A big thanks to Carol Fragale Brill for her guest post as follows…
A beginning writer recently asked me, “If you could give a newbie writer just one piece of advice, what would it be?”
I didn’t have to think about my answer, “Seek the support of other writers.”
Fifteen years ago when I started writing creatively, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Fast forward and what I’ve learned from other writers could fill a bookcase. Here are some steps that helped me connect with and learn from other writers.
1. Join a writing support group – Not all writing groups are the same. Some support and motivate you to keep writing, others are more instructional, providing feedback and critique. My first writing group was more the supportive “keep writing” kind. As a newbie, having other writers listen to my writing and encourage me to keep writing was exactly what I needed. Slowly, as my self-confidence as a writer increased, I realized I needed more than encouragement. That’s when I sought out another type of writing group.
2. Find a critique based writing group and/or trusted writing critique partners – It can be difficult to open your writing up for critique. When you are ready to hear both what’s working and not working in your writing, seek out writers you trust to give you feedback. While writers from different genres can be helpful, it’s important to get critique from writers who represent your intended audience—those who read and write in your genre. And, always try to connect with writers who are more advanced, and know more about writing craft than you do.
3. Attend workshops and conferences – Workshops and conferences give you the opportunity to meet and network with writers at every level—beginners, intermediate and advanced, very accomplished writers and teachers. Sessions often focus on specific aspects of writing craft. I’ve made many long lasting writer friends this way. And, your workshop leader just might be your next mentor.
4. Read, Read, Read in your genre – When I started writing creatively, I had no idea there were so many elements to writing craft. As I met and began to learn from other writers, I realized how important it was to put in the time to study craft—characterization, plotting, show don’t tell, creating a sense of time and place. Once you start to understand craft, grab a few books in your genre and read them like a writer, dissecting how the author uses craft to create emotion and drama.
All those years ago, I arrived at my first writing group meeting empty handed. Members encouraged me to draft something to bring to the next meeting. Two weeks later, I timidly read the three handwritten pages it had taken me hours to write. Our meeting host, a kindly writer named Herb asked, “Where do you want to go with that?” Eight simple words, yet somewhere from the depths of my uncertainty those eight words empowered me to blurt out, “I want to write a book!” I had just read—what I now know were three dreadfully overwritten pages. Yet Herb and the others didn’t criticize. Instead, Herb smiled reassuringly and said, “Good, you’ve got a start. Now, one page at a time, write your book.”
That night, if Herb or any of the other writers had been truthful about the sorry state of my writing, they could have shattered my fragile writer ego. It might have taken me years to find the courage to try again. Those writers knew I was a newbie and it wasn’t their job to tell me whether or not I had talent or how much my writing needed to improve. Later in my writing journey, as I gained self-confidence and thickened my writer’s skin, there would be plenty of opportunities for feedback like that. Instead, Herb and the others simply encouraged me to keep writing. Developing as a writer, completing two novels, self-publishing, and marketing have been daunting at times. More than once, I have asked myself, “If I knew then what I know now, would I have even tried?”
I will always be grateful for Herb’s simple words and the support and encouragement of countless other writers for their encouragement. Word by word, they have motivated me to grow into the best writer I can be.
Carol Fragale Brill is the author of two novels, PEACE BY PIECE and CAPE MAYBE, an Amazon Women’s Fiction Best Seller, Digital Books Today and Wall-To-Wall Books Best of 2014 Indie Book, and a Shelf Unbound Best of 2014 Notable Indie. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Novel excerpts received recognition from Poets and Writers and The Best of Philadelphia Stories readers’ favorites. Her works have also appeared in I Am Subject, Wide Array, New York Journal of Books, the Press of Atlantic City, and various online e-zines and business journals. She also writes book reviews for New York Journal of Books. In her “day job” as a Leadership Coach and educator she frequently uses stories in training. Read Carol’s Blog
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