One of the best things I ever did for my writing journey was take the plunge and sign up for a master novel writing class. A week of learning about the craft with 5 other aspiring novelists and a fanstastic writing teacher did more than expand my knowledge of the craft for that one week. It was the genesis of the Writing Sisters. I have learned so much from these ladies! Our relationship is more than just a group of authors, we truly have developed into a group that is more family-like than your everyday critique or writing group.
From there I went to writing conferences, and took more classes on the craft of writing. I even worked to get a Writing Certificate for Fiction from UW-Madison. Even genre conferences like Left Coast Crime are educational not only through sitting in on panels of other writers discussing various aspects of the craft, but also through talking with other writers.
Just like probably every other writer out there, I have shelves of books on the craft of writing, many of which I have read, and many, of course, are on my TBR list. I’ll read them. Someday. I’m also in a critique group with a couple very insightful writers. Basically, I’m trying to improve my craft. Keep learning about the craft of writing. Keep practicing the craft.
What I find interesting is how opportunities suddenly show up in my path. I mean, like, out of the blue. Kind of like how I got into my critique group. It was a chance post on FB, and of course I forget where or when. Anyway, the poster was looking to form a critique group with a few other writers. I responded, and now there are three of us. I have learned a lot from these ladies, and not only from their critiques of my work, but, as anyone in a critique group can attest, you also learn when critiquing the work of the other writers.
Recently I’ve had a couple additional experiences like this, where something shows up in my path. I have the choice of taking the opportunity or passing it by because maybe I’ve got so much other stuff going on. It’s always a dilemma, at least it seems like it initially. Should I? How much time will this take away from my own writing?
I’ve decided that doing anything that helps me learn more about the craft and meet other writers is probably worth it (especially if it’s free 🙂 ).
The first opportunity that popped onto my path recently came from one of my former writing instructors at UW-Madison. I subscribe to her newsletter, and she mentioned she was organizing a beta reading club to help writers find beta readers. I filed the information, weighing whether I had time to read another writer’s manuscript while trying to work on my own. About a week later she emailed me directly and asked if I’d be interested. I mulled about it for another week before saying “What the hell. Might as well.”
I met some very interesting other writers, and I have three beta readers right now reading Book 2. Not just beta readers, but beta readers who are knowledgeable about the craft of writing, because most of the writers and readers are her former students, I think. I have two manuscripts I’m beta reading. Sure, it’s time I’m not writing, but I’m learning from them. And who knows, I might be able to tap those writers again for beta reads in the future.
The other opportunity that appeared on my path was a post by a writer in my Sisters in Crime chapter. He’s going through Author Accelerator certification, and needed some writers to work with as part of the process. I’d heard about Author Accelerator at Writers’ Institute one year when the founder, Jennie Nash, was the keynote speaker. He described the process as “Blueprint of a novel”. I figured if he needed authors to work with, and I could learn some different techniques to help me get Book 3’s plot fleshed out, hey, I’m game. (and it’s free 🙂 ). Turns out that I’m at a point in my plot-creation process that will work well for what he’s doing. He selected me and one other author to work with.
The thing is, I figure if the Universe dropped these opportunities in front of me, it’s trying to tell me something. I don’t necessarily believe in fate, per se, but I do believe these things show up for a reason. I’ve learned through other life experiences (ask me about my first tech writing job sometime) that it’s a good idea to pay attention to stuff like this.
I guess what I’m saying is look for opportunities to expand your knowledge and practice of the craft. And if something “drops from the sky”, don’t be afraid to take it. It might be the very thing that connects you to a bigger opportunity later on.
Still waiting on spring here. I do have hopes for the upcoming week, though. Looks like they’re predicting at least 2, maybe three days of real Spring, with real Sunshine! They’re saying we might even get into the upper 60s. Yippee! I’m really getting tired of the chill wind, gray clouds, and drizzle. Ugh.
Keep on writing!
April 29, 2023 at 6:12 am
Your post is a really good reminder, Julie, of the benefits of being open to possibilities. You never know when something small like that will turn into a wonderful opportunity. And if you also feel that your writing has improved, and that you’ve benefited, so much the better!
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April 29, 2023 at 4:39 pm
Absolutely, Margot! I often wonder at the opportunities I run into for whatever reason, and often I think it’s because of the networking I’ve been able to do via the conferences and workshops I’ve been to. In any case, I feel like any opportunity to enhance my writing journey is a good one to take.
Have a wonderful weekend!
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April 29, 2023 at 8:41 am
What a wonderful post because it’s encouraging others to take advantage of opportunities when they stare one’s self in the face. At every turn in life we can say “no, thanks” when opportunity comes knocking and we have so many excuses. But, as you say, my how life changes when we allow ourselves to be nervous and say “yes.” I’ve been practicing “yes” to some new writing and marketing things and it’s paying off. Your courage and spirit are wonderful, Julie! Thank you.
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April 29, 2023 at 4:45 pm
Thanks, Chris! I think back to the opportunties I’ve sought out and taken, including classes and conferences, and I think of how my writing journey has improved–in so many ways, not just because of the craft, but because of the friends and Sisters I’ve made along the way. And those friends open up other possibilities and connections.
BTW, one writer I beta read for was in your Master Novel Writing class the year after our group 🙂
Have a wonderful weekend!
May 13, 2023 at 11:03 am
I’m so happy all these nice things have lined up for you. This is a good reminder to look for such opportunities. Kind of like a fuzzy furry kitty all snuggled up in a chair.
Not entirely sure of the connection there, but you’re a writer. You can figure it out. 😉