Let’s Talk About Writing Groups!

 Before we get to the discussion today, I’d like to thank any readers who purchased and commented on Warrior, my newly released novel. For those of you who don’t know what it is, you can check it out here. If it looks interesting and you read it, be sure to leave some feedback somewhere. I love hearing from readers.

Anyways, I’d like to talk about writing groups today. They’re an important part of any person’s development as a writer, whether they take place online or face-to-face. Why? Writing groups get you in touch with other people, writers and readers, and people are good for your writing.

We need audiences when we work on our writing. A single person is not capable of looking at their work and seeing all the necessary revisions needed. More importantly, our best work happens when we write with others, not alone.

We’ve all had that one misconception of a good writer. They’re that person who sits in a room lit by candlelight. They peck away at a typewriter for hours, agonizing over each line, and everything they write is golden because that person has something special that no one else has.

This is a false notion. All great writers have a great editor, or a horde of them, that help out during the writing process. When there’s a group of people reading your work, you have the benefit of multiple perspectives on your writing. One person can read your work and have a problem with something. You might not change it. If four people have a problem with the same thing and actually talk their way through what specifically troubles them about it, then you actually have something to work with.

Writing groups are essential for this reason. Your story will never please every single person on the planet, but it can become something incredible by working with the people around you. And writing groups are a great way to get free editing and consulting on your work 🙂

The next big reason you should join a writing group: you will read other people’s work.

Reading and responding to another person’s work will not only let you experience a broader scope of writing, it will make you a better writer. I’m serious. A 2003 study by Jay Simmons examined several classes of high school and college students over the course of three years. Their collective data showed that students who had the opportunity to respond to peer writing the most often also scored higher in writing assignments.

So do yourself a favor and get a writing group together. Make a google doc, meet some locals. If you’ve got an internet connection, there’s really no excuse for writing alone. Try out some websites like fictionpress.com or wattpad.com. If you’re not writing strictly original fiction, join the communities at fanfiction.net or archiveofourown. They’re all great sources for writers to make connections with one another.

So audience, what have your experiences with writing groups been? If any?

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Another book? And there’s sex in it?

That’s right. With my coauthor, Rae D Magdon, I just released another book for purchase. This time around, we’ve gone through the publishing company Desert Palm Press, and let me quickly thank my editor and fellow writers for their support throughout the process. I should probably also thank Rae for putting up with me through all the drama of being a full-time student, employee, and writer. That’s kind of tough!

For those of you who have not been following, Rae and I worked together on a sci-fi novel (read: erotic novella set in a sci-fi universe) titled Dark Horizons. It’s now available in print and electronically, and I don’t know how to feel about finally being at this level. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I held the first copy of that paperback to my chest and sobbed when it arrived. Having something you wrote in print like that is seriously cool.

But I’m also conflicted. As the reviews for Dark Horizons pour in, I keep on noticing a trend. Like All The Pretty Things (which I only wrote like 1/4 of), Dark Horizons receives some flak for being too short with not fully realized characters. People also are commenting on the abundance of sex scenes and lack of other scenes. I guess this is because Rae and I wrote it as an erotic novel. It’s express purpose is to entertain people in the bedroom department. Normally, erotic novels are easy to recognize for what they are and people don’t expect much more from them. So, why do people so nicely ask for me and Rae to write something with a more involved plot?

I suppose it’s my fault. You see, I have a hard time writing strict erotica. I let the feels get in the way like no other. I also have a thing about character dynamics and helplessly long plot structures that I’m sure many of my readers adore just as much as me. Because of this, I took a lot of opportunities to cut out sex scenes and insert character development scenes, and as I imagine the sequel (YES, THREE-STAR READERS, THERE WILL BE A LONGER AND MORE INVOLVED SEQUEL :D), I can only think of plot points and dramatic dialogues, but I have a hard time imagining where the sex will go (NO ONE TELL RAE). Of course, the sex scenes will end up in there and hopefully it will be longer and more involved and hopefully Rae and I will find that balance our readers are seeking.

That paragraph basically meant to say that I tried to turn Dark Horizons into a sci-fi romance when it was originally just meant to be a smut novel. The final product is an item stuck in limbo that may readers still love, and for that, I am grateful. All you people out there who haven’t read it, go give the story a try, but know going into it that the premise of the story is “How do we get these two characters to have lots of sex?” And when you’re done, leave a reveiw because I do cherish all of your constructive criticism.

I do have one favor to ask. If you review, please stop explicitly describing the sex scenes in your comments. For some moronic reason, I told my mother my pen name and then forbade her from reading the smut novels. Instead, she reads the reviews you lovely people write about my stories, and some of you plainly tell her what Rae and I write those characters doing, and I don’t need that in my life am somewhat embarrassed to know my mother knows what those stories contain.

But readers will do what readers do. Any review left is appreciated, and you can be as explicit or not as you want. Thank you for taking the time to read this rant. I sincerely hope those of you who read Dark Horizons enjoy it.

UPDATE: My fantasy epic / romance novel is just about done. I’ll be sending it off to the editor April 1. You can look for Chronicles of Osota: Warrior this summer. For those of you who prefer a longer, more traditional-style romance novel with lesbians, this story will offer more of that. It’s also about 40,000 words longer than Dark Horizons, so if you like sprawling epics, it’s good for that, too.

Thank you all for reading. I’ll try to update this blog more regularly with helpful writerly advice now that some of my more ambitious projects are out of the way.

Legit Publishing

So a little over a week ago, I published All The Pretty Things with my coauthor Rae D Magdon. We went through Kindle Direct Publishing figuring that it would be the fastest, easiest way to reach the few fans we managed to collect over the years. Fast-forward nine days and we’ve sold over 500 copies and are listed as #1 seller for kindle sales in Lesbian Romances. Crazy, right?

We did all of this ourselves, though. We didn’t send out query letters. We didn’t talk to agents, didn’t pursue publishing companies, didn’t do anything my writing professors advised. It was just us and the supportive community of the interwebs. Now the question is: are we legitimately published?

I think the answer is yes. I think this new form of indie publishing has gotten a bad reputation from the abuse of anyone using it, but I think if a professional approaches it in the right direction, it is just as legitimate as any other form of publication. That being said, I think indie publishing opens up authors to some shortcuts I do not advise them to take.

To begin with, there’s no one but you running the operation when you self-publish to an online format. That means that if you’re not looking for help, no one is going to edit your story but you, and that is not acceptable. I don’t think authors should go out and pay for a book doctor, but I think now more than ever writers need to network with one another and exchange resources with one another. Writers in groups will get access to five or six competent editors, some of them more often than not with degrees or real world experience. Someone asked me one day if I thought there was a loss of quality in writing through the self-publishing route. I think as long as a writer is working with other quality writers and editors, they have the potential to be just as high quality as a book that was published through a company.

Honestly, indie publishing is going to become a serious form of getting your book out there, just like kickstarter can be a legitimate form to fund serious projects. If writers get lazy, their work won’t sell. It’s as simple as that.

But it’s a hard gig. I sit here panicking once every few hours that I’m not doing enough to make sure it stays successful. I got into writing and publishing because I wanted to reach a wide audience. I wanted people to read my stories and find something worthwhile in them, and waiting to see what will happen in the next few months is tough. It’s the toughest thing I’ve had to do as a writer.

So, I hope I’ve provided some food for thought. If you like what I said, or disagree, go ahead and comment. I’m always happy to have a conversation about writing. And if you like lesbian romances, you might consider checking out the novel All The Pretty Things. You can comment on it through goodreads or amazon if you feel like. If not, Rae and I are always providing new and interesting fanfiction, always for free.