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?
Wow, what a fascinating story. I am so inspired. How do I join your Warrior Writers Boot Camp? I live in Shreveport, La. and have been unable to find a writer’s group or a critique group that fits my needs. I have a new on-line critique partner and so far I am impressed with his critiques, but I crave more interaction with writers. I am finally going to attend a writer’s conference this year (actually two of them) both in New York and I am so excited. I am really interesting in signing up or joining your boot camp. I am also going to look through your blog for information on taking any classes that either of you may offer.
Congratulations on your success and of course Kristen’s as well. She sounds like a real go-getter. I will check out her two books this week.
Take care and I hope you have a very happy and productive new year.
Something you wrote reminded me of a quote I read a while back. I am probably not quoting it word for word, but…
“What do you call a writer who never gives up? Published” ~ author unknown
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Wow, I did not know this story. How fascinating and “normal” this occurrence seemed to be. LOL. I love the progression of time and natural change that happened to adapt into a new writers group. I really enjoyed this post and found it helpful. I did start a writers critique group. We are not abiding any schedule right now which makes progress difficult. The Life List Club that Marcia and I founded has been awesome for its supportive nature and bi-weekly blog posts. I think it pushes us to be more professional with each other and I think that’s great. We’ve had some fun email chats too. Looking forward to you joining us!
Thanks for your comments, Jess, as well as for clicking the “Like” button. Your Life List Club intrigues me.
I’m fortunate enough to be part of your Writer Warriors! I know my writing has improved greatly in the few short weeks I’ve attended! And I’ve had so much fun connecting with the other writers and hearing about their stories.
Thanks for you comment and support, Jill. You’re an important addition to our group and our lives.
I took Bob’s Warrior Writer class two years ago on the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter loop. It was one the best things that ever happened to my writing. When he decided to continue on with a Warrior Writer loop, I was there every month until he dissolved it to form Write It Forward. Kristen always had valuable things to say on the loops, I’m so grateful for her WANA book and the work she does on her blog and her classes. It’s so great to meet you David and know that you’re a part of all this too. I see you paying it forward all the time on Twitter. Me, the little green newbie thanks you.
Thank you for your kind remarks, Kate. Best wishes in your writing.
It’s so great to learn about how Warrior Writers started. I’ve learned so much from Kristen. Through her blog, books, and an online class (which really helped kick my blog into gear).
Thank you, Sonia. I hope this series will be as helpful on novel preparation as Kristen’s have been on social media.
I’m fortunate to have a couple friends/fellow writers from grad school with whom I meet on a monthly basis for critique. We’re all at the same level in our writing, and we’ve known each other long enough that we can provide open and honest feedback without sugar coating it.
I agree with Marji’s comments. Unless you’re a rare genius, writing can’t happen in pure solitude. Since 99.999 percent of us aren’t the Jane Austens/Emily Dickinsons of the world, we need our crit groups to keep us grounded.
It can be difficult to read an MS in sections, though. I find it hard to give feedback on plot/structure without knowing where I am in the overall plot arc. Sometimes I break down and ask for a synopsis.
You’ve hit on the number one problem with typical critique groups, Janelle. This is why WWBC is such a total departure from “the way we’ve always done it.”
I belong to a wonderful group of writers. They do meet my needs. What I like best is we are there for each other and encourage each other. I have not been frustrated with this group.
I have no suggestions as I think each individual requires certain needs. When you find a group that works for you, that’s where you should be. Being in a group is important.
If your group meets your needs, that’s great. I wish you only the best.
Marji, you’re always so upbeat. Thanks for your comments.
What a great post! Love the history of how WW and Mywana came about.
In answer to your questions: I do meet with a crit group once a week. I LOVE these folks! They challenge me, but know just how hard to scrub to get to the diamond without hurting it. The only frustration I have is that they can only crit 10 pages at a time. Without the finances to send my ms into a professional editing group, it will take awhile to get through it, but I’m committed to seeing it through. I’ve already learned so much!
My biggest suggestion to other writers is not to try doing it alone. Surprisingly, writing is NOT a solitary profession! I didn’t know that when I started earlier this year, but was delighted to find writing groups close to my own home! Other writers, especially in the chosen genre, are also avid readers and they know what they like! Take their suggestions seriously.