Thursday, 27 March 2014

My writing group - cliques and committees

When I started writing for a living in 2011, I loved the work but felt I needed to improve my social life to make up for being on my own all day. So the following January I joined my local writers group to meet new people and to further my writing career. The website assured me of a friendly welcome and the first meeting lived up to this claim with polite smiles and introductions. But within a few months I was having trouble getting beyond that polite 'hello'. They'd usually rush off to speak to someone else.

By April I'd received a book contract and was really excited. I was bursting to tell people, but the cliquey atmosphere prevailed and I left the April meeting without having told a single soul! I was starting to wonder why I bothered with the group at all. I'd already established that it was unlikely to further my career.

In a last ditch attempt to make friends, I decided to offer my services to the committee, suggesting I could work on the newsletter and deliver a talk on my new book. However the chair wasn't interested. He turned me down flat, saying that the members were only interested in fiction. I was on the verge of giving up, having had only had one meaningful conversation with anyone in the group all year!

However, I decided to give it another chance and joined for a further year. I'm glad I did because just recently, things have begun to turn around. I volunteered to read some work at a manuscript evening and when people heard a little about what I was doing, they started to show interest. Some other new members have now started talking to me, and I've even been asked to do that talk!

So the moral of the story, is to persevere. Perhaps if your writing group is cliquey too, they just need time to get to know you. Offer to help with things and reach out to other new members if you can identify them. As for the committee - I'm thinking about joining it next month at the AGM!

What's your writers group like? Has it helped to further your career? Are they welcoming and friendly?

For an hilarious account of another writer's experience at her local writers' group, click here

Monday, 3 March 2014

Blog Hop: My Writing Process

A friend from my local writers' group, Dave Sivers, crime novelist, asked if I'd like to participate in a 'blog hop', entitled 'My Writing Process'. I agreed and Dave sent me the questions. Last week Dave wrote about his own writing process in his blog here: Read on for my contribution to the 'blog hop':

What am I working on?

In the last few weeks I've been writing about lemurs, a lady who left an investment bank to become a zoo keeper, and I've been writing about the industrial revolution. It's been interesting. I've learnt about endangered species and conservation programmes, about the money-culture in an investment bank, and about the history of industrial growth in England during the 18th and 19th centuries.

I am also actively promoting my new book, 'Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens'. You can view my profile and the book on Amazon here:

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don't really stick to a genre, so that's a difficult one to answer. I write whatever I can sell. However, I would say that my freelance writing book differs from others available. Firstly, it's part autobiographical, which I think makes it more interesting. It's not full of rules and instructions, but instead, it's full of anecdotes and real-life experiences in publishing. Most of these experiences don't fit the traditional rule books or comply with the instructions in writer's manuals! In fact, if I'd stuck to all the rules that writers are supposed to comply with, I'd never have succeeded. Also, the book is clearly focussed on writing for three key markets: health, food and gardens - although many of the principles apply across all non-fiction genres.

Why do I write what I do?

I love writing. It's a great way of learning new things, exploring new ideas, and expressing yourself creatively. The subject matter is largely dictated by commissions from editors, which in turn is driven by what they think their readers are interested in.

How does my writing process work?

I sit down and I get on with it from 8am to about 5pm every week day. I don't spend time procrastinating or worrying about writer's block. If I can't think how to get started, I just write drivel - then I return to it later to improve upon my drivel. Eventually it turns into something good. I am very disciplined. I have to be, or I'd never get anything done.

I do jot down ideas to return to later. When I'm working on a book it usually ends up as a muddle of ideas - a bit of a brain dump. It takes a lot of sorting out later! I write books in my spare time (evenings and weekends) because I don't want books to detract from my journalism work in the daytime.

Blog on...

Now I'm supposed to pass these questions on to three more writers to write their own blogs in another week and keep the chain going. If anyone would like to volunteer, that would be lovely as I haven't found anyone to pass this on to yet!

Update 8/4/14: I've had a volunteer, Ruth Holroyd, who has kindly posted her Writing Process blog, here: