Community in Writing

jotEvery six months, over the last year, my writers group has put on a one night writers conference called Jot. The third installment is less than a month away (Friday, March 14th).

Before we started writing, we were all friends. Each of us had been writing or considering it in one form or another. We each shared our secret love of writing and all of a sudden there we were, meeting about once a week to share our progress or even reading a little of our work. At the time I don’t think we realized the unique situation we had, an organically grown writers group that sprouted out of friendship. We didn’t read an article on a website or an invitation in a bookstore to connect with random individuals, it just sort of happened.

Writing is a lonely activity. I’ve said it many times on my blog that you cannot write alone, but you have to. What I mean is that, just like runners in a marathon, you need people on the sideline cheering you on and also people writing with you to help improve your craft.

The act of writing thrives in community. In community the writer receives encouragement, readers, and challenges all at the same time, three ingredients essential to any would be novelist. This is why we started Jot. Not because we wished to make money (it is free) but because we wanted to connect local writers with other local writers.

If you are a writer in the West Michigan area, or within driving distance, I hope you’ll come out for our event. If anything, our lineup is fantastic. You’ll hear presentations from professional novelists, one on screenwriting, have a chance to attend a free poetry workshop with a poetry editor of a literary magazine, and a presentation from a publisher. I believe, however, you’ll get more than that. Your passion for writing will be ignited and you might find a writing friend or two to meet with regularly, that is our desire.

Writing thrives in community. I hope to see you Friday, March 14th at 7pm at Baker Book House on East Paris in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Until then, write every day!

Cheers,

Bob

Three Benefits of Writing to a Schedule

While I finish a week of banishment from the internet, a result of my recent move, my friend Josh has graciously agreed to write a guest blog on Parttimenovel.

Josh is a fellow member of my Weaklings writer’s group who is in pursuit of publication. I hope you find this post insightful. I know I did, as I also listened to Andrew’s presentation at Baker Book Store and was inspired to start a blog. Please visit their blogs at Josh Mosey Writer and Tell Better Stories.

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My good friend Bob Evenhouse was the one who inspired me to start my blog, but it was another Weakling  who gave me some helpful tips about how to actually do it.

A while back, I had the pleasure of co-leading a seminar at the Breathe Writer’s Conference with my friend and former co-worker, Andrew Rogers. Andrew and I met through working at my bookstore, but it wasn’t long before his talents were stolen away by local (yet global) publisher, Zondervan. The session we led at the writer’s conference was titled something like “Marketing 101: What bookstores and publishers want from authors”. It was supposed to be an hour long session with the last 15 minutes reserved for questions. We were each going to take a few minutes to introduce ourselves and our platforms and then speak for about 20 minutes on our individual subjects. Much of what I said, I’ve included in my Bookstore Symbiosis posts, but Andrew talked about online marketing tools and the author’s brand and other cool things. By the time he was done, people didn’t want to wait for the appropriate Q&A time and I ended up with about 10 minutes to go through my presentation. But I wished he would have continued without having to stop for me. It was so good.

Among the things he said was one nugget that stuck with me, even though it would be a few years before I started my own blog. He said that when just starting out, write to a schedule. Make a plan for your posts and stick with it. My personal blog schedule started out like this: Monday – Autobiographical, Tuesday – Character feature from one of my novels, Wednesday – Book Review, Thursday – Writing Tips or Inspiration, Friday – Links and Report Card, Saturday and Sunday – Relax.

When I scheduled my posts like this, my previous concerns about starting a blog and then not having anything to say proved to be unfounded. All I had to do was come up with a post that fit the theme of that day. With a little direction, I had no trouble coming up with content. So the first benefit is always having a prompt.

Another thing I noticed with my post schedule was that I was allowing myself a variety of ways to relate to other people. By choosing a different prompt each day, I could allow people to see something about my past, my writing, my taste in books, and what I found interesting enough to link to. I was allowed to be well-rounded.

Last, by having a schedule, I forced myself to be consistent in my posting. In blogging, I’ve found that sporadic posts mean a low readership. It is difficult for people to build reading your blog into their routine when they have no idea when to expect a new post from you. And if you decide to post a whole string of posts in one day, there’s a good chance that your followers won’t follow for long since no one likes being force-fed for long. It doesn’t matter as much whether you post daily or once a week, as long as people know what to expect. By setting a schedule, you’ll know what to expect of yourself, and your readers will know what they have to look forward to.

Thanks for reading!