Writing is solitary, and after a while, loneliness and doubt may set in and lead to a slump. To overcome this obstacle, I recommend joining a writing group such as our very own SCBWI. As a member, you can get as involved as you want by attending workshops, conferences, volunteering, joining a critique group, or simply staying current via the blogs and membership magazine.
Joining a critique group has many benefits, most of which I did not realize before I joined. As a member of a local critique group, I have found a group of writers that I can bounce ideas off of. So even if I am not writing, I am at least reading, providing feedback, and supporting another writer. One aspect of joining a group that I did not expect was how much I would learn about the craft of writing by reading and commenting on the drafts of my fellow writers. What was especially helpful was to be an observer of the drafting and revision process of other writers. So often we, as readers, are oblivious to the effort that goes into a finished product. As critique partners, we push each other to revise, revise, revise. More than anything, joining a critique group has provided me with a social outlet–a network of friends who have the same interests, the same doubts, and the same struggles as I do.
Beyond joining a critique group, there are workshops where writers can improve and hone their craft. The regional and national arms of SCBWI offer these throughout the year and by being a member, writers are kept informed of the opportunities. These programs are either stand-alone classes held by local groups or part of a regional/national conference. These workshops range in price, and information is readily available on the blogs.
A number of colleges and universities offer free or reduced online courses and workshops. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are easily accessible and offer courses appealing to and geared to both beginning and experienced writers. For two years in a row, I have signed up for and completed the MOOC offered by The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. By completing the online assignments and paying a small fee, I earned certificates for How Writers Write Fiction 2015 and How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women. What is remarkable about this particular program is that I could have choose to participate for free—the fee only applied because I wanted the formal certificate.
I found the online courses to be a valuable experience. I got to look at my writing through the lens of a student of fiction writing. The two MOOCs I signed up for offered lectures, assignments, and opportunities for peer generated feedback. Each week’s lesson covered a specific area of craft, provided reading material, and writing assignments. The best part of the courses was that I got to practice different writing techniques.
Writing is not about just putting words on paper. Writing is about honing our craft and one of the easiest ways to do that is to reach out to the many different writing communities and get involved.