photoI often see the quote, “To be a better writer, read more.” It made me start wondering what advice I would give to an upcoming writer who needed some pearls of wisdom. It dawned on me last night. While I was avoiding cleaning my apartment I realized there had been one major thing that had influenced me over the past few years. About three years ago, I joined a writing group.

The group started as a continuation of National Novel Writing Month. When we met for our furious word frenzies, we talked about doing something that lasted longer and was a little less stressful. It was rough going at times. There were meetings that I was alone and just plugged away at doing what I was doing. There were other times when we had so many people that we struggled to find space in our coffee shop. It eventually grew to “the usual crowd” where we would have five or six at any meeting.

In the group we have a technical writer, an english teacher, a graphics teacher, a special ed teacher, a stay at home mom, and a woman making writing a full-time job. Between us we have a variety of writers who are at different places in the process. We have a veteran author who has been published multiple times, a couple newly published authors and some still going. We have traditionally published, online, self-published, ebooks and the diversity continues. None of us have taken the same path, and that has become the most valuable tool amongst the group.

I can not stress how useful this group has been. At last week’s meeting I had the ability to discuss platforms, social media, editing techniques and how to work with beta readers. I don’t want to emphasize the importance of any one role as everybody had input. I frequently ask the veteran logistic questions about the industry and how things could be done. I also turn to the novices (myself included) and we brainstorm ideas of how to reach target markets. We’re serious about what we’re doing and because of life all have varying degrees of investment in what we do when writing. However, the supportive atmosphere has made this one of the best writing tools I’ve experienced.

I’ve been part of writing groups before, but this one has been the best situation for me. We meet for two hours every other week, talk for a half hour or so (sometimes the whole time, sometimes not at all) and then we write. There will be pit stops to share a funny quip or ask a question, but the goal is the same, we’re here to get a step closer to finishing that novel. I’ve begun sharing my goals as an attempt to be held accountable and sometimes I fall far short of achieving them. Instead of feeling pressure, there’s support to keep going and sharing stories about why it happened or what went awry.

If there is one piece of advice I could give a fledgling writer or even an experienced writer, genius rarely happens in a vacuum. Join a local writing group (or start one as I did) and after some time, it has the potential to be the support network that a solitary crafter needs to help keep pushing them forward.