For anyone looking for the Fang, Fur, and Fey Giveaway Hop, it’s in the last post. This is Sher A Hart, writing for the Insecure Writers Support Group. First, I’d like to tell you a story about a reader turned frustrated writer, but I promise it has a happy ending. In my first IWSG post, I admitted being too insecure to join an insecurity group. But I have stepped out of my comfort zone often to find support. And here I am to tell the tale.
I decided to write when my youngest son was in middle school. A year or so later, my hubby told me about a man he met on a plane who suggested joining a critique group. Assured that they wouldn’t steal my ideas, I joined Emerald Coast Writers (ECW). Unfortunately, they didn’t have any children’s writers who participated in a critique group on a regular basis. Nobody told me about word count limits for kid-lit.
Three years and a few hurricanes later, I pitched my book at an ECW writers conference, and one agent rejected my YA fantasy based on word count alone. She also told me I couldn’t have a gummy bear character in a YA book. Maybe that should have been obvious, but I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous characters in movies and books for adults. Someone besides me must like to laugh.
Searching for guidance online, I found SCBWI and joined. That gave me important genre specific information I had missed in ECW. So I spent the summer splitting one book into two to meet the middle grade length limit. I was fortunate to have Mary Brown as the ECW critique group chairperson. She arranged for a seventh grade class to read my book. I started visiting twice a month in January. My book improved a lot from anonymous written student critiques, and we finished the year with a student writing contest.
Then I was ready for another round of adult critiques, but because I couldn’t find any local children’s writers in either ECW or SCBWI, I went back to online searches. I’ll be forever grateful to the SCBWI member I met at a Birmingham conference who suggested creating my own critique group if I couldn’t find one to meet my needs. So I posted an ad on the Florida SCBWI website for Okaloosa County.
I waited and waited, but I didn’t sit around. Through Rachael Harrie’s Platform Building Campaign, Twitter, and World Literary Cafe, I started building my platform and found beta readers plus authors to feature on my blog. But “Seek and ye shall find” doesn’t always mean good news. By giving authors feedback, I received enough return critiques to know I needed another rewrite. Oh, joy. All that time writing and I was almost back where I’d started–insecure and in definite need of support. And that’s when my support at home evaporated. Time to give up? Maybe I’m too pig-headed to give up. I kept searching for critique partners. They came and they went.
Early this year, Rachael Harrie’s Platform Building Campaign led me to my current online critique partner, Ken Rahmoeller. I hope he’s here to stay. I think we make a good combination with my love of Harry Potter and his patience for my multitude of mistakes. The happy ending to this story is that I finally got responses to my SCBWI ad this spring and started my local group too. We meet at the Niceville library every other week, and wow, I am getting a lot of awesome feedback. And I hope they like my feedback too.
No matter how many online partners I find, there’s no substitute for a face to face meeting. It’s a lot harder to excuse a poor critique when you hear other writers who put more time and effort into finding ways to improve a manuscript. And you can’t brainstorm by email. But finding the right group isn’t always easy. If you have to make your own group, then do it. Just don’t give up.
Those are some of the things I’ve done to overcome my insecurities. I hope my path will help someone else avoid the same mis-steps I took and maybe even give that shot in the arm needed to keep going when it seems hopeless. Thanks for visiting and please tell me where you are in your journey. And please come back in a few days for a review of Troll Hunters by Paul R. Hewlett, my awesome blog partner.