How To Get Published

When my writing group came over Saturday for breakfast and critique, I showed them the book stack photo I’d posted on Instagram. The book stack was all the books we’ve published since we’ve been together, but I had a feeling there were a few I’d missed. Turns out yes, there were even more books.

What I was right about is that none of us had published any of the books in the stack before we became a group eight years ago. And now we’ve got 15 books of fiction published between us, with four more on the go. Two of us had published a few books before, but the other two had not published anything, although they had lots of novels in manuscript form. We accomplished the getting published part together. Our monthly Saturday morning meetings have made me (and I hope, each of them) a better and more prolific writer.

Maybe because I knew I needed them, I started the group. It went through a few iterations before it became the firmly committed four of us, two women and two men, novelists all. And look at what we’ve done together. Everyone in the group seemed as stunned and satisfied as I’d felt when I had gathered those books into a stack and snapped that photo. It’s real, it’s tangible proof. Writing groups help writers get published.

I’ve been in many writing groups though the years, and all of them have had benefits, but this small group is the one that I count on when it comes to publishing a new novel. It took me a long time to find these folks, or rather, they found me. And I’m endlessly grateful. My life has been enriched by each of them, and not just my writing life. We’re all married forever types and the spouses are an extended part of our circle. They join us for breakfast before we get down to work. We see each other socially with our partners, too.

They stick by me, loyal even as I absent myself from Michigan for a few months these last few years. I can always count on them to tell me the truth, even when it hurts. None of us is a cruel critic, but we are honest. We are not simply cheerleaders for each other, although we are that. Our highest priority is to help each other write the best books we can, and sometimes that means saying the difficult things. In our favor is the fact that we all understand our core function: to help each other get it right, and get published, again and again.

Writing is a lonely job. You really won’t understand that until you’ve spent the time required to write and publish a book or ten. And that’s another key ingredient to a writing group: friendship with others who are committed to the writing life. I value these writers so highly. They get it, the writing thing, like nobody else, not even a spouse, does. I’m grateful to have them in my life. They help make being a writer less lonely. And they absolutely are the reason I have published such a satisfying number of books.

Wanna get published? Join a writer’s group. Or start one yourself.

Full Circle

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Last time I “won” the famous November writing challenge to write 50.000 words in a month was 2005. I had previously published one book, a creative writing text I used in the classroom. I was also teaching college full time and writing reviews for Romantic Times magazine. Ten years later, I have published ten books. Eight of them novels or novellas. But the first novel I published was Sister Issues, the one I wrote during NaNoWriMo, the one recently released in print.

Feels like full circle as I write book #11 this month with the help of the greatest motivator ever. Words are flowing again after a two week writing break and then a week of organizing my thoughts and getting a solid conflict and a couple of characters to start my story. I’ll be working on a Christmas novel, something I have always wanted to write. A Blue Lake Christmas is #4 of six books contracted for the Blue Lake series with The Wild Rose Press.

I’m a believer in NaNo but November has not typically been a good month for me to start and finish a novel. This year, it just worked out. It’s been a while since I pounded out 50K in one month. Feeling a bit like really, can I actually do this? But then I remember I already did. So yes, I’m ready to NaNo and I highly recommend the process for anyone who wants (or like me, needs) external motivation.

Here’s to Bob

Bob just published his first novel! Yay!

And I had the pleasure of taking that journey with him, from the minute he sat in my Advanced Creative Writing class with at least one completed manuscript and a whole lot of determination.

To be a writer you need those three things: determination, some pages with words you wrote upon them, and a tribe. That’s my tribe, above: I’m sitting next to Bob, next to Tom, next to Vernie.

That writing class was Bob’s tribe for the moment. We writers move around. I don’t even teach college anymore; I write full time now. Neither Bob nor I were published when we met.

How Bob Baker became a friend of mine is pretty straightforward. I recognized his talent. I encouraged him. I was apparently nice enough so that he felt okay emailing me after our school semester was over. I was confident enough in his talent to invite him into my writing group, and he was confident enough to accept. Thus, a tribe was formed.

My writing group–it’s a small group, just four of us–came about through many offers for participants on my part and much comings and goings on the part of others until we settled into a fine quartet. We’ve been meeting there or four years now once a month with 10-20 pages each. We spend five hours tearing each other’s work apart giving each other constructive criticism and talking about writing in general. Publishing, too.

When the group began, we had two published writers and two unpublished. Bob has rounded it out so that now with the advent of Hiding Tom Hawk we are all published, all quite pleased with ourselves. And my best advice to any writer is to find your tribe. There’s no mystery to getting published. Practice and show your work to a few trusted souls and follow the well worn path that the internet is very happy to set out.

Here's to you, Bob!
Here’s to you, Bob!

I’ve got a book about it. I wish I could give every one of you a copy but it sold out in print although there’s a newer edition of Your Words, Your Story anyway with the whole scoop on indie publishing, and whether you are published by a traditional press or as an indie, (and I’v been both) nothing will ever feel better than holding your first book in your hands.

To help say congrats to Bob, I will send free copies of both e-books, mine and his, to the first three people who comment today. And thanks for reading about my lovely band of merry writers.

Marketing for Introverts & Other People

print.booksAre you an introvert? Many writers are. I know I am. Therefore I’ve made a list of easy things shy writers can do to help sell their work. As I said in yesterday’s post, if  you publish, you need to market as well. So here’s what you can do to improve your visibility as a writer:

1. Join a writer’s group. I did. It’s easy. Go to meetings and listen. I became a member of Detroit Working Writers several years ago and the organization continues to inspire me. DWW started with a dozen women in 1900. We’re still going strong. You don’t have to be published to join.

2. Go to a conference. The workshop leaders and keynote speaker do almost all of the talking. They bring you news from the world of publishing. DWW’s annual conference this year is May 17, 2014 at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library. You can sign up early and get a discount.

3. Enter a writing competition. At our conference, we conclude by announcing the winners of our writing competition. First prize in all five categories is $100, so check it out. You do not have to attend the conference to enter the writing competition, but it would be fun, right?

4. Start a blog and begin to build your platform. If you don’t know what a platform is, you can ask anybody in DWW. Seasoned writers are available to mentor beginners. And blogging, heck, you do this alone in your writing room. What could be easier? I love Word Press but Blogger is also user-friendly.

If you do these four things for your writing self, you will succeed. When I joined DWW several years ago, I had self-published one book, a non-fiction writer’s manual. Since becoming a member of DWW and joining in some of the many networking and critique groups they offer, I’ve published four novels. Proof, to me at least, of the value of stepping out of the shy box.

 

Confessions of a Conference Junkie

I remember reading an essay by Anne Lamott in Salon years ago saying she felt horrible being paid to attend writing conferences where agents and editors and speakers all promised what she feels cannot be delivered: a book contract.

My reaction to that, as a conference junkie from way back, was at first shock, then horror, then acceptance. I’d been to enough conferences to know that I am never going to be the golden one who signs with an agent on the spot or whose workshop leader says “I have to send your pages to my editor.” I’d heard of those things happening, and even saw it once or twice. But, mostly, I know that I will come home from the conference having learned all I could, including that conferences don’t equal contracts.

In her essay, Lamott shared some dire statistics about writers. Most published writers need another job to support themselves. Writing doesn’t make you rich or famous or even published. What she didn’t know then that we understand now is that writing CAN and DOES get you published. But not usually rich or famous. And yes, if you need to support yourself, most writers will have to find another way to do it. Writing in the dark or at dawn or during a particularly boring meeting.

My first writing conference was way back in the 80s. I’ve been to one almost every year since then. I know they’re not going to make me published. I’m already published! What I got out of conferences was exactly what I needed: writing friends, writing skills, writing saturation. Most of my friends are not writers and total immersion in real life of a whole bunch of writers is like being in heaven, with ink pens.

So now I’m planning a conference for the historic Detroit Working Writers. I’m chairing this event, setting up workshops and checking out caterers. For the past few years, since I’ve been published, I’ve been speaking or giving workshops at conferences instead of participating as an aspiring writer. But I like to sneak into a session or two just to fill myself with that feeling of thirty or forty or maybe even a hundred beating writer hearts in one room.

This is taking some time away from my WIP. It’s okay though because it is so much fun. Unlike Lamott, I feel like I can put together a conference that will help people become writers, the way conferences helped me learn the skills I needed to succeed. And that whole publishing thing? Easy as pie these days. Here’s the proof.