Four Scary Things Writers Must Learn to Embrace!

monster illustration

Guest post by Francesca Nicasio

When I first started out, there were some things that I tried to avoid as much as possible because they were uncomfortable scared the crap out of me. It didn’t take long though before I realized that my avoidance was getting me nowhere and if I really wanted to succeed in freelance writing, I had to not only face my fears, I had to embrace them.

Below is a list of those fears. I’ve also included the things that I learned from facing them, and what you can do if you share the same fears or apprehensions.

monsterEdits or Criticism

Getting edits and constructive criticism is a good thing. Those red marks on your article may not look pretty, but they will make you a better writer. They can improve your style and develop your attention to detail. As writers, we are often too close to our creations to see flaws or errors. Having someone scrutinize your work will make it sharper and more compelling.

How to deal with constructive criticism: First of all, don’t take it personally. The person scrutinizing your work is just doing their job. Also remember that having your work edited or criticized doesn’t make you a bad writer. It only means that there’s some room for improvement and growth.

When you get the edited piece back, thank the person and revise your work. If you don’t agree with the way they edited your article, say so. Tell them (in a polite way, of course) why you wrote it the way you did and hear out their response. This opens up constructive discourse between the two of you, and you’ll likely pick up helpful insights in the process.

Rejection

The path to freelance writing success is littered with rejection letters. It’s just part of the territory. As writers we must learn to accept — nay —embrace rejection because each “no” that we get brings us closer to that coveted “yes.”

Rejection can teach you some valuable lessons in persistence and resilience. It also tests just how badly you want success. More importantly, rejection enables you to develop a thicker hide–an attribute that you must possess when putting yourself out there.

How to deal with rejection: There’s no shortcut or sugar-coated way to handle rejection. You just have to dust yourself off, learn from the mistakes that got you rejected (if any), and keep going.

You can also think of it this way: If you get rejected by a prospective client or publication, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s something wrong with you. It just means that you and the other party aren’t a good fit for each other. They’re not the right client or they simply aren’t looking for someone like you at the moment. It’s nothing personal and it’s not anything against you, it’s just the way it is.

Haters

Okay, maybe “haters” is too strong of a word. Let’s call them “negative commenters”.

Unpleasant as it may be though, receiving negative comments should be taken as a compliment. Why? Because it means that what you wrote sparked enough emotion to compel people to leave a comment.

Don’t feel bad when you get negative comments, be upset when you don’t get any.

How to deal with negative comments

If you choose to dignify their comments with a response, always be calm and respectful. Recognize that each person is entitled to their own opinions. Additionally, do not respond from a place of defensiveness or emotion. Instead, state the facts and be cool. And be sure to thank the person for taking the time to comment.

PS: This doesn’t apply to trolls.

Outreach

This is for all the shy ones (myself included). Reaching out to other people may be out of your comfort zone, but it’s absolutely necessary. Reaching success is not something that you can do alone, so get out there and network away. Growing your contact list is essential especially when you’re looking to promote your work or collaborate with others.

Reaching out to others is also something that you must do again and again throughout your career because it’s the only way to find new audiences and/or clients.

How to reach out

Do your research on the person that you’re touching base with. To be effective, reach out with their needs in mind, not just yours. For instance, if you’re contacting them to start a joint venture, tell them why a JV would benefit them and their audience. Remember, they’ll be asking the question of what’s in it for them, so be sure to answer it when you first get in touch.

Your Turn

Have you ever avoided any of the things mentioned in this blog post? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 Francesca Nicasio (formerly Francesca StaAna) is the founder of CredibleCopywriting.net and is currently developing Copywriter2.0, an online course that teaches aspiring freelance writers the ins and outs of the biz.

Download her free eBook, 25 Types of Writing Gigs that Pay Well (and How to Find Them) here.

 

How (and Why) To Take Criticism

By Monique van den Berg
“I am an artist. The critic is my nemesis.”

Have you ever heard this internal dialogue? Well, you’re not alone. We writers exist within a paradox. Our egos tell us we’re brilliant, yet one word from a critic can convince us (at least temporarily) that we’re worthless. Criticism strikes at us where we’re most vulnerable: the place inside ourselves where our creativity lives. And as a result, even criticism designed to be constructive can be hard to take.

Yet there is a reason to take criticism. If you want to improve your writing, there’s few other ways to go about it. I will concede that you can improve by reading other writers, and writing tremendous amounts on a regular basis, but that still doesn’t give you what a good critique gives you: an objective opinion. A look through fresh eyes. The trick is in separating the grain from the chaff: realizing which criticisms are worthwhile, and which should be disregarded.

It is tempting to listen to the negative opinions of others, and discredit their positive opinions as mere “politeness.” I used to do this all the time. In fact, one of the earliest pieces of criticism I got was in the form of a rejection letter for a poem called “Above The Timber Line.” The note on my manuscript read:

Above the Timber Line shows real genius. Why decorate genius with dimestore adjectives?

This stung. I ignored the part about the genius since obviously he was just being polite. How could he insult my precious adjectives? How could he attack words like “hollow” and “shiny” that I just liked the sound of? I threw the paper in a desk drawer and tried to ignore it. But it wasn’t that easy to forget the words. What if he was right?

It took me a while, but I started re-evaluating my own use of adjectives. I found that I had been making what I now think is the number one mistake of amateur poets: using adjectives that are weak, overused, or superfluous. Once I stripped away the dimestore adjectives, I did get a little closer to genius. My new attitude towards criticism had taken root.

It was years before I really became sanguine about the whole process. Eventually, I realized that the visceral, emotional reaction will always be there, but it can be mitigated—you can make criticism work for you. The following 10 guidelines will help.

  1. Not everyone will like your writing. Not everyone shares your taste, your school of thought or your perspective. Your talent is not erased or diminished just because this person or that person doesn’t like the way you write. They may like you, but they can’t critique you, because they don’t share your vision. Just move on to someone who does.
  2. Beware of ulterior motives. Most people will reflexively try to lead you away from your own style and into theirs. Be wary. Although some people are conceited enough to think that their way is the only way, for most people this is unconscious and subtle. It’s a side effect of trying to set aside bias and evaluate a work on its own merits. This is hard to do, and it’s common to slip up.

    If you are considering someone’s suggestions for your writing, remember that they are ultimately subjective. Always make sure that what they are suggesting is true to the text and to your own style.

  3. Nothing you write is all bad. You should never listen to a critique that doesn’t say at least one positive thing about your work. A review that is 100% negative is either unfair or offered by someone with their own agenda. There is at least positive element to any work of art, and if your critic doesn’t bother to seek it out, they aren’t worth your time.
  4. There’s always one asshole. In any creative writing workshop, you’ll find this person. You will learn to see the signs. He or she has a lot of talent, a respectable number of publication credits and an ego the size of Delaware. You may be tempted to respect them; after all, they do have talent and attitude. They are accustomed to inspiring awe in unpublished newcomers like yourself. Don’t fall for it.

    In my second poetry workshop, The Asshole was a supremely irritating graduate student who rarely had anything good to say. When he did dole out the occasional favorable remark, he acted like he was bestowing a royal favor. And he loved to say pretentious things like, “The penultimate line of your penultimate stanza requires a certain panache that is lacking in this piece’s current iteration.” Blech.

  5. Quid pro quo. Part of getting helpful criticism is dispensing it to others. Don’t be condescending (as I once was) of the people that you think have less talent, experience and skill than you do. We all start somewhere.

    Yes, offering criticism is a skill, and the only way to develop this skill is through practice. Always start off by listing the good points of a piece, then list the weaker points. Offer concrete solutions to the problems you see. The more specific you are, the better. Figure out what you find the most helpful in a critique and offer the same kind of input to your peers. In the long run, this skill will serve you well.

  6. Build up your defenses. Don’t seek out criticism until you are ready to hear it. At first, your writing will be extremely close to your heart. Nurture the writing that makes you feel like this, but don’t show it to anyone. If anyone suggests that you change it, you’ll probably feel like they are proposing plastic surgery on your newborn infant. This may well discourage you from giving birth to any more poems.

    First, find friends who will lob (figurative) softballs at you. Once you can take their mild suggestions in stride, you may be ready to move on. Do you suspect that your writing has weaknesses that they are hesitant to point out? Time to move on to colleagues, acquaintances and workshops.

  7. Value honesty. It is an increasingly rare commodity. People may be afraid to tell you the blunt truth for fear that you’ll become antagonistic towards them, dislike them or attack their work out of spite. Other people are simply too polite to tell you their negative opinions, no matter how much they sugar coat them.

    One day, you will find someone who seems to “get” what you are trying to say and who genuinely appreciates your work, but isn’t afraid to tell you when you’re off your game. You will often agree with them, whether their comments are positive or negative. Hang on to this person. A good critic is worth their weight in gold.

  8. Only submit early drafts. If you have a work that in your mind is “finished” or that you’re particularly attached to, it’s probably too late to have it critiqued. This applies especially to pieces you have put a lot of work into. If you’ve spent an hour fine tuning every word, you’re going to take criticism a lot harder. You will stubbornly resist changing a single syllable. On the other hand, if you’ve just casually tossed off a first draft, it’s quite easy to carve it up with impunity.

    I know your inclination is to impress the people in your workshop. Trust me, if you tinker with you’re your writing too much before submitting it, you’ll reach a critical mass point where suggestions for change become utterly futile.

    This also applies to older works. When I read some of my earliest poems, I fully recognize how I could improve them, but there’s no way I would even try. A lot of them made me the writer I am today. I can’t stand on the top floor of a building and dig the foundation out from under me, now can I?

  9. Be as objective as possible. Don’t ever expect criticism to be easy. It will sting at times, no question about it. The trick is being to set aside your wounded pride and try and be objective anyway. Evaluate each suggestion carefully. Your responses will range from, “Oh, wow! Why didn’t I think of that before!” to “How come nobody gets my message—is it really that well hidden?” or “That bastard doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

    Before implementing or discarding any suggestion, give it careful consideration. If you’re equally willing to accept or refute someone’s suggestion, you stand the best chance of getting all you can from the input of others.

  10. The writing is yours. Never, never give other people’s opinions more weight than you do your own. No matter how much you respect someone, you should never give up ownership of your own words and ideas.

    First of all, even the best critic can be wrong. Music teachers told Mozart he couldn’t play. English teachers told Stephen King he couldn’t write. Don’t take everything so much to heart that you ignore your own inner voice.

    Also, don’t waste your time trying to convince critics that their opinions are wrong. Just thank them politely and don’t act on their words. If you feel that you have to get everyone “on your side” then you’re missing the point.

    Secondly, even if the critic is right, so what? There’s no rule that says you must take X or Y piece of advice, even if you know intellectually that it is good advice. Even if everyone you know and everyone you ask hates something you’ve written, it doesn’t mean you can’t love it. Just don’t expect to get it published.

There’s no magic formula that will make criticism an easy medicine to take. But believe it or not, it is good for you. And with the right outlook, you can begin to see criticism as a welcome, desirable, and necessary part of the creative process. Good luck.

Copyright © Creative Moose Ventures

www.creativemoose.com

Monique van den Berg runs a poetry workshop online. You can find it at http://www.onelist.com/subscribe/surreality

Dealing with the Newbies

Five Tips for Handling People Who Want You To Critique Their Manuscript (for free, of course)

By Jonathan Moeller

First, some context.

I am a writer of no significance whatsoever. I wrote one novel, which disappeared without a trace, and I’ve written some short stories and nonfiction articles, but none have ever become well-known. In short, in the official taxonomy of writers I am Published but Obscure, and you’ve only heard of me if I’ve managed to tick you off to some extent. Or if I owe you money.

Yet people still ask me to critique their manuscripts.

This experience can range from flattering to downright creepy. One of the worst ones happened a few years ago, shortly after I published my one and only book, when a co-worker approached me during lunch.

Co-worker: “So I wrote a book, and was wondering if you’d read it.”

Me: “What’s it about?”

Co-worker: “Well, there’s a lot of sex with aliens. In fact, you could say it’s mostly sex.”

Me: (nonplussed) “Uh-huh.”

Co-worker: “And it’s pretty violent, too. Lots of just really raw violence.”

Me: (still nonplussed) “Okay.”

Co-worker. “And the sex is pretty violent, too. It’s really just sixty pages of really violent alien sex.”

(long, awkward pause)

Me: “I’m going to go clock back in now.”

Of course, not everyone who asks you to read a manuscript will hand you sixty pages of deeply, deeply disturbing alien love. But, still, it’s an awkward situation. I really don’t want to read someone’s 700 page manuscript, but neither do I want to make a new enemy. Here, then, are five tactful tips for politely turning down the opportunity to read someone’s 700 page magnum opus of interplanetary love.

1.) “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the time.”

Writing takes a lot of time, and sometimes life makes it exceedingly hard to find that time.

The government could summarize my ethnicity and marital status as Creepy Caucasian Loner, so you’d think I’d have ample time to write. But I still struggle to find the time. I work full-time, and sometimes my brain is simply fried at the end of the day. And life throws other stuff at you. I really should cook something for dinner that didn’t come out of a box in the microwave, and I ought to sit down and pay those bills, and I’ve got to look for a new apartment, and I’ve put off returning some phone calls for long enough, and I can’t remember the last time I got some decent exercise, and I have got to get in touch with the car insurance company and my lawyers, and good Lord when was the last time I cleaned the toilet . . .

I am always amazed by married writers with full-time jobs and children who find time to write. Have they forsaken sleep entirely?

The bottom line is that if you’’re doing any kind of serious writing, you’re not going to have a whole lot of time. And that’s a perfectly valid reason to turn down the chance to read someone’s manuscript. You have a lot of other obligations and priorities, and you simply don’t have the time.

2.) “I’m sorry, but I can’t give you the kind of help you want.”

Sometimes people want help that you simply can’t give. They’ll ask for a complete line-edit of their manuscript. Or they’ll want help with a massive rewrite. Or they’ll ask for any number of things that would be a huge imposition on your time (see above) and that you’re really not comfortable doing, or even qualified to do. What then?

Fortunately, this is the era of the Internet, the golden age of information. Sure, there is a lot of garbage out there, but you can also find any number of good resources. Someone wants to know where to sell their writing? Direct them to Ralan.com, or Duotrope, or a copy of Writer’s Market. Need to know how to approach an agent? Several reputable agents frequently blog on that very topic. Want to know how to deal with an editor in a professional manner? Lots of editors write blogs, and heaven knows they’re not hesitant about dispensing their wisdom.

And there’s always Absolute Write, of course.

You may not have the time or the inclination to review someone’s manuscript, or provide them with detailed career advice, but you can point them in the right direction.

3.) “I’m sorry, but I just don’t want to take the legal risk.”

There are countless documented horror stories floating around the writing world. Rights-grabbing publications, greedy agents, dishonest agents, disappearing royalties; almost everyone knows someone who’s gone through that at one time or another. And it’s commonly acknowledged that reading someone’s unpublished work is a substantial legal risk. Why’s that? It’s simple; if you read someone’s manuscript, and then publish a work of your own a few years down the road, there’s always the chance that the same person will pop up, usually in the company of Nazgul-like lawyers, and claim that you stole their work for your own.

Granted, this isn’t all that likely. But like it or not, America (and most of the Western world) is something of a litigious dystopia these days. In certain ways this is a good thing; we don’t have to settle disputes with pistols at dawn. The downside, though, is that one spiteful person with an unscrupulous lawyer can really screw up your life. Reading someone else’s unpublished work is often just not worth the legal risk.

4.) Just ignore it.

Sometimes people will ask for your help in a polite fashion. And sometimes they’ll be total jerks about it. Who are you, they’ll say, to turn me away? You’re an arrogant gasbag! You don’t care about unpublished writers! You got to the top (right!) and you’re pulling up the ladder after you.

One of the great fallacies of the Internet, I think, is that people feel the need to respond to every stupid little thing. Someone writes a blog post you don’t agree with, and you leave a long, angry comment. You come across a message board thread that upsets you, and you plunge into the fray. A nasty e-mail message pops up into the inbox, and you fire off a response.

Life is short, and it’s full of nasty people. So why tolerate them any more than you must? Those Delete and Block Sender buttons are there for good reason. Use them. If someone gives you grief, start blocking and start deleting. Your blood pressure will be the better for it.

5.) Just do it.

And from time to time, you’ll come across someone whom you can help, and whom you want to help. Perhaps a friend, or a family member, or a student who shows a lot of potential. I know it’s hard to believe nowadays, but not everyone you meet is a potential lifelong nemesis with a fetish for litigation.

Everyone was a newbie, once upon a time. I don’t know much about writing or the business of writing, but everything I do know I learned the hard way; why not pass it on to someone? Give someone the chance to avoid learning things the hard way?

It is a risk, I know, and you should use your best judgment. But from time to time risks are worth
taking.

Standing over six feet tall, USA Today bestselling author Jonathan Moeller has the piercing blue eyes of a Conan of Cimmeria, the bronze-colored hair of a Visigothic warrior-king, and the stern visage of a captain of men, none of which are useful in his career as a computer repairman, alas.

He has written the “Demonsouled” trilogy of sword-and-sorcery novels, and continues to write the “Ghosts” sequence about assassin and spy Caina Amalas, the “$0.99 Beginner’s Guide” series of computer books, and numerous other works. Jonathan Moeller has a Website

Critical Critiques: Feedback from Friends and Family

By Natalie Lorenzi

You’ve heard the same advice over and over — nix the pink paper for submissions and don’t ever ask your loved ones  to critique your writing (unless they are writers themselves — and even then, it’s questionable). Why are so many writers negative about feedback from friends and family?

Feedback from Friends and Family

I’ll concede that writers should avoid pink (and otherwise colored) paper, but as for shunning feedback from friends and family —  I’m not so sure. Certainly there are writers who caution against familial feedback. Why? Because the people who love you will undoubtedly claim that they adore your work, since a) they don’t know any better, or b) they don’t want to hurt your feelings. But I have to ask — is that really so bad? The answer: it depends on why you’re asking for their opinion.

You’ve already heard the major reasons to avoid soliciting feedback from familiar folks. Don’t do it…

. . .  to improve your writing skills.

Great Uncle Percy probably won’t offer any tips on subplot, nor will your best friend from high school shed insight on how to revamp your dialogue. And even if your neighbor really is a writer/publisher/editor/agent and hates your work, she can’t just send you a form rejection letter and pray that she never hears from you again. At the very least, she’ll still have to greet you when you take out the trash and pick up your mail.

. . . to impress an editor.

“My kids just adore this particular story . . . ” I can already see the harried editor cringing as he tosses your query over his shoulder. And it won’t matter if your kid’s entire fourth grade class voted your story as the best one in the annals of children’s literature — you might as well open your query with, “Hi, I’m new at this . . . ”

. . . for advice on submitting your work.

When you send in that article on the FDA’s new food pyramid, don’t follow your niece’s suggestion to put scratch-and-sniff food stickers on the envelope. And when your colleague suggests: “Random House publishes a lot of books — why don’t you send your story to them?” remember that you’ll still need to research markets to find the perfect fit for your piece.

Ok, so we know what our loved ones can’t deliver.

Now let’s take a look at why we should seek out their opinions anyway:

To give your ego a boost.

When I e-mailed my first children’s story manuscript to my best friend, she responded the same day: “I’ll be the first in line at your book signing when you hit the New York Times best-seller list!” How can you read something like that and not smile? And from my mom, the avid reader — “Oh, honey, it’s the best story I’ve ever read.” The gushing was palpable. Do I really think it’s the best story she’s ever read? Probably (ok, definitely) not. But even if it’s a story that only a mother can love, her comment still gave my writing ego a boost.

To ease the sting of rejection.

When an editor of a major women’s magazine passed on one of my queries, my sister’s response was: “That woman’ll be sorry one day when your story shows up in one of their competitor’s magazines!” I can just see her raising her eyebrows and nodding sagely. My dad confirmed: “What does that editor know? I don’t think that particular magazine is all that popular anymore, anyway. Why don’t you try one of the bigger magazines?” He had no way of knowing that “that magazine” boasts more than 13 million readers — he just knew that none of those 13 million would be reading his daughter’s article — their loss, apparently. Sure, I was disappointed about the rejection, but picturing my dad admonishing this big-time editor did elicit a smug smile from my lips.

For improvements

What? Didn’t I just explain that someone who loves you can’t help you improve your writing? Well, this may be true most of the time. But you just might discover a few nuggets of literary lucidity buried amongst all the “Oh, it’s wonderful!” comments. After my husband read my middle grade children’s manuscript, I sat back, ready to bask in the glow of his compliments. And he did say some nice things. But what sticks with me are the words: “Honey, all of your characters are boys. Girls tend to be more avid readers, anyway. Won’t you be alienating a good portion of your market by not having any female characters?” Huh? I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that. He was right, of course, so George became Susan, and thank goodness for the “Find/Change” feature that took care of all the instances of “she” and “her.”

Do you want the truth about your writing? Constructive feedback, maybe? Join a critique group, or take a class. Do you want a boost after finding your twenty-seventh consecutive rejection lurking in the mailbox? Then ask your loved ones to read your writing. Don’t use their feedback to hone your craft; use it to fill your heart. If you want to remind yourself that you’re worth more than the sum of your rejections minus those scant acceptances — go ahead and send a copy of your latest piece to your grandmother. I’ll bet she says it’s the best thing she’s ever read.

Cover of Natalie LorenziNatalie Dias Lorenzi is a full-time school librarian in Fairfax, Virginia, where a majority of her students are immigrants. She has previously taught in the US, Japan, and Italy, specializing in English as a Second Language. Natalie also writes curriculum guides for writers and publishers. She is the author of Flying the Dragon, which was a Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Book of the Year. She’s a great writer — just ask her friends and family. Natalie Lorenzi has a Website

Writer’s Group Etiquette Tips

By Julie Rogers and June Ford

My editor and I frequently talk to writers—many who are or have been members of writer’s groups. More and more we find ourselves pulling out these tips because we believe healthy writing etiquette among peers in writer’s groups encourages good writing habits. When a writer begins working professionally with an editor, the writer’s group carryovers from training, etiquette, and experience become clear. If a writer is inflexible or impatient, that comes out in the process. On the other hand, if an editor is a frustrated writer, the end product will be overwritten and stylistically untrue to the writer’s original vision.

We encourage struggling writer’s groups to put the following writer’s group tips into practice for at least three meetings. We believe the best writing comes from writers who, by hard knocks or intention, are moving into higher realms of personal growth. Above all, we encourage all writers to continue becoming good writers, a process we believe never stops—by studying the craft, reading, and of course, writing your dream.

Writer’s Group Tips

  • Inventory—Who are the participants in the writer’s group, and what are they writing? A writer’s group with longevity caters to the writing interests and skills of the entire bunch. Periodic surveys are helpful in determining whether needs are being met.
  • Involvement—Encourage members to speak to the group on topics they feel comfortable presenting. Topics don’t necessarily have to center around the craft of writing, but can pertain to work, experience, hobbies, etc.
  • Reviews—Book or movie reviews teach writers about elements of critique and how to examine their own work. Encourage writer’s group members to present reviews, allowing ten-to-fifteen minutes, or one per meeting. When writing a review, include all statistics (genre, author, screenwriter, publisher, producer, director, year of copyright, etc.). Give a brief synopsis of the story, including the protagonist’s external and internal conflicts. Compare the work, if applicable, to other works that author/writer has produced. List strong and weak points of the work.
  • Written Critiques—Divide into subgroups of writers who share the same writing interests. The subgroup should be no larger than three people. Members should bring a predetermined amount of material (usually around five pages) to be read. The subgroup will read every set of pages silently for ten minutes and make notes or corrections on the copy. When all sets of pages are read, the group or subgroups will discuss each manuscript for ten minutes.
  • Oral Critiques—Divide the writer’s group into subgroups of writers who share the same writing interests. Each member should bring a predetermined amount of typewritten pages (no more than ten) to be read out loud. Allow ten minutes after each reading for oral critiques from other members of the subgroup.
  • Guest Lectures—If the writer’s group has no coffer for paying guest speakers, seek out possible freebies from new authors, editorial services, agents, area experts, and area colleges. Remember that these lectures should not center on the craft of writing. Area newspapers, and radio and television stations are good resources for who’s who or the latest up-and-coming in your area.
  • Positive Feedback—Read the entire work. As a general rule of thumb, find and list three positive points first about the work you’re critiquing.
  • Negative Feedback—Critiques that offer solutions to correct a problem are preferable. If you offer negative criticism, be prepared to present two possible solutions for every negative comment.
  • Share the Work—Whether by election or by proxy, members should rotate secretarial and moderator duties to avoid staleness and burnout.
  • Socials/Outings—Downtime and socials provide a more casual, less structured and intimidating atmosphere for discussing lengthier projects or writing woes. If the group consistently meets at one location, this change of setting can do wonders for fueling creative energies.
  • Respect Craft—Writers who truly love the craft will respect its difficulty and be enthused by any effort to write. Whether a manuscript is great, good, or terrible, someone took the time to write it. That’s commendable. No one writes the best work the first time out. We encourage writer’s groups to respect writers who really work at craft regardless of ethnicity, background, or education. These writers may be the very ones who become really good working writers.
  • Second Opinion—Most writers share the experience of limping away from a critique. Subjecting your baby to criticism—even good criticism—is tough. Collect a spread of criticisms, usually between two and five, and never, ever rework a manuscript on one critique alone. Good critiques will adhere to the feedback tips given above and will genuinely seek to be helpful, versus simply ripping someone’s work apart. If a writer in your group goes home, puts away the project, and never pulls it out again, due to a critique—there’s a good chance it was a bad critique.
  • Read, digest, study—Writing is challenging enough, and making time to read can be even more challenging. Listen to audio books while doing house chores or exercising. Stowaway books and audio books in your car. You’ll be surprised how much time you have on the road, waiting in line at the bank, or the post office, or at restaurants—even if it means reading in snatches.
  • Share book and movie reviews with other writers. You obviously don’t have time to read everything, but a comprehensive review from another writer or book club member can broaden your horizons. Read good, acclaimed works, classics, trades, magazines, breaking news and events.
  • Read what interests you, but also try broadening your perspective (and writing capabilities) by reading a variety of genres. Consider forming or joining a book club. Reading lists are available from Writer’s Digest as well as some editorial services, book clubs, and online writers’ web sites. Reading story analyses and summaries is good practice, as well. Study what works. Cliff Notes usually offer good story, character, and writing element analyses.
  • Golden Rule—Sadly, many conferences and online critique groups today feel they have to post requests for participants to be kind to each other. Cutthroat behavior can permeate a writer’s world at any level. We encourage writers not to play that game. Working writers with longevity in the industry establish their careers with genuine courtesy and appreciation of other people, especially other writers.

Julie Rogers’ articles have been featured in numerous self-help, inspirational, and fiction publications. She is the author of Happy Tails: How Pets Can Help You Survive Divorce, and the 1999 Writer’s Digest Writing Competition Grand Prize Winner for her short story “House Call.” She is a producer at True Grit Films and represented by Jeff Ross Management. Julie is a journalism graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Julie Rogers has a Website.

June Ford has worked in a variety of editorial positions for publishing houses, magazines, and newspapers, including in-house for publishing companies as a managing editor, project editor, and editor. She has been commissioned to write trade books ranging from psychology to business and finance, coffee table pictorials to true crime. June has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.

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