How I Started a Writing Group

Hey, everyone!

I’ve been asked a common question several times over the course of my group-hopping through NaNoWriMo, Script Frenzy, and a medley of writing local writer gatherings over the years, and I thought I should address it now.

How Do You Start a Writing Group?

Six years ago, my best friend and fellow writer Jessi and I began Inkwell Imaginings, a structured, workshop-based writing group in Southbridge, Massachusetts. I’m sure there are a dozen or so ways to get a writing group started, and there are as many ways to structure or focus your group to create exactly what you’re looking for from it.

Begin

Jessi and I settled down on my bed with notebooks and a vast array of multi-colored highlighters and pens, and started to map out what we wanted from the group.

  • We wanted to invite writers of all skill levels. We’re both huge on encouraging other people to pursue their creative dreams, and we needed this to come through for Inkwell. It had to be clear that everyone was welcome, and diversity of level and genre would be embraced.
  • We wanted to offer a variety of writing workshops to give our members the opportunity to grow. There are plenty of writing groups that don’t offer workshops, and they are typically something to build up to. Jessi has her bachelors in English and I’m pursuing mine in creative writing, so we thought we might give people the opportunity to benefit from what we were learning!
  • We wanted to include critique days. This is what a lot of people are looking for when it comes to a writing group. Unfortunately, when it comes to budding novelists, they need help, as we all do, creating a polished piece of fiction. To allow everyone to have a turn, we had to limit our members to three pages per session. It helps to let them know that they’re free to talk outside of the group and exchange fiction via email or even in person. Networking is important!
  • It’s okay to be social. Inkwell is no longer the workshop machine it used to be. Now, writers just get together in person, or online, and chat about their work, ask advice, and kvetch about their lives. It’s just as beneficial to have a tribe of writers to be social with as it is to treat your group as a class.
  • Name your group! It can be hard, I know. It doesn’t have to be, though. You could just name it after your region or city. Give yourself a cool team name, like in sports or events. No holds barred! Just be sure it’s safe for public listing if you plan to advertise!
  • What’s your focus? Is it genre specific? Social? Structured, like Inkwell? Lay down exactly what you want for your group. If you know what you want, you’ll be less likely to be wishy-washy when you start gathering members!

Bring it to life

  • You need a venue. It can be as simple as a cafe or Panera Bread meeting room. We chose to approach the director of the local library, which happened to be two buildings away from my apartment. It’s not as hard as it sounds, though! Most library personnel are happy to talk with you about reading or writing, as long as you’re respectful.

    We wrote a simple, but professional email and received a response the same day. She was very eager to have us come in for a chat about our writing group. We gathered all of our notes and submitted our proposal. It was approved by the next day, and we were on our way to Inkwell!

  • Create a schedule. Once you have a venue, make sure you create a schedule. Every Friday from 6pm to 8pm, or every Saturday morning from 10am to 1pm, etc. Whatever you feel works for you. People will come, but be firm. Don’t switch it around to fit everyone. If they want to come, if they can come, they will. If not, maybe offer an occasional once-a-month meeting at a different time, but don’t deviate too hard! Consistency is key!
  • Create flyers. Be simple about it. Make sure the name of the group is visible and legible, and you give the name of the venue, as well as an address. I recommend leaving your personal phone number and address off of the flyer! You never know who might be seeing this information! If you want to be contacted by potential members, which is always a good option, set up a free email address for the group with Google or Outlook, and add it to the flyer. These flyers can be left on bulletin boards at Starbucks and most local coffeehouses, Panera’s community board, and on many library boards as long as you obtain approval.
  • Show up for your first meeting! Don’t expect a huge turn out at first. Members will come. Word of mouth will spread. Just be there, be consistent, even if you’re by yourself once in awhile. Use it to get your writing done. Maybe print out a little sign and put it on your table! It helps people to identify you and even encourages people to ask questions.

Running Inkwell was one of the highlights of my writing life, and I would reinstate it again in a heartbeat. Maybe I will when we settle in to somewhere more permanent!

Feel free to contact me with questions about Inkwell or starting your own group. We’d love to have more members online, but I encourage you to find or start your own group in your area!

Battle on!
Kit


starbornHey, guys! I’m looking for feedback on Amity Dawn! If you’re interested in reading and leaving your thoughts, the first five chapters are currently posted on Wattpad.

Have a great day, and happy writing!

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Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

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Hey, everyone!

I spent NaNoWriMo trying to write a story that was entirely within my comfort zone, and I wasn’t feeling it. It felt boring and trite, and I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that I wasn’t challenging myself. I wasn’t even feeling my own voice coming through the writing.

I didn’t care about it.

My characters were lifeless. My setting was undeveloped. My conflict was muddled and unclear. But it was fantasy. It was the first genre I had ever loved writing; the first feeling that I actually loved a craft as more than just a hobby. Fantasy was once what defined my writing.

This last novel wasn’t something I felt in my soul anymore, and it broke my heart. Today, I want you do what I didn’t have the foresight to do!

I want you to step out of your comfort zone!

Write Outside of Your Genre

It doesn’t have to be something long. It doesn’t even have to be something you plan to publish or submit. All you need to do is pick a genre you’ve never written before, and give yourself room to breathe.

You can outline it! I’m not a pantser by any stretch of the imagination, and, if you aren’t either, I encourage you to outline to your heart’s content! This isn’t an exercise in off-the-cuff writing, so don’t panic.

Once you decide on the genre you want to test out, find your conflict. Or, if you start with characters, discover who they are and what drives them. However you begin, get yourself started! Don’t be afraid, because this is just an exercise. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even like the process in this new genre!

When I need a refresh period in another genre, I generally choose characters I’m already familiar with. I’ve written romance and feel-good material for my Amity Dawn characters. I jumped into mystery (poorly; I did not enjoy it) with characters from Glass Dragons.

Every new genre brings its own experience, and you can learn from all of them.

Write Something Controversial

Do you have something to say about a current event? DAPL? The election? Ghirardelli vs Lindt?

Fear can often drive us to keep our mouths shut on things we’re afraid will attract conflict. The internet is the perfect place to get chewed up and spit out for having an opinion, but I encourage you to hold your ground! Nothing was ever accomplished by keeping silent.

Once you have your story/blog post/what-have-you written, share it. Share it! Seriously. It can be so empowering to make yourself heard. It gives you a voice and it lets others know that it’s okay to stand with you or against you! It’s okay to feel something!

Overcoming your fear of having a voice by expressing yourself can lead to all sorts of unlocked inspiration. The fear of writing what you mean and writing what you feel is pushed aside, and you can experience a new confidence in your subject matter. Don’t be afraid to be opinionated.

Invite Someone to Read Your Work

It’s scary to open yourself up to criticism, but, remember, criticism teaches us how to improve. We can’t grow if we stay in our own little bubble. Reading, writing, and experiencing new things are all amazing ways to grow as a writer, but it’s allowing others to tell us what’s missing that gives us perspective on our own work.

Allow a beta reader into your Writer Bubble. Let them read your work, praise what’s good, and question what needs attention. We can only see so far into our work. We know what we meant to say in that line that’s awkwardly worded. It doesn’t read awkwardly to us!

Did you use too many commas in that sentence? Did your protagonist just do something totally uncharacteristic? It won’t make us cringe if we read it with writer-eyes. A beta can catch that for you.

It doesn’t mean your novel isn’t your masterpiece. It just means every masterpiece goes through a draft period; a period where it needs tweaking and molding until it resembles the vision in your head. The value of a second set of eyes can be absolutely priceless.

Be Authentically You

I’m not saying you need to incite dissension in your readers. If you’re a professional and quiet person, there’s nothing wrong with keeping things light and encouraging! If you’re a little more abrasive, that’s okay, too. I have a tendency to be that way. I have strong opinions and I like to voice them—not for the sake of argument, but to connect to other people who might feel alone in their views.

Regardless of who you are, what you believe or do for a living, where you find your peace, always be authentically you.

Battle on!
Kit

Goals! A New Year Approaches

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This is not a New Years resolutions post. I don’t generally do the resolutions thing, but I think it’s important to have goals all year round. I’ve been fiddling with blog post prompts lately, and one of the prompts that crops up the most often is a “goals” post. All in all, the post is meant to outline your goals and any steps you’ve put into place to complete them.

I feel like you all know me well enough to know that I’m an organizational nightmare. My goal-setting skills are trash.

I do have goals, though!

Naturally, I want to publish my sci fi work. I’m getting there. School and work in the last few years have kept my creativity and writing time to a minimum, but I’m slowly breaking away from that. My degree program will resume next summer and I’m currently freelancing exclusively! More time!

I don’t want to focus on that, though.

My ultimate goal is to open a writing retreat for writers of all skill levels, and make available a set of writing workshops that will help attendees develop the skills they need to make their writing what they want it to be! Ideally, this will be a fantastic source of networking and support for budding and experienced writers—something that I experienced during my formative years as a writer. We’re always growing, and I want to build a place to reflect and encourage that.

A fellow writer, Brooke D. Wheeler, and I have this super-plan to buy a barn in the middle of nowhere and make it our art-life. We’ll write and craft and live happily. It’ll be remarkable.

From a business perspective, though, I’d love to put together a bed-and-breakfast-style retreat for writers—artists, too, if they’d like! I don’t have steps in place to bring this into reality at the moment, but, when Jared and I settle down in a place that we intend to be a bit more permanent, I’ll be getting to work on that business plan. Should be about a year from now, if everything goes according to plan.

The Draws of the Writer’s Retreat

Since 2010, I’ve made it my passion and my mission to help other writers with their creative goals. The rewards of seeing someone’s name in print when you were able to be there for them during the dark times of that work is so rewarding. It’s knowing that you could help in someone else’s happiness and success.

Art is hard. It doesn’t matter what type of art it is. Writing, drawing, composing—they all come with unique challenges, and sometimes it’s near impossible to overcome them alone. The art may be solitary, but the act of developing your art doesn’t have to be. Now and then, a little social nudge of love and encouragement can make all the difference.

It’s sitting in a room with a few other people also struggling with their passion, and knowing that you’re not alone. It’s knowing that the person next to you, who you respect or whose art you admire, also has moments when they hate their work. It’s knowing it happens to all of us. It’s easier to love the work and push through the negative feelings when you have a support system.

The Business of a Writer’s Retreat

This is probably where I’m going to get hung up.

I need to buckle down on the technical and business-centered aspects of the writer’s retreat, and I’m not sure how. For this reason, it’s probably good that Jared isn’t looking for us to settle into a new place until next August. I need time to research, plan, and put together a concrete set of ideas, funding, and location possibilities. It will probably wind up being somewhere around New Smyrna Beach area. It’s nice and we’ll be close by!
At least for starters. ❤

Oh, guys, just talking about it is exciting me! Maybe I’ll get going on that business plan sooner than I expected!

Battle on!
Kit

What are your goals as a writer or artist? How do you view the business aspects of who you are?

A Writerly Christmas List: 6 Gifts for The Writer in Your Life

The holiday season is upon us, my loves!

It seems that, every year, the ‘gifts for writers’ posts start cropping up, and they’re always pretty awesome. Etsy and various geek-centered shops, like ThinkGeek, tend to put out some creative and fun ways to delight the writers and readers in your life during the holidays and all year round.

I’m not going to be posting links to shops here, but I will share a list of ideas for that special person in your life—especially if that special person is a writer. I encourage you to go to Etsy or Amazon or wherever, just pick your poison, and search one of the ideas below. Add your own flair. =]

1. Notebooks. All notebooks are nice, but there’s something special about receiving a journal that caters to our tastes. You can find them at Michael’s, A.C. Moore, or OfficeMax, among others, and they come in a variety of prints, covers, and designs.

If you really want to get fancy, buy a leather cover that takes sized refills. I have one from Barnes & Noble that takes size 4 refills, which is a pretty standard size. I think Mead makes one for cheap. I got mine for about $20, and I’ve had it for 6 years. Last year, my boyfriend made me a new one out of deer and cow hide when he was trying out leather working. It fits the size 4 refills as well, so I can still make use of the ones I bought and stocked up on!

2. Pens. I have a particular type of pen that I like—the Uni Ball Jetstream in 1.0 blue ink—and I can guarantee the writer in your life probably has one, too. Check out what they write with and see if you can get them a package of them. If they don’t write with a particular variety of pen, then buy them a pen you find neat. Cross, Parker, Pilot, and Shaeffer all have awesome refillable pens, and they tend to put out gift sets around this time of year.

I personally like ballpoints, but I’ve got a neat Cross rollerball with gel ink that writes nicely and fits inside my leather notebook. Ballpoint, rollerball, gel, and fountain pens are available in most of the aforementioned brands, so you’ve got some variety to choose from. Cross and Parker pens start at about $20, but you’ve also got options like Monte Blanc that start at $200. It really depends how extravagant you want to go with your pen gift.

3. White board and dry erase markers. I have a 24” x 36” porcelain white board that I do all of my initial brainstorming on, and I love it. If I could upgrade to a wall-sized white board, I’d probably outline every page of my novels on it. You can get inexpensive 18” x 24” boards for about $17 at Walmart, or you can go to somewhere like OfficeMax and get a massive board for upwards of $70, and every size and price point in between. They are absolutely invaluable to my process, and I know many writers who use them as well.

4. Scrivener or Storyist. If your writer has a love for finding new ways to write, one of these writing tools could prove to be revolutionary for them. It allows you to write your story, organize your notes, compile outlines, all in one easy-to-manipulate file. I love Scrivener. I have no idea what I’d do without it.

Scrivener has a Windows and Mac version, but I believe that Storyist is only compatible with Mac. There are tutorials for both all over the internet. Storyist goes for about $40, Scrivener is also $40, but if you’ve won NaNoWriMo, or can get a code from someone who has (Literature & Latte encourages the codes to be shared, so don’t feel bad about it!), then you can get the license for either program for half price.

5. A writers conference or retreat. These are pricey, and I know it’s hard to plunk down, like, $500-$1000 for a weekend-long event, but, if your writer is getting serious about publishing and networking, conferences are invaluable. They allow your writer to network with publishers, agents, editors, and other, more experienced writers.

They’re not hard to find. Just google “writers conference” and your state or surrounding area. There are sites that compile them by location or genre, and niche sites that host their own.

There you have it! Happy Holidays!
Kit

What are some gifts you’d recommend for the writers in your life? What do you, as a writer, want for Christmas/Hanukkah/Yule?