Sunday, May 19, 2013

Be careful what company you keep

Today marks my 500th blog post. (Yay!) In honor of that accomplishment, I wanted to offer what I felt like was good (and easy to follow) advice.

I just read a friend's post on Facebook about meeting with their author group. They said how this was a great thing for them and I was a bit envious. Ha. Ha. There are literally NO writer/author groups in my area (to my knowledge) that are worth a crap. I know of two and I wouldn't recommend them to anyone.

In the beginning when you first get published, it's tempting to run out and join a writing group. I think everyone wants to find people who will support and encourage them. My advice? Don't do that.

I'm not saying there aren't good groups out there. Sure there are. They just aren't around me. We can only judge by our own experience and here is what I found in the two writer's groups I attempted to be a part of.

The first was at one of the Universities where I used to work. I joined this group because I had always had an interest in writing and knew that I would someday pursue writing as a career. I thought I could learn something.

In this group everyone would sit around and read their latest poetry or short story and then ask for feedback from the group. That was how it was supposed to go. What really happened? The leader of the group was full of himself and barely gave anyone else a chance to speak. He was rude and criticized everyone else's work when his own wasn't up to par. This was basically a chance to sit around and bitch and read emo poetry. It was a complete waste of time, but I kept up my membership for a little while. As soon as I became published, they disowned me. Everyone was jealous that I succeeded and reached the first of my career goals. They acted as if I and my accomplishment didn't exist. In the last publication they put out (at the University) they didn't even list me as a member. You would think they'd be proud of me, right? I never went back.

My second experience with a writer's group was in my hometown. I got a nice invitation in the mail asking me to attend their next meeting. I've known the librarian in town (where the meeting was held) since I was a kid. She is a sweet lady and was probably responsible for my invite.

What happened there? Another published author was in attendance and I accidentally stole her show. She was also from the same town, but had long since moved away. She writes more traditional romance. After the main part of her speech was over people started to ask questions. Since I had been introduced, a few of these questions were directed at me instead of her. Some of the others in the group seemed fascinated to find that not only did I not use an agent, but I had published more books in 3 years than this other author had in 10 years.

That was not my fault. I didn't ramble on. I politely answered and tried to turn things back over to her. Still, I was snubbed when I attempted to speak to her afterward. Bitch. She acted like she was above speaking to anyone except the lady who had invited her.

Afterward, I went to dinner with the group while she disappeared. She was also "too good" to eat with us. I thought things went well as everyone seemed to enjoy asking me questions. But guess what? I was never invited back. Despite the fact that I have published even more novels now and gotten a few awards.

I suppose my point is, you don't have to belong to a group if you don't want to. Don't let yourself feel pressured. You've got enough to do without worrying about going to meetings, right? If being a part of a group feels right and is helpful to you, then go for it. But if it isn't, don't stress over it. Also, just because a group of people claim to be a writer's group, doesn't mean they give a damn about you and your writing.

So, what do I do for support? I have a few friends who are writers. I talk to and confide in them. I trust their opinions. I have an editor and writing partner who works with me on all my books, especially my indie titles. She is a great person and a close friend. She can look me right in the face and tell me something sounds stupid without hurting my feelings. Why? Because she isn't a bitch and I know she has my best interest at heart. It also helps that she doesn't try to read me any emo poetry.

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