Now that I’ve been published, people often ask me how to do it. Learning your craft is important, of course, and so is having creative ideas, but the most important tip I can share is to connect with other writers and form a critique group.
Years ago, when writing was only a glimmer of an idea in the back of my mind, I sat at a banquet table next to an author who was receiving an award. During the meal, I listened with awe as she discussed the members of her critique group–all famous authors.
No wonder she got published with connections like that, I thought.
When I suggested that she was lucky to have such stellar critique partners, she laughed. “We all started out as unpublished writers. After we’d been together about five years, one by one we each got a book contract. Then over the next few years, we started winning awards. Now most of the group members have gone on to become famous, but we actually learned to write together.”
Little did I know that I was soon to follow her path. Last weekend I had the joy of attending a book signing at the Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg, PA. It brought tears to my eyes to know that the members of my very first crit group were there signing their books too. In fact, all of us have more than one book published. And, yes, we did it together. I’d venture to say that without sharing our combined knowledge, we would never be where we are today.
But the story doesn’t end there. I moved to a new state and a new crit group. Of course, I didn’t leave my old group behind. We still crit each other’s work via mail. But I’ve been with my new crit group for several years, and now that group is on the path to publication as well. One of my friends from that group joined me for this Harrisburg booksigning with her first novel in a series of three. And as for the other members of that group, all of them are close to publication. I’ve watched in delight as the submissions for each crit meeting move to ever higher levels of quality. I know that soon all of us will be doing group signings together.
In a few years, some of my CPs (or many of them) may be household names. Then I can say I knew them when. In fact, one member of a crit group I belonged to made the NY Times Bestseller list for a book I helped to critique.Very cool! And other CPs are now winning writing awards and contests. So it won’t be long until I’ll be able to say the same thing as that famous author: “We all learned to write together.”
Moving up the ladder of publishing success often seems to be a painstakingly slow process–one rung at time. Many times you wonder if you’ll ever get high enough off the ground, but when you look down, you can see how far you’ve come. Even better, though, is watching those around you reach that pinnacle of success.