IWSG: Making your own Support

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.

Share A Heart

Indie author-friendly freelance editor, children's book blogger for picture books through YA, kid lit, SF/fantasy lover with special fondness for middle grade, pun-loving SCBWI member, meter-maid for poetry and rhyming picture books.


  1. It looks like your perseverance to find feedback for your work paid off. I’m also a member of SCBWI- the organization offers so many resources.

  2. Your attitude is inspiring, Sher. Oh, and I love your monogram. Good omen. I’m a new follower and I’m very happy to meet you.

    • Thanks, Joylene. I’m happy to meet you too and it’s great that you think my attitude is inspiring. I think perseverance is even more important than talent in a writer because practice is what makes us better… assuming we have people to tell us what’s wrong with our writing.

  3. Thanks for the compliments, Sher. My book has definitely improved from your a=input also. If only I could write faster.

  4. Thanks for sharing your insecurities with us! I am so glad you found such a great critique partner. Yeah! I wish you much success and loved hearing your story and the path you have been on so far!

  5. Sheryl, what a great post. I have to agree that meeting face-to-face really makes a big difference with critiques, and I’m speaking as someone who likes to hide behind the computer screen. You are an inspiration in perseverance. I am lucky to have found you and our group.

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