The Benefits of Writing Groups and Conferences


Four years ago, I made the decision to join a writing group. I was going through a rough time in my life, and books were an escape. I spent countless hours reading, immersed in fantasy worlds. After a few hundred books, an idea popped into my head. I could do this. I could totally write a book. And so I started writing.

About halfway through the book, I realized I had no idea what I was doing. Some of the words on the page sounded pretty cool, but I knew nothing about character development, creating tension, plotting, or pacing. Whoops! Classic rookie mistakes. You can edit until the cows come home, have a grammatically-tight manuscript, and still have a story that falls flat.

So, I made the decision to take it a step further and learn from other writers. I didn’t think a lot about it. I googled local writers groups and three came up. I chose two and tried them out. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty scary, but they were welcoming and supportive. It was nice to finally find my people.

Have You Thought About Writing?

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Maybe you’ve thought about writing before but never considered taking it any further. There are some jobs we don’t encourage children to strive for. Writing is one of those things. It’s like we put authors up on pedestals with rock stars. Both being a writer and a musician seem like lofty goals that only others can achieve. But when you read an author’s beginning story, you realize that they started right where you are now—with a burning story that they need to tell the world.

A Note About Writing

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Writers write. I know it sounds obvious but it’s a statement worth thinking about. If you want to get started but don’t know how, put some pen to paper. Don’t overthink it. Write something down. It will get easier as you go, but not starting because you think you’re not good enough is quitting before you start.

If you’ve already started writing, you may be looking for some guidance and help. The publishing industry can be difficult to navigate and it’s constantly changing. I’ve learned so much from the writing groups I’m a part of.

Here are some benefits of writing groups and conferences!

Writing Groups

Benefits

  • Learn from other writers
  • Network with published authors
  • Get your work critiqued
  • Learn about open submissions, conferences, and upcoming events

How to Find a Writing Group

Image credit: Alberta Romance Writers’ Association

You might be surprised how many writing groups there are. Google local writing groups and check on Facebook to see if you can find any in your area. Another place to check is the library. Some writer groups run out of the local library or community centre. If there’s a writer group in the area, the librarian should know.

If there isn’t one local to you, you might be able to find a virtual one. With the pandemic, organizations moved to Zoom and other online platforms. Some of them are now meeting in person again, but many are keeping virtual options.

The Alberta Romance Writers’ Association has virtual meetings and is open to writers in all genres. They are also celebrating 35 years of writing excellence and launching a writers guide book called, ‘Write That Book‘.

Types of Writing Groups

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There are lots of different types of writing groups and formats. Many groups are formed based on genre—Romance, Science Fiction, Mystery etc. Some delve into the craft of writing, while others focus more on marketing and publishing. Writing group meetings may include presentations, workshops, readings, critiques, group discussions, and announcements. It’s also a great way to learn about open submissions. You’ll need to check them out to see what the local groups are doing and what works best for you.

Price

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Many writing groups are reasonably priced. You can usually find a yearly membership for under $100CAN. Associations that require you have published works will likely have higher membership rates. As a new writer this is not what you are looking for. Find a volunteer-run group that was created to help support writers.

The First Meeting

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Going to your first meeting can be intimidating. They will 100% ask you what you write. Be prepared for this question. After four years, I am still not prepared for this question when people ask. Think about your answer ahead of time. Try to keep it short and sweet, like a logline. If you ramble on, not to worry, they will understand. As writers we are sometimes a little scatterbrained.

Conferences

Benefits

  • Network with published authors, agents, and editors
  • Attend presentations and workshops
  • Opportunity to pitch to agents and editors
  • Opportunity for professional editing advice and critiques
R.E. Baird, When Words Collide 2019

Being part of a writing group is the best way to stay up-to-date on the writing industry, especially locally. This is how I discovered When Words Collide—A Festival for Readers and Writers. In the picture above, I am reading my first published short story, ‘Mother Graveyard‘ in the anthology, ‘The Stories We Hide‘.

Conferences are another excellent way to network with other authors, agents, editors, and publishers. Each conference will be set-up a bit differently, but they usually all have a variety of presentations, workshops, readings, and speeches. An added benefit of conferences is that they often have pitch sessions with agents, and master classes with experienced editors. If you are interested in publishing, conferences are an excellent way to learn about your options, and maybe even meet your agent!

When Words Collide

When Words Collide has always been an affordable conference, but with the move to virtual it’s free this year. It is a conference for both readers and writers, and you can check out the program here. There may even be a small presentation from yours truly.

Get Out There and Write

If you journal, write poems, or are penning away at manuscripts that haven’t seen the light of day, maybe you are wondering where to start. Check out a local writers group and go from there. Listening to other writers can often ignite the writing flame. You never know what may inspire your writing. Get out there and explore!


Don’t forget to sign-up for When Words Collide – it’s online and FREE this year.


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