I went to my first writing group meeting two months ago and to my second writing group meeting one month ago. I can’t say I am hooked yet, but I will go to my third meeting this coming month. I am new to the novel writing process and had no idea what to expect. I know I need some type of feedback and perhaps a healthy dose of encouragement since my writing has stalled somewhere between the first draft and the second draft. Here’s what happened in the group.
The first meeting took place in an upstairs room at a bar in a small town about a half-hour drive from my home. It started promptly at 7:00 p.m. but I underestimated the drive time and arrived shortly after the meeting started. The group seemed very friendly and welcoming and I made a very short introduction and then sat down and listened to the main speaker, a successful full-time science-fiction writer who talked about his own struggles and his writing process. He knew what he was doing. The talk was engaging, and generated a lively question and answer period. It was an enjoyable night, and a great change of pace for me. I have learned that writing can be a very lonely endeavor, and meeting a group with similar struggles is encouraging.
Whenever I attend a presentation, I try to pick out one or two “take-aways” from the meeting. In this case, I was a little surprised that my major “take-away” was the use of noise-cancelling headphones. The presenter actually wrote a lot in a local Wegman’s to avoid the distractions of home and family. He used noise cancelling headphones to screen out ambient noise and listen to some music appropriate to his writing. The headphones also served to send a message to passers-by that he was engaged in serious work and was not to be disturbed. It worked! A second successful full-time writer in the group echoed the value of noise-cancelling headphones.
As a very low-tech aspiring writer, I had no idea of the value of noise-cancelling headphones and went out and bought a pair. Good ones are not cheap, but they do screen out ambient noise. I downloaded a free one-hour sounds of a rainstorm, which seems to work really well for me. I haven’t figured out which type of music to listen to, but for now the rainstorm is doing a great job for me as I write this blog and do the associated work in trying to build an audience. The novel is still stalled, but the engines are starting to run a little bit despite the constant sounds of a rainstorm.
The second meeting I attended was much the same structure. This time, I arrived early enough to have dinner with the group before 7:00 p.m. which helped to meet people in a more informal setting. The invited speaker was a publicist, and talked about the world of publishing and marketing books. To me, this is a very depressing message. Writing your book is one thing, marketing it is almost a full-time job, particularly if you are not facile with the wonderful world of social media. My “take-away” from this meeting was that you need to get familiar with social media early on because there is a steep learning curve to master the nuances of various platforms. So I will try to keep up with this blog, partly to learn the process and make my inevitable mistakes before I am involved in any book launch.
Next month is a critique session where the members submit work for critique. That should be highly entertaining but intimidating at the same time. These people appear to be very good writers.