So you’re ready to write that novel. It’s been festering in the back of your mind for weeks—or years—and something about this moment is making you say “It’s time.” Short of a professor who threatens you with an ‘F’ if you don’t turn it in, how do you make sure you get it done?
Join a writer’s group. Or start one.
It’s not easy to add one more commitment to a long list of things you have to do, but if you want to hold yourself accountable for writing a whole book, you’re going to need help.
Step One: Stop reading
You’re going to need about two hours a week to meet with your new group, and about ten hours a week to write your book. So where’s the time going to come from?
You need to quit something. And the first thing that’s gotta go is reading. Stop curling up with a juicy book. Quit your book club. Reading (a lot) is the key to becoming a good writer, but writing is more important for you now. (Besides, if you are a writer, you’ve probably already done a good job on the reading part.)
Think of it like this. If you were going to be a chocolate maker, you would need to sample a lot of chocolate. But at some point, you’ve got to stop eating chocolate and start making chocolate. Over-indulgence will make you sick. You’ll get frustrated by all of the bad chocolate out there and how you could do it better. And when you taste a heavenly bite? You’ll get depressed, wondering if you could ever be as good.
Sound familiar? If this is how you feel when you browse through a bookstore, it’s time to stop reading and start writing. When you’re deep into your novel, you can start reading again. That’s when reading becomes an education rather than a pastime.
Step Two: Lay some ground rules
One woman I talked to who joined (and quit) a writer's group said that nobody wanted to say anything bad about anybody’s writing. She didn’t feel she was getting enough guidance. The group was too ‘nice.’
Mine wasn’t. My group was mean. And because of it, I have a much better novel. Finished and polished.
Make decisions about how you will all work as a group:
Step Three: Find your people
Talk to people you know. Most likely, there is another closet novelist in your office, school or neighborhood. But if not, go to www.meetup.com or www.craiglist.com —two great sources for finding like-minded individuals. And if you can’t generate local interest, go wide. You can hold your meetings via Skype or Google Hangouts.
Don’t worry about needing to find people who are writing in the same genre as you. A good book is a good book. The members of your new writer's group will have been voracious readers for years. They can help you identify qualities about any style of writing that are uniquely yours—the good, the bad and the ugly.
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