With my suspense novel, Painted Black, due out before the end of the year, I’ve been trying to focus a lot of my time on writing the next book in the series, Bend Me, Shape Me. The idea behind the push is that if–I should say when–Black gets a lot of fans who want more, they won’t have to wait long. Publishers like that sort of thing, a second book issued while it can ride the wave of a successful first book.
Unfortunately, since my day job as a part time account coordinator has been generating almost zero hours this month, my focus has been on finding and working on freelance writing jobs with a quicker rate of return in order to make the mortgage and get groceries.
So I have not been as active writing Bend Me as I would like. In fact, if it wasn’t for the writer’s groups I belong to, who knows how far along I would be.
I started looking for writer’s groups a few months ago, knowing that being accountable to a group would help increase my output. Perhaps more importantly, I had been feeling a lack of writerly community. I have great friends here in Seattle, creative friends, that I have lots in common with. But there seemed to be no one who shares my drive to write, and not just write, but to write with the intent of publication.
That last is particularly important. The first few groups I found using Meetup.com had some very good writers in them. But many or all of them seemed to be part of the group simply because they enjoy writing and want to be able to share what they’ve done with someone. One group even discouraged critiques that contained negative comments. I was able to say things like “I’d like to find out more about your character’s background” as long as I also said several things that were positive, even if there weren’t that many.
Seattle Fiction Writers was the the first group that I found where I knew from the first meeting it was a keeper. First of all, they meet more fequently than most, every two weeks. Secondly, they specifically only wanted fiction writers, knowing that it can be difficult to give helpful critiques on a format you have little interest in and even less experience with. Most importantly, their About Us specifically states that one of their goals is to pursue and share publication opportunities.
I had about four chapters completed on Bend Me, Shape Me when I started attending their meetings. So that meant for eight weeks only, I was set. By now, however, I have a deadline to meet. Every two weeks, I must have a chapter done.
Not that they would throw me out if I didn’t submit anything once in a while, but it presents a goal I feel I need to meet. Sometimes the chapter is pretty short, or maybe incomplete, but I am surprised how helpful it is to have that deadline looming when I sit at my computer with no idea what the next chapter is about. It seems odd to say a deadline can be your muse, but I’ve found that they can get the creative juices flowing.
Just recently, I’ve joined another writer’s group, one that I found through someone I met at a writer’s conference put on by the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association. This one meets weekly so the deadlines come fast and furious. Thanks to my first group, I am several chapters ahead of the game, and can use this group to help edit existing content rather than produce new.
Soon, however, the pace will catch up to me. I only hope that when I find myself in the position of feeling compelled to write a chapter a week, I am able to produce. Because at that rate, Bend Me, Shape Me should be in a publisher’s hands just when the demand for another Jo Sullivan suspense novel reaches its peak. (Can I have an Amen, here, friends?)