3 Reasons to Join a Writer’s Group

The older I get, and the longer I write, the more convinced I become that writer’s groups are an essential component of a writer’s life, success, and mental well-being. Why?

-1- Writer’s groups provide a sense of community, of belonging. Although my professional background has always been in sales and marketing, I have never felt comfortable in large crowds of people (unless I was teaching). Until I walked into my first writer’s meeting in Boston in the late 1980s. There’s nothing that compares to being in a roomful of other creative people. When I’m with other writers, even those I don’t know, I no longer feel just a step out of sync with everyone.

-2- Writer’s groups offer a wealth of information you can’t get anywhere else. Not only do the members of writer’s groups provide you with objective, factual information about the craft of writing and the publishing world, they share their personal impressions and perceptions. Let’s face it, little about storytelling and writing is set in stone. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, and preferences. But listening to divergent opinions and insights, and blending the ingredients into a recipe that works for you, is an essential element of growth as a writer.

-3- Finally, writer’s groups provide inspiration and motivation, propelling you on to accomplish great things. Why? Because they hold you accountable. If you’re a member of a writer’s group, you keep writing. And that’s the most important benefit of all. I don’t care what you write, so long as you write, you’ll get where you need to be.

The first book I completed was [what I considered] a romance. A couple of mystery publishers agreed. Unfortunately, the romance publishers thought it was more of a mystery. Despite my confusion, and disappointment, I kept writing.Why? Because. It’s just something I do.

I wrote chapters that never saw daylight. I began writing magazine articles. And a business newspaper column. I wrote short stories. I journaled.

Eventually, I wrote and published a mystery novel and a non-fiction business book. Then I began writing continuing education (CE) courses in the insurance industry (where I worked my “day” job). Then, I was recruited to write insurance CE textbooks for multiple national CE providers/publishers.

My goal was always to be a published writer who supports herself with her writing. Be careful what you ask for, kids, because you  just might get it! Seven years ago, I realized my dream, and began making more money than I ever had. I SHOULD have asked to be a published fiction writer who supports herself with her writing and hits the bestseller list over and over…

Anyway, I now find myself in a position where I whittled my client list down to two, and I spend part of my day writing insurance stuff. I know most people find it boring, but I love it. I spend the rest of my day writing fiction. In fact, right now, I have a fiction novel (the first in a series) on the desks of both an agent and an editor–both of whom I met at a writer’s conference in April!

Only time will tell if I ever hit the best seller list, but I’m writing. And getting paid for it. And working from home without having to wear makeup, a suit, or–thank God!–pantyhose.

You can write your own version of what I consider my success story. Please, join a writer’s group. Write. Stick with it. Your hard work will pay off.

P.S. I’m a member of both the national and regional chapters of the following organizations: Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime. And here is a link to lots of other writer’s organizations.

What Does Summer Mean to You?

Call me a creature of the sunlight. Like a little kid, I wake up as soon as dawn chases the darkness away in the morning–regardless of what the clock says. Summer is mornings, freshness, new beginnings.

The vivid colors of the trees, flowers, and sky paint pictures I remember once the winter turns them sodden and blurry. Sometimes I think to snap an actual photo. Usually, I don’t.

I collect sea shells, herbs for drying, and long walks once life cools down in the evening. I love bare feet, shirts without sleeves, windows thrown open to the wind.

To me, summer means Freedom.

What does summer mean to you?

Tip #4 for Keeping on Track with Your Writing

In this final of 4 blog posts with tips for keeping on track with your writing, I want to tell you about the many free database programs available to keep all your book files in a central location.

Many businesses use these database and project management programs for team collaboration and monitoring the numerous projects they have going. Well, we freelancers can use many of these programs as well, even if we don’t employ other people. Some of us go solo during the writing process, but others of us have teams that consist of critique partners, agents, and fellow writers who assist with the process.

I was introduced to Basecamp by a client of mine, a very large company that does business in all 50 states. It has many employees and, as you can imagine, multiple departments that handle different kinds of projects. I began using the free edition of Basecamp and then upgraded so I could use it to work on more than one book at a time.

In fact, when I co-wrote a mystery novel with another write last year, we used Basecamp to keep all our stuff organized. Herb had separate folders where he  uploaded his chapters and research, as I did, but we each had access to the folders. (If you didn’t want to give access to someone, you can do that, too.) We also created a folder where we could upload photos. He lives on the west coast and I live in New England, and each of our lead characters did, too. So uploading  photos was essential for helping our writing partner see what our characters’ part of the world looks like. We also used the program to message each other in real time and had the ability to email files to the central repository, as well.

I currently use Freedcamp, for personal reasons that have nothing to do with any dissatisfaction with any other program and everything to do with meeting my personal preferences for management more closely. Each writer is different, so you may like another database program better.

The best thing about using these programs is that you can keep your actual book manuscript, notes, research files, photos–basically everything to do with your book–in a single location that can be accessed from anywhere–by as many people as you grant access to. You can have several projects running at once, too. Right now, I have three books going at the same time. One completed book is sitting on the desk of both an agent and a publisher so my project is idle, I’m about 60% of the way through the first draft of another, and I’m in the outlining phase of a third.  I’m using the program differently for each of the three book projects, but I still go to the same place when it’s time to work.

The program includes a separate calendar for each project. As I write my WIP, I enter the chapter and scene number in it to keep track of where my characters are–and on what dates and times the scenes take place. The program also includes a task function that works separately for each project and it reminds me as I approach deadlines. I’ll be reminded when it’s time to check with the agent and publisher (assuming they haven’t called me with good news before then!), so I can put that on a back burner in my mind. (Or try to, anyway.)

The free version of Freedcamp I’m using allows me to have an unlimited number of projects and I chose it for that reason, plus its ease of use. If you’re a techie, you might find another product management database more to your liking. Here’s a link to just one of the online articles that provides you with a list of free programs. If you do a search, you can find plenty of other articles that compare them.

I hope this information proves helpful!

Tip #3 for Keeping on Track with Your Writing

In this third of four posts about how to stay on track with your writing, I’ll be discussing Tip #3: Using Multiple Notebooks in Microsoft’s OneNote.

I use OneNote to keep at my fingertips all those things I used to find myself flipping through pages of manuscript to find because I knew they were in there but just couldn’t find them. The best thing about OneNote is that it not only works like a regular notebook, with separate sections and pages, it also permits me to color code everything and insert photos and hyperlinks right from the Internet. I can organize as loosely or as precisely as I want to.

For example, in my Writing Tips notebook I use 5 major sections, and two Section Groups titled Characterization and Plot. Figure 1 shows what the hierarchy looks like when the notebook opens.

Figure 1

As you can see in Figure 2, the Characterization Section Group contains notebook sections, and each section of a notebook has color-coded tabs lined horizontally, with individuals page listed on the left.

Figure 2

It’s pretty straightforward. In Figure 3, the Plot Section Group contains its own horizontal color-coded sections, with pages listed on the left.

Figure 3

When you use the power of OneNote in conjunction with writing your novel, it expands your ability to stay organized. Figure 4 shows what the hierarchy of the notebook for my current WIP looks like. As you can see, I created a Section Group for all my research and the business documents associated with the book. It keeps them out of view so that when I’m working, my book section isn’t so cluttered.

Figure 4

I find OneNote especially helpful with the plot elements of my book. I have separate pages in this section to record chapter pages and lengths, a calendar into which I insert the Chapter and scene as I write it so I don’t have to constantly page back to document what to find what day something happened on, backstory items, reminders about things I HAVE to include in the future, theme reminders, a list of upcoming obstacles I need to incorporate, my chapter-by-chapter outline, etc.

One of the really neat thing about OneNote is the way you’re able to use it to keep Internet resource links and photos. Figure 5 shows how you can copy and paste info from the Internet, and the URL where you got the info gets pasted right along with the content to make it very easy to go right back to that source.

Figure 5

As you can see in Figure 6, I copied and pasted photos of people on the Internet to use as models for my characters.

Figure 6

I  use Tags in the notebook to remind myself when I need to edit or rewrite something; Figure 7 shows the list of all Tags used in the notebook. Once I create the master list, I can chose from it to enter the appropriate tag over the text in my notebook (Figure 8) and I apply the corresponding highlight color right into my manuscript to mark the section and then move on. If I forget what yellow highlighting means when I’m re-reading the manuscript (especially since I’m also using green and pink highlighting), all I have to do is refer to the color/tag code in OneNote.

Figure 7
Figure 8

I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you. If you think you’ll find using OneNote useful, here are a few different online tools that will help you learn about more about it:

PCWorld article for beginners: https://www.pcworld.com/article/2686026/software-productivity/microsoft-onenote-for-beginners-everything-you-need-to-know.html

Lifwire article for beginners: https://www.lifewire.com/tips-tricks-for-microsoft-onenote-beginners-2511970

Microsoft OneNote tutorial: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/OneNote-video-training-1c983b65-42f6-42c1-ab61-235aae5d0115

I hope these tips you stay on track. I look forward to seeing you in a few days for the final post in this series, Tip #4: Feedcamp (or any product management database).