Let me briefly introduce myself. My name is David Walker. After writing off and on during a forty-two year career as a health insurance agent, I decided to get serious about writing. During our last year or so as president and vice-president of a local writers’ group, Kristen Lamb (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/) and I talked a lot about what we would do differently if we started a group of our own. The result was Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp.
To paraphrase Kristen, one of the things that qualifies me to write about writing is that I’ve probably already made every mistake you may have ahead of you. If this blog helps you avoid some of those, it’ll be well worth the while.
Although I wrote my first novel when Kristen was in second grade and six more in the early nineties, I never understood why I couldn’t get any of them published until the last couple of years. My family liked them, and I just knew I was God’s gift to writing, but the sound of agents clamboring to beat a path to my door was somewhat like that of a gifted tracker after game. Hey, look at the wonders I’ve created. . . .
Whoa . . . absolute silence.
Having been educated in good schools at a time when people actually paid attention to such things as grammar and spelling, I knew mine was better than that in most of the books I read. How could they publish misspelled words and dangling participles and non-parallel clauses and overlook my brilliant work?
Oh, the audience isn’t all English teachers? More interested in substance than form? Hmmm. . . .
After getting nowhere with all those early nineties novels, I decided maybe I’d better join a writers’ group. An acquaintance of my wife’s (Ann Arnold) belonged to such a group. My wife knew Ann through her school connections, and she told me she was about to have a non-fiction book published (http://www.amazon.com/Gamblers-Gangsters-Worths-Jacksboro-Highway/product-reviews/1571682503), so I decided to join her group.
After a couple of years of weekly attendance I needed to concentrate on my insurance career and put writing on a back burner, but as retirement loomed ahead, my interest in writing surfaced once again. I emailed my old buddy Dr. Mike Bumagin (http://www.tower.com/tower_search/search_3_2_b.cfm?keywords=Michael%20Bumagin%20(Author)&div_id=1&&contributor=Michael%20Bumagin%20(Author) from that first writers’ group and asked him if he still belonged to one, which he did.
That’s when I met Kristen Lamb.
Kristen had recently become president of Freelance Writers’ Network, and at my first meeting I was impressed with her ability to see the good and bad in the work people brought to the meeting. Her critiques were lengthy and detailed—and right on the money.
When time came for the next election, she asked me to be her vice-president, which I was thrilled to do. We led the group together for several years, but we always felt like something was missing.
We would get together to discuss the group or writing in general or whatever was on our minds, and we frequently ended up talking about the fact that what we were doing was of limited value to anyone trying to get a good, publishable novel written. We began to realize that having five pages of writing critiqued wasn’t likely to produce the great American novel.
Everyone in the group had to spend a couple of minutes each week reminding the rest of us where these pages fit into a story, what had gone on leading up to that night’s reading. There was no continuity. Even with the explanations, none of us had a concise picture of what anyone else’s work was about.
Okay, so we knew there was a problem, and we even saw part of what it was. What to do next?
About that time Kristen rode with me in my motorhome the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc., conference.
I don’t remember whose sessions I attended, but Kristen, thank God, attended one led by NY Times Bestselling author Bob Mayer. Being a true writer-hermit, I’d gone up there in my motorhome rather than staying in the same hotels as everyone else. After the day’s sessions, I went back to the RV park, but not Kristen.
Naturally gregarious, Kristen made friends with about half the people there, including Bob Mayer (http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/). He was all she could talk about on our drive back to Fort Worth. He’d made a tremendous impression on her, and she nurtured her contact with him until it became a true friendship.
For the next year or so, we continued to discuss what didn’t work about our group, and Kristen injected ideas she picked up from Bob into our discussions. Then she managed to get Bob to hold a two-day seminar in the Metroplex, and several of us attended.
For some time, I’d been urging Kristen to leave our group and start another one, or at least start a second group as an alternative to the main group’s meeting, but her loyalty is amazing, and she didn’t want to do that. After Bob’s seminar, though, she began to agree with me that we needed to quit attending the regular meetings and start a side group with separate meetings.
We both announced that we would not hold offices in our old group after the current year and that we would begin a group for those interested in a more in-depth pursuit of novel writing and marketing. Did I say marketing? That was almost a foreign concept to us at that time, but we realized its importance.
At first, we were all learning together, but Kristen learned so much more and so much faster than the rest of us that it soon became a matter of her teaching us. We began to delve into tag lines—never heard of those! And antagonists—are those serial killers or some such thing? And protagonists—those are heroes, aren’t they?
While most of us struggled with learning about such things, Kristen breezed through and began learning about using social media as a market-building tool. The rest, as they say, is history. She has become possibly the recognized expert on how writers can (and should) use social media. Her first book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media has become a bestseller, and I just finished proofing her second book on the subject, Are You There, Blog – It’s Me, Writer. Likely another bestseller.
In future blogs, we’ll examine some of the things taught in the Warrior Writer’s Boot Camp. We’ll look at the importance of preparing yourself by getting to know what you want to write about and who your characters are before starting to write the text.
Are you a writer? Please don’t tell me you’re a would-be writer or an aspiring writer. If you want to write, write. That makes you a writer. Being published makes you a published writer. Having a book on the best-selling list makes you a best-selling writer, but the only qualification for being a writer is to write.
Ø Okay, so you are a writer. Do you belong to a writers’ group?
Ø Does your writers’ group meet your needs?
Ø What do you like best about it?
Ø What do you find frustrating about it?
Ø What suggestions do you have to share?