Conferences, chapter meetings, workshops, critique groups, writer's circles...whether online, local, or something you travel days to get to, these activities take a writers two most precious commodities -- time and money. So why is it we flock to them like tweens to a Mylie Cyrus concert?
WRITING CIRCLES :: My first writing circle was a group of online word racers - dozen people in a chat room, taking brief breaks from pounding the keys to collect encouragement. The next time I wrote enmasse was at a cafe with a writing group. There wasn't much chatting, everyone bent over their own keyboards, only pausing to refill on caffeine or beg others for help with a particularly stilted scene...this is how Just One Spark wound up with a hairless dog named monkey. For some people, the instant accountability of writing with others keeps them going and is well worth the time it takes.
CRITIQUE GROUPS :: I haven't had much luck with critiquing. I don't have a single critiquing horror story, the people I've swapped work with simply get very successful in other areas. One got into law school, another found a boyfriend she finds more intriguing than writing, someone else got a promotion, and then there's the one who had twins! I crave a critique partner, someone who beleives in my work but still has a critical eye, not to mention someone who's a brilliant writer so I get the perk of saying I read the book first!
WORKSHOPS :: No one has this writing gig down. There are things we all need to work on. Attending workshops can be informative as much for what you learn as for realizing that the best selling author next to you feels that they need to work on character motivation too. It's a double confidence booster. No, you don't get any writing done, but if the instructor is good you'll pick up plenty to work into your writing later. The kind of things you learn should make your writing better the first time through.
CHAPTER MEETINGS :: Most writing organizations have local chapters that hold monthly (or so) meetings. These can be extremely beneficial or complete time suckers - you decide. Being around other writers struggling with your issues can help you find ways to solve your problems, or wind up being a bitch session where nothing gets accomplished. As long as your group stays focused on the positive and you don't feel pressured to volunteer for more than you can handle, local writing groups can be fantastic. Plus, they are the best way to get inside industry information. At every chapter meeting I've learned something about what editors at certain houses are buying, rejecting, requesting...as well as new publishing venues.
CONFERENCES :: Summer is the conference season. With so many creeping back from RWA, I'm sure those in the blogosphere have read about some of the perks. Nothing tops meeting your editor face to face. It's worth the week you have to take away from your writing just in that single meeting. For uncontracted writers the pitch sessions are invaluable. I don't advocate signing on with an agent you haven't met in person, and conferences are the place to meet them, and see how they interact with editors.
What about you? In your experience, which non-writing activities have the most impact on your writing?
Jenna is waiting for her Modern Heat editor to get back from the RWA conference so she can get started on a new story. In the meantime, Par For The Course releases today, with car sex, an interesting approach to learning to golf, and a love story hazardous to your hankie supply. Oh, plus exploding toads.. Check out Jenna's website, or blog.