Anyone Ever Laugh When You Say You’re a Writer?

You Need a Real Job

Summoned to my high school guidance counselor’s office, I learned not everyone thinks being a writer is a good idea.  I still recall the meeting as if it were yesterday.

“Why can’t I be an author?” I asked. I wanted to be the next Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth, or Ray Bradbury. They were the best-selling authors of the day.

Her career choices for me came from the father role models on the popular television programs of the era. She wanted me to be the next Mike Brady (the architect dad on The Brady Bunch) or an aerospace engineer like Steven Douglas (My Three Sons).

“Jimmie, you’re a boy. You need a college degree in engineering, math, science, or accounting. You have to earn enough money to support your future wife and family. Forget your silly notion that a man can support himself by writing. It is okay to write for a hobby, but you will need a real job. With your grades you could even aspire to be a medical doctor or dentist,” she said.

I was heartbroken. Raised to believe I could do anything, now I wasn’t so sure.

Has anyone ever laughed at your vision of writing? Perhaps you have been told you lack life experience or you don’t stand a chance because everyone is writing now that they can simply self-publish on Amazon.

You may have feelings of doubt, thinking if only you had an MFA. If only your family and spouse supported you more. If you could quit your day job. Maybe you are in your sixties like me. You think it is too late. You say I am just too old. If only…

We all experience self-doubt. Friends and family do not always understand our passion.

Everyone faces such challenges. My faith as a Christian also helps me overcome such thoughts. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned.

Some people will never understand your passion for writing. Don’t bother trying to explain. Just let them watch as you write.

Read

Reading is necessary for writing. Not only is reading the fodder for writing, it is fun. It also helps me relax as well as grow.

Write

I know it sounds silly, but to become a writer you have to write. I have heard for years that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. 10,000 hours is five years worth of forty-hour weeks. Maybe that is why it takes ten years for so many to get that first traditional book deal. Do not be a want to be a writer. Write.

Edit

This includes proofreading, rewriting, and polishing. No one is perfect. Critique groups help as well as reputable professional editing services. Rewrite as needed.

Submit

To your surprise, someone may like and buy what you wrote.

Rejection

Being rejected is not personal. Your writing may be bad. It may be good, but just not meet the publisher’s or editor’s needs. You may have submitted to the wrong market or not followed the submission guidelines (both guarantee a rejection). Every writer gets rejections. The photo is a rejection I received from the New Yorker Magazine. I’ve been rejected by the best.

Acceptance

Selling a book or an article doesn’t guarantee success. Many times it means the real work is only beginning. Having your work accepted by a publisher feels good. It feels very good.

Writers’ Groups

Consider joining a writers’ group. I have belonged to three over the years. I have changed groups as I have changed. Some groups I have belonged to were for critique. Some have been to learn the business of writing. Some have been for the encouragement.

I know the thoughts I have shared are all items you have heard many times before. Sometimes a reminder is good.

We all have people like my old high school guidance counselor in our lives. Do not let their negative words keep you from writing. If you have the urge to write, write! It’s not too late.

The formula really is simple. It is read, write, edit, rewrite, submit, and repeat. If your writing is good enough and if what you write matches the publisher’s need, you just may see your story in print.


Photo Source: Pixabay

Writer’s Groups: What to Look For and Costs

Writer's GroupI wrote this about eighteen months ago. The points are still relevant. Tonight I got off work at 6:00 PM. I drove through twenty-five miles of rush hour traffic to get to my writer’s workshop. Dinner was missed to attend the meeting. While the meeting started exactly at 7:00 PM, it was 7:20 before I arrived at the meeting.

People have a variety of viewpoints when it comes to belonging to a writer’s workshop. Some authors like Dean Koontz abhor them. Many writers cannot stand them. Some say they will cause you to quit writing or destroy your writing style. Other’s say they couldn’t write without them.

I belong to the DFW Writer’s Workshop. The group has been around since 1977. Over the years members have had over 300 traditionally published books. The workshop also sponsors an annual writer’s conference (DFWCon). The group charges $100 per year to be a member. That is only $2.00 a week.

I had published over two dozen magazine articles before joining the group. I credit the group with keeping me motivated and moving to completing my first novel. The group caused me to look at my writing at a level I didn’t know existed. I provided encouragement in seeing fellow members get published.

Here are some thoughts on selecting, joining, and attending a writers group.

1. Does the writer’s workshop have  in writing clearly defined goals?

  • Does the group know where it is going?
  • Does it meet regularly?

2. Does the group start on time and stay on mission?

  • My group starts on time. It begins with a large group session.
  • We recognize guests, ask them what they write, and how they found out about the workshop.
  • We next ask for rejection followed by asking for submissions.
  • We then ask about acceptances.
  • After the large group session we break into small critique groups where member read and get critiqued.
  • The reading is generally about 10 minutes and the critique about 5 minutes.
  • We have a monitor for the group who times and moderates the reading/critique.

3. Does the group have an interest in your type of writing or is it just a niche group?

  • Is it a first amendment group allowing freedom of expression?
  • Does it require you to filter your writing through the scope of the group? For example, you would not want to attend a Christian writer’s group if you write erotica.

4. Are there any rules for people whose work is being criticized to follow?

  • Again, this is essential.
  • People get very defensive when others are telling them what they did wrong.
  • Their first impulse is to be defensive.
  • The critique-ee needs to have rules to follow.
  • We have them listen with no response or rebuttal.
  • You need to listen to what people have to say about your writing and learn from it. 

5. Does the group allow you time to network and develop relationships with others in the group?

  • Do the group members like each other?
  • Are they happy to see you and urge you to take part?
  • Does the group assimilate new members?
  • Does everyone get to read?
  • If the group members spend more time telling you how great they are or what they hope to do instead of staying on schedule and mission, find a different group.

6. Should I pay to attend a writer’s group?

  • Most writer’s groups in the USA are free and run by volunteers. Fee based groups are also common.
  • One of the most expensive writer’s groups in the USA is the The Original Los Angeles Writers Group™. The cost for new members is $475 a year while returning members get a break at $450. The is about $9.00 per week.
  • The Kansas City Writer’s Critique Group meets in ten week sessions with each session costing $65.00 ($5.50 per week).
  • I mentioned before the DFW Writer Group at $100 per year ($2 per week).
  • The Burlington Vermont Writer’s Group cost $12.00 per month.
  • I have attended pay and free groups. Most pay groups are very polished, professional, stay on task honoring the attendee’s time by starting and stopping on time plus having a set break. They are connected to educational institutions or a legal nonprofits with a constitution by-laws and elected leadership from the paid membership that manage / lead the group. They are not social in nature and have had an evaluation element. The leader in the pay group many ties receives your writing assignment in advance. They check your style, grammar, transitions, etc. as a proofreader / outside editor. They may lead you in structured activities within the group as well. Most paid groups last only 60 to 120 minutes with 90 minutes being the average. Again, select the group to meet your need.

Be Encouraged

Today is Sunday March 17, 2013. 

One way a writer can become successful is by having a more established writer as a mentor. Writing groups can serve the function of mentor. Let me share an example of the influence a mentor. In 1919 a young veteran returned from World War I. He moved to Chicago moving into a particular neighborhood for the purpose of being close to the author Sherwood Anderson.

The young beginning writer was impressed by the critical praise for Anderson and his book Winesburg, Ohio. He had heard that Sherwood Anderson was willing to help aspiring writers. He worked to met Anderson. The two men became close friends. They met almost every day to read newspapers, magazines, and novels. They dissected the writings they read.

The aspiring writer brought his own works for critique having Anderson help him improve his craft. Anderson went as far as introducing the want-to-be writer to his network of publishing contacts. The aspiring writer did okay with his first book The Sun Also Rises. The aspiring writer was Ernest Hemingway.

Sherwood Anderson didn’t stop there. He moved to New Orleans where he met another aspiring writer. He took the young man through the same steps and paces of the craft. He actually shared an apartment with this young man. He even invested $300 in getting this writer’s first book Soldier’s Pay published. This young author was William Faulkner.

Anderson would later move to California and repeat the process with John Steinbeck. Thomas Wolfe and Erskine Caldwell were also mentored by Sherwood Anderson. Ray Bradbury says Winesburg, Ohio was on his mind when he wrote The Martin Chronicles. He basically wrote Winesburg, Ohio placing it on the planet Mars.

Only Mark Twain has had a greater influence in shaping modern American writing than Sherwood Anderson. Anderson didn’t do too badly, did he? William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck each won the Nobel Prize for Literature and there are multiple Pulitzer Prizes between them.

If you are serious about writing I encourage you to find a mentor or join a writing group. The encouragement of my writer’s group and critique group keep me motivated.

Encourage your friends, keep reading and write.
Jimmie A. Kepler