It Takes a Village: The Benefits of Writing Groups

it-takes-a-villageHere at Heart-Shaped Glasses, we’re not just authors who blog together, we’re family.

We started as a private online critique group which has evolved into so much more. Yes, there’s critiquing, which is invaluable. Especially when it’s from people who focus just as much with what’s right as what’s not working. I trust these ladies with my precious stories, I trust their experience, which probably (added together) is a lifetime of writing.

I love that we all bring something different to the table. We each have strengths and weaknesses, not only in our writing but in our critique styles. I’m constantly learning. 

The next best thing about being part of a great writer’s group? The cheerleading. We’re all at different places in our careers, going down different paths of publishing, writing different genres. But the support we give each other transcends all those things. 

I get hurrahs when I succeed at something, even if it’s meeting my wordcount, and sympathy when things are going rough.

Which brings me to my next point on why writer’s groups (the right ones) are awesome: trust. It takes trust to upload a first draft for critique. It requires trust to say, “Hey, I’m having a rough time in my life right now, and this is why.” And I’ve never, ever seen anything shared in that private group shared anywhere else. It’s like a vault. A vault of caring, kindness, and support.

We’re not accepting new members right now, but don’t worry. Your perfect writing group is out there somewhere. Here are some articles on finding and getting the most from writing groups. Read all about them, then find your perfect writing home.

Tell us about your experience in writer’s groups. Has it been more positive, like mine, or do you have horror stories?

siglori1

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Happy Fall, Y’all

Happy FallThe kiddos (for those of us that have said children) are back in school, the air is beginning to cool off (finally), and the leaves are starting to fall.

It’s that time of year, again, to snuggle up inside with a good book and the hot drink of your choice.

Fall has always been my favorite time of the year. More so than spring, fall reminds me of new beginnings (all those new school years for me and then the kids) meant possibility. Anything could happen, there were fresh books to be read, and new fall fashion to wear. I loved the start of a school year. I’d make new friends (I told myself), have a makeover (this never actually happened), and find a new boy (I was not the many-boyfriends type). I was, and am, a nerd.

I live in West Virginia; four season country I’ve heard it called. We have beautiful fall foliage at the end of September through October. I love all those colors. Even though I know it means the leaves will all fall off and the trees will look depressingly naked by winter, I can’t not revel in the reds, oranges, yellows, and purples. It’s like someone got creative with one of those coloring book apps, the ones designed to relax you. Autumn colors are my zen.

Finally, my favorite part–the staying inside and reading part. No one’s telling you that you should be outside, enjoying the hotter than Hades weather (not a summer person, here). It’s perfectly acceptable to get a coffee, cocoa, or whatever your Keurig can dream up and settle in with a book. I’ve got Susan Elizabeth’s Phillips‘ new one (First Star I See Tonight) resting on my e-reader now, just waiting for me to open it up. At the moment, I’m reading (and enjoying) Lover’s Leap by Kimberly Keyes.

What’s your favorite part of fall? And, by the way, what book would you recommend?

I need more books, people. Fall lasts for three months, you know.

siglori1

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

School Supply Sales: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (for Writers) 

writer supplies

Recently, I had to pick up a few things at Wal-mart. None of those things consisted of writing tools in any way.

Nonetheless, the siren’s call of the school supply aisle led me down the rabbit hole.

I bought the most beautiful novel notebook for the next full-length novel I plan to write. It’s already in plans, and a place to put notes is win-win. Plus, it’s just so freaking pretty.

Next, as most of you know from previous posts, I use a calendar to keep track of what needs done, what I’ve accomplished, and if I write every day. I’d been planning to invest in something a little more elaborate, with more room for notes next year because I’ve been doing this for two years.

Instead of waiting for the end of the year, I found a beautiful, durable “school planner” to pick up from July 2016 through June 2017. It’s got plenty of room for notes (I generally write what I’ve accomplished and on what project, sometimes working on multiple projects in one day). Even better, the cover is so durable, I don’t have to worry about rips and tears when I lay it aside for the day (or pull it in and out as I progress).

I put a limit on myself there of $15  and bought my daughter who actually attends school some token supplies so I wouldn’t feel so guilty. Still, for me, this is the best time of the year, combining my love of writing supplies with sales.

What’s your best writerly find and did you pay well for the item or catch it on sale?

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Self-Styled Writers Retreats, Part Two

writer retreat 2This is the second part of last month’s post, in which I describe the outcome of our writing get-together. I’m writing this blog post in June because I wanted our “results” to be fresh in my mind.

Please note that while I’m dividing up what we completed, a great deal of it was things we accomplished together.

I:

  • Did a complete read-through of a 96k manuscript without some of the other POV scenes in it for consistency and pacing.
  • Finished plotting a full-length novel from the mid-point to the end.
  • Came up with my catchy new tagline.
  • Edited my manuscripts blurb and tagline.
  • Got through one half of my first-round of big edits on my manuscript.

Our friend:

  • Added over 20k words to a story she was taking from novella-length to full-length.
  • Plotted a series of fantasy novels.
  • Worked on her secret project. I’m not sure of all the details, but I know she was happy with the amount she accomplished.

Landra:

  • Finished the final seven chapters on a full-length contemporary romance she’s been writing.
  • Outlined and plotted not one, but two stories.
  • Edited the entire second 50k novella in her Alternate History series.

Together, we all accomplished far more than we would have alone. Not only were we there to brainstorm with one another, but when you’re the only one in the room not working, you pick up your notebook or your laptop, and you start again.

We went out for dinner, there was an afternoon in the hot tup (with a writing notebook, to be fair), there was happy hour at the hotel (or in our room) every evening–but we still managed to accomplish an amazing amount of work in four days.

I will (and hope to) do it again in a heartbeat.

Have you had a similar experience? What’s your best tip for working in tandem?

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Self-Styled Writer Retreats

SELF-STYLEDTwo friends and I are meeting this week for a mini-writers retreat. It’s not at a B&B, scheduled by some entity with time built in for socializing, writing, and critiquing–all on someone else’s schedule. And it’s not a conference.

We have an agenda. I’m personally planning to finish plotting a full-length novel and discuss synopses for my now complete novellas set in 1958 Las Vegas (I mentioned those a couple of months ago).

We’re literally meeting at a hotel nearby to create writing synergy. Synergy is one of those business buzz-words overused so much it’s lost its meaning, but it does have a definition.

Synergy, according to dictionary.com, means:

the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.

What happens, when writers get together to brainstorm and share ideas and energy, is nothing short of amazing. Work gets finished in half the time and it’s of better quality than what one writer could produce alone.

I’m struggling to describe the phenomenon, so instead I promise to tell you next month what the three of us accomplished in our four days together.

See you next month!

If you’ve experienced something similar, please post about it in the comments. And, if not, consider getting together with few writing friends, even for one dedicated day, to see what you can accomplish.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

How I Relieve Stress

hand-labor-1151300x225We writer’s tend to be an anxious lot. Will I be rejected? Will that email come? What should I say when I query this publisher? Do I even have any talent? The unrelenting worries are constant.

I think there’s a lot of writing that involves putting ourselves out of our comfort zone. Anytime you do that, anxiety is a natural byproduct.

What I’d love to know is how everyone manages their stress levels. I write–I’m kidding. When I get into the zone, I can forget about those worries as the story sucks me in, but when I stop for the day, they’re all still in my head.

Personally, I crochet. The repetition and production of an item is very calming for me. And I love that I can create beautiful things out of a single (very long) thread of yarn. I recently made two baby blankets, a teddy bear (this is called amigurumi), and I’m working on a shawl for my daughter’s formal in a couple of weeks.

I’m truly curious… what do you do to relieve stress?

siglori1

If anyone is interested in crochet, Youtube is a fantastic tool for learning! My new favorite stitch is called c2c (corner to corner) and works up in a gorgeous way. I’m including the video that I used to learn c2c.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

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