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How to Become a Member of the Creative Writers’ Group

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this article is unnecessary. It certainly is for those who have already successfully become members.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this article is unnecessary. It certainly is for those who have already successfully become members. However, there are a lot of people whose membership requests we have had to decline because they don’t answer the three questions correctly, or they only answer one or two of them, or they never answer them at all.

If you’re not a member already, and you’ve stumbled across this blog post due to some happy browsing accident (or because a member sent it to you), allow me to explain what Creative Writers is. Basically, Creative Writers has become a haven for writers that want to help each other become better writers. You can show off their work-in-progress knowing that you’ll get honest feedback (and without being shamed for promoting), and you can also be part of a writing project that I’m excited to be a part of myself, called The Monolith Anthology.

If this sounds like your kind of place, click on the words ‘Creative Writers‘. This will take you to a Facebook page. Providing you’re already on Facebook, you should see the word ‘Join’ underneath the header image.

Once you’ve hit ‘Join’, you’ll be prompted to answer three questions that we’ve carefully designed to filter out those that won’t fit our growing and supportive community. These questions are as follows, along with the simple answers that would get you accepted:

Accepted1

If you think you would struggle to truthfully answer these three questions with ‘yes’, then you probably won’t fit in. However, let me clarify my meaning and intent behind each question to see if you still feel the same afterwards.

Regarding the first question, I absolutely agree that, as adult writers, we should be able to handle any word we see with maturity and reason. I agree that we should be able to use any word we wish without having to worry about offending and being censored by fellow writers. However, there are many people with social anxiety, depression, PTSD and similar psychological trauma that might find your words trigger memories of a painful or traumatic nature.

There are also some young authors in the group. Some as young as 12 and 15 that may not be comfortable with graphic violence or sexual content. For their sakes please begin your post with a content warning and keep anything too mature for them below the ‘read more’ line. Even if you don’t feel responsible for the psychological responses of adults, please respect the innocence of the younger Creative Writers.

Regarding the ban on religious and political topics. This is a group for discussing fiction. There are some who believe very strongly that their religious and political beliefs are fact. We have no need to discuss facts in a fiction group. Feel free to discuss fictional governments and gods openly. In fact, as long as you’re okay with your beliefs being discussed and critiqued as if they were fiction, go ahead. Most people are not. If you want a group for religious or political debate, this is not the one.

The last question is the easiest and it’s there to make sure new members are aware that we expect them to actively participate in group discussions. Offer advice and suggestions to those who are struggling, ask for feedback and motivation from the group, and generally help to make the group a friendly, helpful and encouraging place. If you’d rather ‘tell it like I see it’, you probably don’t belong.

Hopefully, we’re all on the same page now and that you’re able to reply in the affirmative without being dishonest with yourself. Please do make certain you answer all three questions. Answering only two of them, even if you answer both with yes, will get you rejected. You would also be rejected for doing what this guy did:

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Not only does he only respond to only one question, but he also doesn’t actually answer the question. If you recognise this as your attempt to access the group, please try again!

By the way, if you have hit ‘Join’ and never received the three questions, please try again. We decline all requests 6 hours old or more if they don’t answer the questions, but we’d more than willing to help you if you’re having technical difficulties. If after trying to join again you still don’t get the questions, contact any of the group admins. We can ask you the questions manually! Sorry, there is no way to get around them. 😉

See you in the group 🙂

 

What do I write about?

Lots of people have posted in the group,

“I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how to get started.”

Lots of people have posted in the group,

“I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how to get started.”

There’s been some great feedback in these threads, but it’s a fast-moving group. It doesn’t take long before the last post on the subject is too far down the page to easily find, and someone else asks,

“Hey, I’m new here and I’ve always wanted to write. How do I get started?”

The most obvious, and frequently commented answer is, of course,

“Write”.

While this may seem condescending, obvious, and not particularly helpful, it’s also true. As daunting as it always seems to put pen to paper for the first time before you even have an idea, it really is the best start. Free-writing, which is writing with no agenda (for those that didn’t read Overcoming Obstacles), is a great way to practice writing, get in touch with your creative side, and kick-start your imagination.

Don’t get upset with yourself if you don’t get a killer idea on your first try. You might not even get your story idea from free-writing at all. It could be a conversation with friends, a movie, a video game, or even someone else’s book that gives you an idea you can’t wait to write down. You could even ask the group for a writing prompt if you like.

Once you have an idea, no matter how you got it, you need to write to expand the idea into a full story. Tell yourself the story in broad strokes. Who is the main character? What do they want out of life? What interferes with that? Do they overcome this obstacle? How does it affect them personally? Make any other notes about the timeframe, setting, and characters that come to mind.

You may wish to provide yourself with an outline. This can be as simple as a paragraph each describing the beginning, middle, and end of your story, or it could be an elaborately detailed timeline. Some people prefer to skip this step entirely and write by the seat of their pants.

Whether you’re pantsing or not, you’re going to need to make a rough draft. This is the first run through of writing the story. Keep your notes and outline handy, if you’ve made any, so you can be consistent. Don’t worry too much about it though, or about spelling and grammar, you can fix all of that later.

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If you find yourself deviating from the plan you made, that’s okay, you find the story brings itself back on track in a way you didn’t expect. Character’s personalities might even change as you’re writing them, that’s all okay too. Keep writing, and see where it leads. Getting a story down on paper can sometimes feel like wrestling with a live python.

Once you’ve managed to fight the story onto the pages, now comes the part that a lot of writers, including myself, hate. Reading through the rough draft and finding those errors in consistency, spelling, grammar and flow that you tried so hard to ignore while you were writing out your rough draft. Lots of people give up at this stage and say to themselves,

“I’m a horrible writer.”

Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s a rough draft. Everyone’s rough draft is horrible. I’ve said this before in previous articles because everyone needs to know this. The rough draft is supposed to be rough.

Some people, Steven King included (according to his book ‘On Writing‘),  like to leave their rough draft in a drawer for two weeks to make this step easier. Read through your rough draft, as if it’s someone else’s work. If you have a writing buddy, you might even want to swap manuscripts at this step and provide each other with helpful notes.

There’s a variety of different ways to do this. Some people like to make notes as they’re reading, and then write up the new draft from those notes. Some (like myself) transpose the handwritten rough draft into a word processing document, making corrections as they go. Others will scrap the rough draft entirely and start from scratch.

Once the second draft is written, you’re still not done. Read it again. If it doesn’t need another re-write, now’s the time for beta-readers, which might include the aforementioned writing buddy again. Beta-readers, for those not familiar with the term, are people who get to read your story before it gets published, in exchange for their feedback.

You don’t have to agree with everything the beta-readers tell you, but if you find that many of them are offering the same input, you may have to add a little to the story to produce the desired effect. The missing piece that makes the story fully immersive may take a while to find, and that’s okay. Don’t feel bad about putting the story on the backburner until it comes to you. You may even find your incomplete story inspires a better one.

Writing well takes practice. Sometimes you’ll get stuck completely, in which case try to use your time productively. Free-write, work on another idea, help someone read through their rough draft, read books that will help you understand the subjects, places and people you’re writing about, or chat with other Creative Writers to try and get your creative juices flowing again.

In other words, the best way to get started is to get started. Let us help you if you get stuck, and if your short-story is as well written as you can get it, submit it for the Monolith anthology 🙂

If you like what we’re doing, please support us by backing our Kickstarter campaign. If you can’t back us yourself, please share the project around. If you have any questions about the project, just ask.

Have a great day 🙂

Antony M. Copeland

 

The Monolith Anthology

For the sake of those that haven’t already joined the Creative Writers group on Facebook and read the pinned post (please do), here are the details of the Monolith project:

For the sake of those that haven’t already joined the Creative Writers group on Facebook and read the pinned post (please do), here are the details of the Monolith project:

Monolith – The Creative Writers’ Anthology Series

I’m rather excited about how this project is evolving.

For those of you that don’t know already, this growing community of supportive, helpful and passionate Creative Writers is putting together an anthology!

It’s called ‘Monolith’ and we intend to make an entire series, starting with book one, which will be subtitled ‘New Beginnings’.

If you’d like to be a part of it, please write a short-story (not poetry, sorry) of 2,000-10,000 words. It can be any genre, style or topic you like, as long as it fits the ‘New Beginnings’ theme.

We want well-polished, well-written stories that have been proof-read and rewritten at least once. No rough drafts, please.

We will accept submissions until August 31st. That will then give us time to compile the collection for a January 2018 release if all goes well.

The other admins and I will be proof-reading them to make sure they’re publishable, and we’ll be checking for basic spelling and grammar mistakes, but please make them as polished and professional as you can.

If any of you need help with phrasing, wording, grammar or spelling during the writing process we’ll be happy to help, as I’m sure would be anyone else in the group.

‘New Beginnings’ can represent almost anything. As Adrian McCauley pointed out:
“Speculative fiction is all about taking the cliche and subverting it. How can we take the theme of new beginnings and do something with it?
Resurrection (literal and symbolic)
Frontier / Colonial fiction
Time Travel
Life changing surgery/event/circumstance”

Whatever story you write will probably fit the theme as long as it features birth, a new start, a revolution or dramatic change.

We’ll be looking for stories that we want to read, that pull us right in, that move us. I don’t want to put too much pressure on you all, but if this book is going to sell, it’s got to be good! Consider this your excuse to show off what you can do.

If you want a real challenge, how about writing a series? Each new story will appear in the next anthology. The catch is that you won’t know the theme of the next episode until we announce it! Although if any of you are familiar with ‘the heroes journey’ you might have some idea where we’re going with it.

I’m repeating myself here because I can’t stress this enough. If you’ve only written the story out in full once, rewrite it. Trust me, even if you think it’s awesome and perfect, it isn’t. Do not submit first drafts! We will tell you to rewrite it!

There’s a new submission method now. Please send us a Word document (.docx file) to CreativeWriters.subs@gmail.com Make sure you include both the title of the story and your name on the first page.

Welcome to the Creative Writers. Please engage with each other, help one another and share your passion for your work.

We also have a website that I need help decorating. If you have any artwork or blog topic suggestions let me or one of the other admins know.

You can help support this project by becoming a patron at https://www.patreon.com/antonym_copeland. If you choose to do this, thank you.

Any questions or concerns?

– Antony M. Copeland

Overcoming Obstacles

All kinds of things can get in the way when you’re trying to write, and I’m going to mention a few. The biggest obstacle for most of us though is writer’s block.

All kinds of things can get in the way when you’re trying to write, and I’m going to mention a few. The biggest obstacle for most of us though is writer’s block. It doesn’t seem to matter how many of the other issues we resolve, writer’s block always seems to be lurking around the corner, ready to pounce, right as our fingers are hovering over the keyboard, or our pen is about to touch the page.

All of these issues have been mentioned in the Creative Writers group at least once. The first one I’m going to tackle is self-doubt. It’s doozy, and one that often disguises itself as various excuses. After you push through “I don’t have the time”, “I have to be available for my kids (or some other person-in-need)”, or “I’m always so tired after work” (all of which I will also talk about) you usually find yourself saying “no-one will want to hear my story” or “I don’t have anything to say”.

That’s twaddle, and it doesn’t even matter. Self-esteem isn’t necessary for writing. In fact, self-doubt is an almost universally understood state of being. Even if all you have to say is “I have no idea what to write about, but this guy AntonyM guy tells me I should try this, so here goes…” just start writing and see where it leads you. What you’ll find as you continue writing (“there’s no way this is going to work! It’s a complete waste of time…”) that the words start flowing a little easier, a little faster, and before you know it, you’re writing! You can do it, and it feels good!

It may take a few tries at this exercise to get the words really flowing, but you may even find yourself writing a story. Something you didn’t even know you had in you. I can almost guarantee you that it won’t be the story you imagined you’d write. The greatest gift my ex-wife ever gave me was teaching me this technique. I believe she learned it as she studied to be an English Teacher. It’s called ‘freewriting’, and it’s as easy as putting pen to paper, and seeing where it takes you.

This is when you might face another possible hurdle. Even if you weren’t freewriting. You might be deep in the middle of writing then, for whatever reason, you look at what you’ve just written and said to yourself, “This is crap! A 10-year old could do better!” Don’t throw it out. It’s supposed to be crap. It’s a rough draft. Get your ideas out on the page first, then fix it later. Let yourself think like a 10-year old. Just tell the story. Don’t worry about how well it’s written yet.

Keep writing until you feel like you’ve hit a wall. Is it time to sleep? Then sleep. Is there something else needs doing today? Do the thing. The obstacle to avoid here is procrastination. Once more it can hide in excuses that you can reasonably consider true. You got distracted. You had to stay longer than you planned. Things just kept coming up. You might even tell yourself it’s writer’s block. Personally, I love procrastinating and “I’m too tired” is my typical excuse.

I’m getting better at making writing my priority though. It can be tough though to say “writing comes first” and mean it. There’s always some loved one that you don’t want to hurt, a prior commitment, or even a job that you’ve learned to put first. I have to remind myself that when I put the needs first I never had the time to write. I truly mean to be a successful writer, and that means I need to make it a priority. If you want to see your book being read by someone way cooler than you think you are, make writing a priority.

So here you are, ready to pick up where you left off. You pull up the notes you were working on from your last freewriting session, story, or dream-born idea and….nothing. Writer’s block. Now you could just start freewriting again (“wtf? Seriously? Now? I finally got the best story idea ever, and now it’s just gone? Poof!? It’s just not fair!…”) about having writers block, or you could do one of my favourite things in the world to do lately, and that’s talking to you guys, the Creative Writers.

Beware using Facebook as a distracting excuse to procrastinate though. I do it myself. Far too much. There’s always another conversation I want to jump into. There have been quite a few times that I didn’t even get around to posting my question before a notification tells me that someone else wants to join, or I see a member asking for feedback on their own writing, or someone is spamming us with stuff that barely relates to writing at all.

I should be working on my Monolith submission right now, but old habits die hard and I know that the group has been literally calling out for this article to be written. So I will be making my own writing a priority this week. Feel free to check on me and make sure I’ve not found some excuse to procrastinate again. 😉

The point I’ve diverted from was that you can talk to other Creative Writers about your story, explaining the basic premise so far and the part that you’re stuck on. You can also do this with a real live human being if you happen to have one nearby willing to listen. I usually find myself figuring out exactly what happens next in the story as I’m trying to summarise the plot. If however, you’ve posted your predicament and have yet to perceive a possible solution to the problem (sorry I like to alliterate occasionally) it shouldn’t be too long before you have a comment, and probably several.

Here comes another hurdle. One that you’ll come across again if you ask for help with editing or proofreading later on. When receiving feedback, remember that it is only a suggestion. Take all of it with a pinch of salt. It’s your story, not theirs, and only you get to decide how you tell it. Having said that, listen to what people have to say. Their suggestion may not fit your story exactly, but if you poke at it a bit and adjust it for context, it may give you some perspective that you were lacking, and lead you out of your writer’s block.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you overcame your self-doubt, found the time to write between your kids, spouse, job and chores, managed to keep yourself on-task during that time, taken feedback like a champ and completed your first rough and terrible draft of your story. Now comes the horrid part. At least for me. This is my least favourite part of the process. You have to read through what you’ve written and fix all the mistakes.

The dreaded re-write. Filled with all the same pit-traps and shiny distractions that you got the first time around. As you find more and more horrible mistakes, you start to doubt yourself all over again (“I write like a monkey stole my brain!”) and come up with excuses not to do it. If you power through it though, getting help when you need it, the story that comes out will be much easier for other people to read!

Writing is a craft, it takes time, patience, and many subtle stages before the final piece is revealed. The more time and attention you can give to it, the better the finished story will be. Which leads me to the final hurdle (that I can currently think of). Knowing when it’s done. I still have a tendency to think a story is done way too early. It may be related to my distaste for re-writing, but I’m making myself re-write a rejected ghost-story for my Monolith submission to give myself the practice. Or at least I will be when I stop procrastinating.

Honestly, I have yet to master the art of knowing when it is done. I haven’t even come up with an idea besides “keep rewriting until it’s done”, which leads to repeating the question “But how do I know when it’s done?” Perhaps you have a suggestion?

I’d also love to hear your suggestions for the other obstacles. Let me know if I can help you overcome any because it will give me an excuse to procrastinate 😉

Keep writing! 😀

‘Monolith’ Will Be Great!

‘Monolith’ will be great, because we are going to make it great.

‘Monolith’ will be great, because we are going to make it great.

There are several things we can do to make it great. The first and most obvious is by including only the best of the stories that are submitted to us. This means of course that we’ll be expecting your best work, with well-polished plots and engaging storytelling. It’s entirely possible that we’ll have so many great stories that we might  be releasing a rather large book. If your worried that your story won’t be good enough, talk to us, your fellow Creative Writers, and allow us to help you make it great.

Write in whatever genre you’re most comfortable in. I want readers to be so blown away by every story in there that they go looking for more stories written by you. So don’t back. Show off. One of the most effective way to sell anything is by word of mouth. I want people buying Monolith to replace the copy they lent out to someone else.

Not only will this help us sell more copies of each book in the Monolith series, but any book you’ve already written, as more and more readers are introduced to your authentic writing style. Especially if they see your name over and over again as each book in the ‘Monolith’ series is released.

As you might have picked up, I’ve picked up a few tricks about small business, marketing and sales in my previous career and I’m eager to put those skills to good use for all of us. If you wish I can provide with proof of my credentials and show evidence that my business sense is sound. 😉

One of the other things I plan to do to raise the perceived value of the book that won’t require you, the Creative Writers, any additional effort, is to set the price high. People expect a book to be high quality if it was pricey, and positively influences their first impression of the stories and the writers. We won’t include anything that might jar them from that opinion. Exclusivity increases demand.

Starting at a higher price will also allow us to pay the writers and ourselves better (those of you that have declined your share of the royalties can choose how we use the money, including going to support low-income families if you wish). It will also let us make the book seem even more attractive when we reduce the price during a sale.

Having a thicker physical book would actually help justify the price. If Monolith was the same size as books they got for .99, they might feel a little cheated despite the superior quality of our writing. I have no idea exactly what we’ll set the price at yet, but I’m aiming for a price that makes people go “How much? Monolith must be really good to sell for that much!”

 

Maybe not that thick!

 

In other words, Monolith is going to be great.

Great in quality since every writer will be producing an honest example of their best work. No holding back.

Great in size because we are going to have to fit as many story submissions as we can between the jackets, without compromising on quality.

Great in price because if you price high, people value it highly and want it more. The ‘haves’ will buy it because it’s expensive, and they can, and the ‘have nots’ will covet it, and then buy it when we drop the price.

Great in distribution because, not only are people going to recommend this book (or brag about it like a status symbol), but each new Monolith book will introduce new readers that are coming across it for the first time, to previous books in the series.

Great in variety of experience, because we’ll have a great range of different genres and writing styles that really shows off what the Creative Writers’ group can do, and yet they’ll all introduce the reader, somehow, to a different ‘New Beginning’.

Great in every sense of the word because we are doing this together as a community. By helping each other to grow and improve, we can become the best writers, editors, proofreaders, publishers and people we can be, and more successful than we ever thought we could be.

Even if we fail, we will learn, adapt and keep going. It’s great to be a part of this with you all.

Antony M. Copeland

 

New Beginnings

It’s fitting that ‘New Beginnings’ be the title of the first blog entry

It’s fitting that ‘New Beginnings’ be the title of the first blog entry on the Creative Writers new website since it’s also going to be the subtitle and theme of our debut publication, the first volume of the Monolith anthology. As you can probably infer (and probably already know) this would just be the first in an ongoing series in which each volume has a different theme.

I’m pleased to discover that there are now several writers in the Creative Writers’ Facebook group that are attempting the serialised story challenge (I’m one of them). If you hadn’t heard about this, instead of a short story you could submit a chapter of a longer story to Monolith. You’d submit the second chapter to the second volume, and so on.

The catch is that each chapter must fit the theme of the book. That shouldn’t be too challenging though since I’m selecting the themes based on the monomyth, aka ‘the hero’s journey’. It also has to be of consistently high quality. It would be great if we could republish the Monolith serialised stories into complete collections.

Do you think you’d be up for this challenge?