By TLC Nielsen
Are you a Writer Gone Wrong?
But unbeknownst to many is another, small group of writers who hoard their words, shudder from social interaction with other (competing) authors, and cannot restrain themselves from talking/chatting/emailing about their books, blogs and other writings far more than necessary. This group of writers took dangerous forks on the writerly road, ending up down a path they never intended to take.
Here are 5 road signs to keep you, and me, from joining Writers Gone Wrong!
Road Sign #1 Writing Conferences- To go or Not to go
Beware the path that leads you away from attending writing conferences. I’m thankful my writing path started 6 years ago when a persistent writing friend invited me to a local, annual writing conference. Yes, it was expensive, but so is any 4-day conference with room and board attached. It took two years of writing for a scholarship before I won a full-ride award. By attending this conference, I moved from being an amateur writer to becoming a serious wordsmith. I proved to myself, my family and other writers that I was “in it to win it.” I have gone to a yearly writing conference ever since and I wouldn’t have finished my novel without the support I found there. Attending a conference also gave me a deadline, making me work harder and smarter to have my one-sheet, short biography, and manuscripts ready to go.
Road Sign #2 Word Hoarding versus Sharing
Finding an amazing critique group requires some hunting and some sacrifice of time but the alternative is scary. Left to themselves, writers gone wrong will think everything they’ve written is amazing or, more like me, that it all stinks and should be destroyed before anyone can smell, I mean read it. Writers need to be actively involved with a peer group of fellow wordsmiths they can trust to help them edit and improve. The first draft isn’t called the “vomit” draft1 for no reason.
It took me three years of attending that local writing conference before I found a handful of writers who lived close enough to me to start a critique group. I trust these writers because of their keen insight and the amazing works they share with the group. I had been involved with a library writers’ group previously, which left me scarred and scared; there were a few alpha writers who positioned themselves to be in control. That was my first experience with writers gone wrong and it took me ten years before I would try again. So, as a self-confessed word hoarder, I implore all writers to become word sharers, even if it means starting your own critique group and having to be its president for a few years. The benefits far outweigh the sacrifice.
“Writers need to be actively involved with a peer group of fellow wordsmiths they can trust to help them edit and improve.” — TLC Nielsen
It’s truly an honor and privilege for me to be involved with the serious writers in the On the Border chapter. When this group first started, we looked at a variety of organizations before choosing to join Word Weavers, International. These organizations are a great way to get support and find writing groups in your area. I joined the 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook about the same time my critique group started and my fellow writers, both online and in-person, are responsible for my success as a word sharer on this word-strewn journey…together.
I joined the 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook about the same time my critique group started and my fellow writers, both online and in-person, are responsible for my success as a word sharer on this word-strewn journey…together.
Road Sign #3 Lone Ranger or Accountability Partner – that is the question
Writers who’ve gone wrong may sometimes attend a writing conference and occasionally pop into a critique group. They may be too much of the lone ranger type to seek out a mentor or accountability partner. When I attended my first conference five years ago, the presenters hammered out the trifecta of writer success: conferences, critique groups and one-on-one relationships. Eugene H. Peterson in a 2017 publication summed it up well: “I am not myself by myself.”2 He may have been referring to the church, but I think his statement stands for writers – I am not my writerly self by myself. If no one reads my words, I am simply a journal writer, not an author. To be an authentic author takes accountability, sometimes the uncomfortable kind.
Road Sign #4 Using Your Writerly Powers for Good or…
Do you give or take in your writing? Literary agent Leslie Stobbe said if you want to be a writer, then write! 3 Find an organization to use your skills to help, for the need of volunteer writers is vast. There are numerous ways to use your word powers for good. Here are two basic mainstays: always a) quote your sources and b) ask for permission to use other folks’ words whenever possible.
However, there can be a dark side to having writerly powers, when it’s too easy for authors to stray into taking more than they give. Oh, they may pretend to offer something for free but there’s a catch – you owe them. A true gift comes with no strings attached. It takes dedicated effort to use words to help others, whether offering to write guest blogs for writer friends, volunteering free writing services to a worthy organization, or sending thoughtful letters to others – just give back full-heartedly. And remember the advice from Leslie, if you’re a writer – then write.
“Being a participating member of 10 Minute Novelists is a great start!”
— TLC Nielsen
Road Sign #5 Decimal Point Growth or Decline
In chatting with my mother, a published botanist, she encouraged me to mention becoming Decimal Point writers, “people who are incrementally increasing their skills.”4 She clarified that even though 1.4 writers are still considered at “1” a small increase to 1.6 catapults them towards “2.”
Writers who have gone wrong, however, tend to think in extremes – I’m a “10+” or I’m a “0”. I’m learning to celebrate the small incremental steps of my writing journey in order to dodge the doubt that plagues me. My small successes include reading books for pleasure while on the stationary bike, writing a monthly blog and bringing something, anything, to the critique group to which I belong. I’m also entrusting my novel to beta readers, a step of trust in my word-ly journey.
While my book has not been published yet, I hold on to the 10 minutes a day commitment that gets me ever closer to my goal.
The choices writers make EACH DAY will either expand or contract their growth: in conference attendance, word sharing commitment, community mindfulness and accountability and, most importantly, in giving back.
1 Bob Hostetler, WTP 2016 conference, Wheaton, Illinois. “Vomit draft” quote, source unknown.
2 Eugene H. Peterson, CT Pastors: “The State of Church Ministry in America”, 2017 (p. 30)
3 Leslie Stobbe, WTP 2012 conference, Wheaton, Illinois
4 Botanist Linda W. Curtis, self-published author of three books on plants:
Aquatic Plants of Northeastern Illinois, Bog-Fen Carex of the Upper Midwest and Woodland Carex of the Upper Midwest. Permission granted
TLC Nielsen fights her writer-gone-wrong tendencies by being the current VP of the Word Weavers On the Border writing chapter, mentoring new attendees at a local writing conference, and belonging to the 10 MN group. She’s editing her first novel, By Land or Sea, and will be attending only one conference this year, at her spouse’s request. She uses her writerly powers for the better by occasionally judging book contests. Her decimal point increases include playing trombone on Rich Rubietta’s CD Resting Places, contributing a story on p. 68 of I Believe in Healing by Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk, belonging to the 365 Writing Club here at 10 MN as well as interviewing ordinary folks with extraordinary stories at this monthly blog: https://lookandbe.blogspot.com. You can find her occasionally on Twitter as Read2Mii2.