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Monday, 19 November 2012

It’s almost Christmas again, and I’ve hardly wrote a thing this year...

Other things seem to have taken over my life a bit lately; pushing my writing into a very poor second, or sometimes a sad third; still, at least I know what my new-year’s resolution will be. I’ve been thinking of ways to get myself ‘back on the horse’ lately as I think a bit of a metaphorical, or possibly physical, kick would get me up to speed again.

With this in mind I’ve discovered a few writers groups that aren’t too far way. I’m just not sure about approaching them. Is there an entrance requirement? Do I have to saunter up cap-in-hand and say “Hello, my name’s Garry and I’m a writer?” Would my cap-full of short-story publications and extensive collection of rejection letters be enough to prove this?
Seriously though, writers groups and writing courses have always held a bit of a fascination and more than a touch of mystery to me. Although I have had 'professional' writing experience as part of my work, you could say I’m pretty much self-taught as far as fiction writing is concerned, having never had any formal fiction writing education or tuition. I wouldn’t want to find myself in the middle of a classically educated ‘literary’ crowd, where I’d probably feel like I was trying to write ‘Janet and John’ books to their ‘War and Peace.’

I’d be interested in people’s experiences or perceptions of writing groups and of formal writing courses, whether they are distance-learning or college based.
Do all on-line or mail-based courses fall into the ‘We can make you into a PUBLISHED writer in 60 days!!!!!’ category or are there genuine legitimate ones that are worthwhile?
What’s your experience with college/university based courses, whether they lead to a qualification or not, are they more or less worthwhile?
And not to forget those writers groups and workshops, are they helpful, and who is likely to attend?


  1. I think the first step is writing/reading consistently. The key to that is maintaining enthusiasm. And, for me, the key to maintaining enthusiasm is finding a group of other writers to encourage (peer pressure) you with goals and deadlines. For example, I have a group of three friends and we meet exchange a new story every Wednesday and then meet up on Saturday to discuss/critique. The group has lots of great advice for me, but the main thing is that it gets me to write something new every week. It also keeps me excited. We're all trying to publish all the time and we sit around and talk shop (strategies for publishing, which anthologies are accepting submissions, etc, etc).

    Every once in awhile I do hire a real pro for a critique. I usually go to Gary Braunbeck. He's a very very well-published horror author who offers critiques at reasonable prices (like $60). If you're interested in him, you can reach him through his website:

    But, really, the key is to just write and write and write. It's kinda impossible not to get better if you practice.

    Work on polishing stories, then haunt looking for the right editors/publications to submit your work to.

  2. Hello ,

    I do, or did, regularly do the Duotrope thing, and have gotten a couple of acceptances through markets found there.
    I must admit I’ve never had any strong strategy for ‘getting published.’ I did/do have some fuzzy-logic ideas of ‘proving’ my writing by getting some short-stories accepted and paid for ether on-line or in print, which I have to a limited degree, then putting some PD/self-published stuff out there on the main e-book market and reader sites, just to gauge people’s reactions. This I have also done. The reactions ran the gauntlet of ‘Better than Alice in Wonderland’ (although I don’t believe for a second that it was, this was a big compliment to me as that is one of my favourite classic books) to ‘Utter rubbish, not worth bothering with.’ There’s nothing like readers’ comments to bring you b back down to earth.

    The only thing I haven’t really ever done is talk face-to-face with other people in a similar position to me, or with ‘proper’ established writers. Writing will always be a hobby to me, but of course I (like everyone else) would love to see that hardback with my name on it.

    I’ve long ago gotten over the confidence hurdle to show my work to people for reading face-to-face; and for critique, somewhat anonymously, over the Internet; but I’m still not sure if I could hand my dog-eared manuscript over to another writer, face-to-face, in a group setting and say ‘I did this.’ Is that strange?

    I need to do something to get back on the little read/writing-horse...

  3. I get it. But, everybody feels that way. I still feel that way every week when I send my story to my group (though, less and less). I've come to accept that I can never guess what they'll like/dislike and regardless it's just a great service to have some other opinions/editors look at the story/chapter before you send it off to a publisher. And the online semi-anonymous thing just doesn't provide that personal pressure of having people in your life harassing you to produce something every week.