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?

Lesbian Romance Book Reviews!

Back again? So soon? Yes, I am still free from the clutches of my other job, so I intend to provide more content for you all before I once again am sucked into the labors of a 9-5 job. Anyways, I have been spending my newfound free time goofing off researching by reading some romance novels and not-so romance novels. As a treat to my readers, I would like to leave some short reviews on these and explain what I found nice about them; perhaps highlight some takeaway points for aspiring writers. And, of course, they all feature lesbian couples as the main interests.

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Book One – A Place to Rest by Erin Dutton: This was the first novel I uncovered for my romance reading frenzy. I found it at a local bookstore, and picked it out mostly because it sounded relaxing. The synopsis on the back details the conflict for the main character, Sawyer, who finds herself attracted to the new pastry chef of her family’s restaurant. Sawyer’s pregnant sister ends up requiring help running the family business, and romance soon blossoms between her and Jori (the aforementioned pastry chef).

What do I think of it? It was cute, sweet, and low on the drama level. Positively predictable in terms of the happy outcome, but charming nonetheless in a low-stress way. I picked it out right before I went out to breakfast, and spent a few hours in the café with a cup of coffee while I read through it. Honestly, it was the best morning I had enjoyed in a long time. This is also probably an excellent indicator that I’m getting old. I actually enjoyed reading a book out a breakfast by myself. I reveled in it. My teenager self would have thought me pathetic. But I don’t care. It was bliss.

Anyways, back to the novel. I ended up giving it a five-star review on goodreads, but many people will disagree with that rating and give it four or three, which it is probably more deserving of. What I liked about this story was that it provided something soft for me to read while I was coming down off the stress-tornado I had been battling just a few days before. If you are looking for a cute story about two women in love with minimal sex scenes, this is a good one to go with.

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Book Two – Sequestered Hearts by Erin Dutton: Another book by the same lady. I liked the first one so much that I looked up some other books of hers on my nook and downloaded this one. The story features a journalist and an heiress / famous painter, and while the beginning of the novel is the most slow, painfully enraging thing to crawl through, the rest of the story became quite enjoyable once the characters attempted functioning outside of the private cabin they first got to know each other in. Overall, I found it deep, and a bit more of an emotional rollercoaster than the first one, but just as enjoyable. The characters were interesting once they got over their bout of stupid in the beginning, and their relationship development was interesting.

What I found interesting about this novel was that it played with a specific medical disability, but awkwardly introduced it in the beginning, though the premise seemed promising enough. What I would liked to have seen was a slower build-up in those initial pages, but for plot reasons the characters shared a kiss early on, which felt more forced than anything. What I’d like to emphasize here is that emotions need to be earned between your characters. The smooching can’t just start because you feel like it’s as good a time as any. You cannot also rely on it as a plot device at the expense of the characters, but I highly advise against this. Character’s actions and their believability must come first before anything else. Without it, how can we ask a reader to suspend everything else just to pay attention to what we have to say?

Overall, still a wonderful story if you want a romance novel with lady love.

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Book Three – Battle Scars by Meghan O’Brien: I have read some works by this author before. In truth, this has been sitting on my shelf for a while and my partner has been pestering me to read it. After being less than impressed with O’Brien’s book Infinite Loop, I tended to stay away from her romance novels. Her erotica novel Thirteen Hours is brilliant, by the way, if you want something decently readable and basically just a bunch of sex scenes. Battle Scars proved to be a pleasant surprise with deep characters and an engaging dynamic between them. Ray is a veteran coping with PTSD, and Carly is a veterinarian. Their paths cross, and you can guess what happens from there.

Honestly, this book is probably the most tightly written compared with the previous two, and the stakes are the highest between the two characters, causing it to be  bit more intense of a read, but if you’re looking for something still on the fluffy side, it’s definitely a lighter romance novel, despite having stronger tones than the previous two. And there are adorable puppy dogs in it, and someone drew fan art of said adorable puppies with the main characters.

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And a Comic? Alabaster by Caitlin R. Kiernan: Ever since the 5 issue Alabaster series ran with Dark Horse, I have been buying the Dark Horse Presents comic anthologies religiously to keep up with the “Alabaster: Boxcar Tales” featured in each volume. The Alabaster series follows Dancy Flammarion, a teenager with issues. In the first comic (waaaaaay back), she’s almost eaten by a lovely werewolf lady, who she kills. The werewolf woman comes back as a ghost, and the two quickly settle into the routine of busting up the antics of other monsters, killing the baddies, normal things that werewolf ghost / monster hunter duos do.

*Spoilers*

I know it sounds weird, but the story is intense. This is literature, not fluffy romance. It just so happens to feature a soul-crushingly, desperately longing unrequited love story between these two later on in the series.

And might I just say, I called it? It’s a beautiful story, and if you’re willing to track down all the loose Dark Horse comics (or digitally download them) it makes for a wonderful read, and you’ll feel better for it after, because the story is complex and leveled with metaphors I have a hard time keeping track of sometimes, but when it all comes together, it’s worth it. If you want some comic book lesbians that aren’t Batwoman (don’t get me started on the rage I feel about JH Williams leaving), this is a good series to check out, and it’s not too long, featuring only a handful of issues or short entries in anthologies.

*End Spoilers*

No More Books! That’s all I’ve read between last week and now. Not too bad, actually. Just wanted to provide some material there. What I’d like to say about these books in terms of writing is that they do a damn good job because they show organic relationships between the characters. With some very brief exceptions, nothing feels forced between the characters. They were created to naturally flow with their decisions.

This is what good writers do. You should never force your character to do something that feels off, or like they would actually do, for the sake of the plot. One way to tell you might be writing your character into this problem is if you keep writing around a scene, or tweaking everything else in the story to make this one cool idea you had fit. Think about it for a few days. Give yourself some distance, and if that idea still seems crucial to your story, look back and see how you can earn whatever it is you’re trying to make the character do.

Before I end this, I’ll offer a quick update on projects. Chronicles of Osota: Warrior is scheduled to release in January, still. I don’t have an exact date, but it will happen. I should resume normal updates on my side projects (ie, the free-to-read stuff posted on the interwebs) sometime in the next day or so. Just trying to catch up on everything. Leave a comment if you have questions or thoughts. What is your favorite lesbian romance novel? I’d love to read some more before the break is over. It helps me improve my own writing when I read a wider range.