didn't realise how toxic the place was until I was laid-off. I bawled like a baby and they were tears of pure relief.

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    3. There are so many people needing therapy (and more) due to their working conditions. I'm hoping they realize this and run for the hills!

      I just pictured you crying, going, "Thank goodness! Oh, thank goodness this garbage is over!"

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  3. Great post. To answer your question to us of why we started a blog, website, or forum.

    I started my blog to a)find and form friendships with other writers, b) to have a place to voice my opinions about writing and writing related topics, and c) to have a place for my followers to keep updated about my writing.

    Have a good day. :)

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    1. To keep readers updated is a great reason for blogging. As a writer, I believe in sharing. And as a reader, I'm always interested in knowing what my favorite writers have to say ;-)

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  4. I started my blog because I suck at expressing myself in spoken words when the topic is even the least bit confusing or upsetting to me, and I wanted to figure myself out. Writing things out makes them make sense to me. At that time, I really needed to be able to communicate my Self to Archer, but couldn't find the words in person. So I started writing. At first it was a completely anonymous blog, but I've pretty much moved past the anonymous part now. Blogging has made me far less shy, somehow. Cool, huh?

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    1. Well, it seems you are getting cured of your shyness, my friend! I'm very happy for you, and for those of us who get to read your words and enjoy your art. Speaking of art, I think I found the perfect frame for the print I got from you!

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  5. Everything you said makes sense Magaly! I started my blog, because of my art ;o) To show everyone what I was about and to discover other wonderful people like you! ;o)

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    1. Show it to me baby crow! I've been watching, and oh my, I've been enjoying. I wonder how things will be in three more years...

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  6. lol, I wish I could have been there. The look on their faces were probably priceless.

    Many years ago when yahoo still had chat service, I created or joined Pagan chat rooms. There I would often talk about Pagan beliefs. Sometimes I took the role of teacher, sometimes the student. It was a give and take of ideas. I loved meeting new people from all walks of life.

    Then they canceled Yahoo chat and I've never really re-gained that kind of online Pagan community. So I started journaling. First I was on LiveJournal. Then I kept a journal on Cafemom. When CM changed their journals to private I decided to create a blogspot account; and Salem's Creations was born.

    I wanted to distinguish my fictional writing from my spiritual writing, so I also created The Wiccan Pen.

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    1. There were all kind of faces all right... My poor friend looked like he wanted someone to throw a bucket of water on him to see if he could evaporate and disappear. I could have been nicer, I guess, but you know how that goes.

      I used to have a LiveJournal account, too, for about two months, and left it for the same reasons as you. I hope Blogger never does the same, because if they do... I will say adios.

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  7. I really wish I could have been there ;)

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    1. If you had been there, I would probably sat down and watched as things developed... ;-D

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    2. I would bring the popcorn.

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  8. I'm with you 100%. The bloggosphere is filled with people who are so involved with all sorts of other things that they don't focus on their writing.

    Which is really counter-productive.

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    1. Weird, isn't it? If you are a writing, you'd think that writing would be at the top of your priority list...

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  9. Good question.. I wanted to share and connect. I wanted to overcome my starting depression, find beauty in the new place I moved to, find new hobbies, rediscover myself and diversify my life, be interesting for my husband - that is about my Sunny days blog :)
    Witchcraft and more is more of a well though-out blog, with clear idea behind, though now I feel it is becoming bigger than I supposed it to be as I have found so many like-minded folks out here and there.
    Moreover, I find having your own blog and reading others a constant inspiration for myself. Thus I am thinking of renewing my writing hobby now... just because I really enjoy it, and had many ideas recently. Well, let's see :)

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    1. One of the most beneficial bits of blogging is free therapy. Words are so very freeing (yes, they get us in trouble, too, but talking is just delicious for the soul).

      I'm glad you found your outlet. I started blogging when I was away from home. It worked for me, too ;-)

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    2. Yea, that is a suitable word - therapy!
      Talking..mmm... I like it! ;)

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  10. I don't understand why everyone wants to sell themselves lately. I sell my photos. I sell my designs. I sell my writing. But me personally? I think I'm boring and why would anyone want to buy me is beyond my understanding. I write about faeries doing the dirty deed, not myself doing it. I design logos and Facebook cover photos and Etsy shop signs that show the other person's personality not mine. I take photos of families, kids, Suicide Girls hopefuls, of nature.

    You are completely right and it sounded like the group was a bunch of "writers" not writers.

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    1. Oh I started my many blogs cause I wanted to make an effort to get my writing out there, which worked since I went from just writing little stories with no endings to be asked to write erotica and finding out I have a knack for it. Now I use them to try and help others, to earn a little money for my kids, and to promote my business.

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    2. Writers of memoir, self-help book and things of the sort become a bit of a product, so I understand they selling themselves. But when it comes to fiction... it doesn't make the same kind of sense. People are weird...

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