Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Discovering a Community for Writing, a Guest Post by D. C. Wynters

Jill here. Today's guest post comes from D. C. Wynters, who is here to talk about his journey in discovering a community for writing. It's so important to have writing friends, and if you've not yet done that, I hope that this post will inspire you to find some. Please welcome, D. C.!

D. C. Wynters started telling stories in second grade but after a creative writing class in sixth grade and a two-week writing spree in eighth, he started to get serious about writing. Now, armed with a second-hand laptop, more notebooks and pencils than should be under one roof, and a boundless mind, he is pursuing his dream of publishing his stories. In the meantime, he runs, learns, and works way too much. You can follow him @DCWynters on Wattpad.

Not too long ago, the Go Teen Writers blog and many of the blog readers participated in November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a time when all levels of authors attempted to write 50,000 words in thirty days. While the event ended on November 30, the fun can keep going. The annual event is arbitrated by a nonprofit called NaNoWriMo, which manages another event: Camp NaNoWriMo.

Camp NaNoWriMo is very similar to NaNoWriMo, but takes place during April and July and each author gets to decide their own goal. Also, Camp NanoWriMo sorts people into “cabins.” These are digital groups of writers who can communicate with each other over chat and can see each other’s profiles, which could include a short synopsis and an excerpt from each author’s manuscript in addition to the regular profile information. 

After writing 50,000 words in November of 2015, I decided to try Camp NaNoWriMo with the writing club at my school. The experience was amazing and invaluable to me as a writer; it opened my eyes to a better way to go about writing and helped me recognize that all writers (and their processes) are different. What I learned from Camp is that it is far better to write in a community than to write alone.

Many writers are used to writing solo and find it comforting. It could be the only time of the day they experience peace and quiet. Or it could be that they need to detach from friends and minimize human interaction to be productive.

But there is another way!




The writing club at my school hosts unofficial “write-ins” where participants come to the library and write for an hour and a half after school. The write-ins I participated in were not widely attended (they were on Friday afternoons), but the people who came always had good things to say. While participants spent the majority of the time typing, we did talk. We shared each other’s writing struggles and story concepts. We encouraged each other and shared our strategies. As we wrote together, I spent a lot less time distracted by the Internet and became excited anew by my manuscript. I also felt better coming out of write-ins having encouraged people along the way. Imagine walking away from a writing session feeling happy and refreshed rather than exhausted and discouraged!

Another benefit of talking to other writers about my manuscript was that it forced me to give solid words to describe something nebulous in my mind. I have been working on my current manuscript for almost three years and so trying to articulate what it is about was difficult but valuable. Plus, sharing snippets of my work allowed me to get feedback, as well as gauge the level of my writing skills. For those who spend all their life writing in solitude, they might think they were the greatest writers in the world! But with others evaluating your work, it can either be a helpful knock down for the prideful or a leg up for those who speedily self-depreciate. Recently, I assembled a list of beta readers and created a critique group with some of my writer friends. The feedback my beta readers gave me showed me problems I previously had not seen or did not know how to improve and helped me fix them.

Whether you write for fun or are close to publishing your debut novel, I recommend that you get into a writing group. This could be made up of fellow writers, friends, or even acquaintances that are interested in your writing. Once you find a group, discuss your goals for the group and decide what you will and won’t do. You can write together by doing write-ins or word sprints. You can brainstorm with each other. You can ask for feedback. And best of all, you can encourage each other. If you cannot meet in person, then you can find ways to meet online by: setting up a blog, a wiki, using email loops, or a private Facebook group.

One of the greatest parts of writing is discovering what works best for you; there is every reason to apply that to writing with other people. Hopefully you will find something as helpful to you as Camp was for me. May you meet new friends, improve your work, and discover for yourself a community for writing!

If you are part of a writing group: How did you find your group? What do you do in it?

If you are not part of a writing group: What are you looking for in one? Share in the comments.

31 comments:

  1. I'm looking for a group that enjoys the genre that I like (fantasy) and will tell me what they actually think of the section/book/paragraph that I share with them. I have recently taken to sharing with my family, and briefing them beforehand:
    This is my heart. Please do not poke it, prod it, stab it or crush it.
    It's not my favorite method.
    I also want people who can tell me what is wrong with my writing, and tell me how I can fix it.

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    1. For some reason, my reply to this was posted in a different comment thread. My bad!
      Getting honest feedback is definitely a challenge sometimes. I had an interesting experience watching people critique my work when they didn't know who had written it. I felt as though people were thoughtful and relatively honest because for all they knew, I wasn't watching at all! I got some good constructive criticism from that exercise. If you have an opportunity to do something like that, I'd highly recommend it.

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  2. Thanks for the guest post, D. C. This is a great topic.

    I'm a part of several writing groups. I have an actual critique group. We read one person's book or chapters a month, then get together for critique. The next month, we switch turns. I'm also in a group of authors online who are friends and exist for community, to give advice and encourage. It is not a critique group, and if we read each other's books, it's during the beta stage or once they're published. I'm also in a local marketing group. There are four of us and we get together once a month to talk about promo and share what works and what doesn't.

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    1. Hi Jill! I kinda wish I could join a writing club but so much has been in my life : (. I will soon be starting college and i have become a runner and a writer and it is just so hard to keep up. I do best doing things at my own pace....

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  3. I would love to be part of a writing group. Unfortunately, I have almost no time in my day to do something like that. I have sent my draft out to some beta readers but I am afraid they will end up saying that it is absolutely amazing. It may sound like a good thing but my draft is far from perfect. Sigh... if only.
    - Book Dragon

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    1. I agree with you.... People saying that my first draft is amazing doesn't help me to become a better writer. I'd rather they say, "Your hook is a little flat, this character doesn't seem likely to do that, this needs to be fixed, etc," with no positive feedback than them only saying, "You did so well. This is amazing!" Without telling me what is amazing. :D

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    2. I can definitely relate to being busy. The flexibility of digital writing groups really helps me find time to critique other's work and that's why I like them so much.
      Don't get discouraged by the lack of constructive criticism! Just keep trying to make your writing the best you can and keep looking for someone who will give the kind of feedback you're looking for!

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  4. I agree entirely with what you are saying. I am not in a writing club, mainly because I don't have the time, and there aren't any in the area. Starting one isn't really an option, either. But I still believe that feedback from others is important. I mainly get my sister (she is also writing) to critique my writing. I give her feedback also. Though her evaluations aren't always encouraging, I end up inspired all the same. It's good to know someone that will really tell you what's good or bad about writing without sparing your feelings. There are way too many people that give fake positive feedback. O_______O
    Thank you for the lovely advice! xD I hope you do more posts later on!

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    1. You're welcome and thank you for the kind words.
      It sounds like you've found a great beta reader; be sure to keep asking for her advice!

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    2. You are very welcome!
      I have! Her writing is amazing, so I know I am getting advice from the right person... :D

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  5. A local author hosts monthly high school writing workshops at my library. We read our short stories aloud and then give constructive criticism; we also eat too much cheddar popcorn and fangirl over Sherlock and Harry Potter. It's so much fun!! I'm actually missing one tonight. :(

    Hailey
    haileyhudson.wordpress.com

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    1. Talking about favorite books is part of the fun! When we did the writing sessions, we spent a little too much time talking about Throne of Glass rather than actually writing.
      That's too bad you missed tonight's writing workshop. Hope you are able to go next month!

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    2. Getting honest feedback is definitely a challenge sometimes. I had an interesting experience watching people critique my work when they didn't know who had written it. I felt as though people were thoughtful and relatively honest because for all they knew, I wasn't watching at all! I got some good constructive criticism from that exercise. If you have an opportunity to do something like that, I'd highly recommend it.

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  6. A great article, and very encouraging! In a group, I would look for people who'll tell it to me like it is (but nicely!). I prefer people to say outright what needs work, and offer suggestions, than just to say they loved it. (I don't find that very helpful.)

    I'm not in a writing group - I live out of town, so in-person doesn't work for me - but I'm trying to slowly get an online group of trusted writer friends. Maybe this month's Camp will help - I'm still trying to find a cabin though. (After the last few Camps, I'm not trusting myself to random assignments...)

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    1. Thank you for your compliments! Honesty and politeness are definitely important in a beta reader.
      I cannot sing NaNo WriMo's praises enough. It was an amazingly educative thing for me as a writer. Random assignments can definitely be hit or miss, but there's always the option of creating a private cabin with those fellow writers that you already trust.
      Best of luck to you this upcoming Camp!

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    2. @Jem Jones: my writing group has a private cabin and we have room for a few more members. Would you be interested?

      ~Sarah R.

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    3. Uh, I should probably mention my NaNo/Camp username *smacks forehead*

      It's JEM Jones, same as on here.

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    4. Great! I sent you an invite. Be forewarned, we're a little crazy...

      ~Sarah R.

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  7. Thank you for the encouraging post! I like groups who tell you, kindly, what you need to fix or what seems confusing. Saying, "Oh this is amazing. keep up the good work" doesn't help my writing to expand. If there is something that is confusing, then I want to know. I want groups that I trust with my writing and will give honest opinions. My sister is kind of my editor and my trusting feedback person (she's my writing overseer).
    Thanks again for your advice. :)

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    1. I also like being in a group that likes my favorite genre so we're on the same boat. (Realistic Fiction)

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    2. You're very welcome.
      I'm more of a fantasy/science fiction kind of guy myself, but having someone who understands the genre you write is super helpful.
      Good luck with your writing!

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    3. Thank you! Yeah, having someone who likes your genre helps you be more of a group. Good luck with YOUR writing. :)

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  8. I am not in any kind of group, but I would definitely be interested in finding one or at least a couple writers. My town has a community college which probably has a group, but there's always the fear there will be content read/to critique that you'd rather not have inside of your mind.

    Though, I think it would be fun to find one locally where you could get together and just write, and of course, people who know how to critique.

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    1. hey! If you are interested i'm willing to start a writing group with you and at least one other person. I am kinda stuck in a strange position at the begining of high school ( I graduated a few months ago) I joined a writing club but as much as I liked it i ended up ditching it and joining the spring track team. And i'm planning on joining the local running club. I still write but I am not exactly someone who could do weekly meetings. I am now both a runner and a writer, The issue I have here is I would love to write with others but that would mean running would have to be less of a priority and I would not have enough time to run. I run 10ks and still manage to write writings, so it is a hard balence.

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    2. @ Sagebrush Girl I totally understand not wanting to read certain content. I would still recommend checking out the group and finding out what genre is most popular with them. If you find a group that doesn't work for you, you don't have to go back. But once you find a group where you are comfortable, stick around for a little while and see what happens.
      Keep searching! A good writing group is worth it in the end.

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  9. I'm not in a writing group as of now, but I'd love to join one! Any ideas for where to look online?

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    1. I would definitely recommend trying out Camp NaNo WriMo next month. A random cabin can be a little bit daunting, but chances are there will be one or two people who will be really encouraging. The experience of being in such a small and dedicated group is something that was beneficial for me.
      I hope your search goes well!

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  10. Thank you for joining us, DC! I so enjoyed your article!

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