How To Find the Right Critique Group

How To Find the Right Critique Group

notebooks and laptops around a table with hands and drinks scattered around
“The best way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.” -Deepak Chopra

Finding the right writing critique group to click with is a lot like dating. Partners are seemingly everywhere with all the potential for match perfection.

Much like finding the right person to share your heart and personal space with, you have to find the right writing critique group you can trust to open your heart to.  And they need to have good enough hearts themselves to be gentle with yours. They’re people who need not only to be decent writers who can guide you and teach you, the right critique group needs to be people you want to spend time with and who you genuinely enjoy their company.

The beauty of today’s modern world is that options for finding the perfect writing critique group abound, no matter what your schedule is like or where you live. Large or small, in person or online, the possibilities are abundant. But also kind of elusive because you’re looking for a group that gives you the right feels.

What to look for.

Lots of factors can make people click or not with a writing critique group or partner. We’re going to talk about the two I consider to be the most important.

1. Reason and level

It helps if the group you seek out has the same, or similar, goals- like writing for publication or socialization -so they know what to expect from each other. One of the key reasons for seeking out a writing group (other than improvement) is to act as an impetus for your writing. If you’re just a casual, write-when-the-mood-takes-you writer then you (and your group) might get frustrated, even discouraged if everyone else is on the path to publication.

Similar goals aren’t the only important factor to consider. Ask: What level of writing experience do the members of this group have? If you have years of experience writing and you’re surrounded by newbies constantly, you might be a little frustrated. Unless, of course, you’re looking to be everyone else’s mentor. Look for a good mix of writers at all different stages: a few newer writers, maybe they’ve never been published, those who have been with it for a few years and might have some publications under their belt, and writers who are old pros or technical experts (like former literature or English teachers or professional editors).

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your writing experience?
  • Do you have material to share right now? Or are you looking for a group that will help motivate you through the finish, or help motivate you to get started?
  • Do you have a consistent writing practice or schedule?
  • Where do you want to go as a writer? Why are you interested in the group?
  • What else do you do to meet your writing goals? Do you read blogs (well, clearly you’re here but others) or books on craft? Do you take classes or attend workshops?

Assessing where you are today is important. But knowing what you want and where you want to go, also how you will get there, is more important to finding a good match in the long run. Find more about questions to ask yourself when searching for a writer’s group in a great article at Jane Friedman’s blog by guest author Brooke McIntyre.

2. It’s all about the pace, about the pace, no trouble.

Pacing is tricky. I mean, it seems to easy: how often do group members meet up or submit material for review? What’s tricky about it is balancing another time demand as a writer. Not only a time demand  but energy too. The pace of the group should move quick enough that you make progress in your writing and goals. Then again too fast a pace can overwhelm you, too slow can be boring or like others aren’t on your same level. Either one can lead to you, or others, quitting.

When evaluating yourself, don’t get cocky about how much you can realistically produce. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of new people and new input. But it’s not only worrying about how much you can produce, you have to consider how much time it will take you to read others’ work and to give appropriate feedback. To be safe, remember to cut your own estimate of self in half and double your estimate of feedback needs.

Here are a few good questions to consider about production:

  • Consider accurately how much writing you produced this month. Then think about how much you produced the month before that.
  • Settle on spending a minimum of 30 minutes reading on commenting on others’ submissions – possibly more for longer pieces. Don’t forget that you need to consider all of the group members.
  • In-person groups are a little different, pace depends on how often members meet. While you might not have a say in how often the group meets, you do have a say in your schedule and how often you engage with the group.

There should be a balance when working with a writing group. Some people produce more regularly than others, and some people go through brief spurts of creativity. Let’s not forget that life, in it’s infinite screw-with-us, intervenes too. The balance comes in making sure members feel like they are both critiquing and writing equally.

So, where are all these groups?

Chances are there are several different writing associations in your area. Many host meet-and-greets, educational workshops, or you can volunteer. Let your chapter know you are looking for a writing group and they will probably know of a few and be able to give you some contacts.

Most associations have online boards where you can look for groups that have listed with the associations.

There is nothing quite like a writing conference or retreat. The energy of the community, no many word nerds in one place, is invigorating. Talk with people, mingle, and chances are you will run across others who are in or wanting to form a writing group.

You can find a thorough list of writing conferences from Shaw Guides. Facebook groups are also good places to find groups. If all else eludes you, Google it.

Meetup is a good option, depending on your genre and area, for finding groups. These groups typically meet in person and are organized by one or more individuals in your area. As a matter of fact I found my local group through Meetup. Just remember to read through the group’s history and expectations. Some groups are social, some are quiet and organized production in a social setting, some have a level of writing production that you might not be able to meet.

Then there are online critique sites. Don’t worry, most are private so that you aren’t willy nilly sharing your work. Online groups most often run on a credits or points system, where credits are used to submit work and earned for giving critiques. A lot of times the credit-based systems also work hand in hand with a queue system where you will have to wait for your work to be critiqued.

Whether you choose to go with an in-person writing critique group or an online group, there are many benefits to a writer from everything from socialization to tips to basic networking. As long as you know what you want to get out of one, a writing critique group can drastically improve your writing. But don’t forget that with every benefit, there can also be a downside. Check out my upcoming article The Dangers of Writing Groups coming soon for what you need to be wary of.

That’s the down and dirty about how to find a writing or critique group or partner. Tell me, do you use a writing group? Is it online or in person? How did you find the group that fits you?

Announce Image: REdhaired woman playing the piano with a maniacal smile. Several book and e-reader cover images and the Phoenix Comic Fest 2018 logo and dates.

 

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of How To Be An Author, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction, as well as her celebrity to advocate for others.

 

Books: A Touch of DarknessA Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love StoriesA Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

Why You Should Update Your Blog Content

Change is the only constant. – Heraclitus

Let’s face it, today content is money. Blogs are content engines for most writers. They’re integral parts of our branding and marketing. (And if they aren’t, you’re doing this wrong.) But so many field experts simply puke their content onto the digital page, promote the crap out of it, and then never look back – an act that is almost as bad as not producing content at all.

Here are 5 reasons why you should refresh old content on a semi regular basis.

  1. Google loves a shiny new thing.

That Google prefers regularly updated content is proven. There are dozens of studies to back up the validity of my statement. Here’s one. Everyone know that if Google’s affection with your blog decreases, it can be damned hard for you to win it over again.

Why does Google get giggly over new/updated content?

  • Updated content is longer. You know the old adage: size matters. Well, for Google, size does matter. Lengthier content regularly published indicts to Google little bots that you are a substantive and knowledgeable field expert.
  • Because, as we’ve pointed out, content is king, content is cash, and if Google likes anything it likes to be king of the cash.

Changing, adding or removing parts of your blog posts are ways to effectively implement your content marketing strategy.  Google notices your savvy ways and bumps your ranking. Pretty good deal to get immediate rewards for just giving your content a tune-up.

  1. New stuff, am I right?

A lifetime promotional deal is not really a deal when you get right down to it.You are a business. Your content is often a large part of that business. And when your business introduces new promotions like an ebook or a video course or a new blog post, you must link to it in the old content. It’s called working smarter, not harder to reach your readers.

Not being timely with your updates can equal losing moolah, and sometimes it isn’t chump change.

But it isn’t just new stuff you need to be concerned with. You also need to go back and eliminate old information, products, or posts. For instance, one of my books went out of print a couple of years ago. It didn’t make sense to have broken links to a book that no longer exists. So I needed to go back through my content and make sure to remove those links and clean up any promotions of the product from my site.

  1. Readers’ time is valuable.

Don’t waste your reader’s time by talking about something that no longer exists. You’ve been a reader; you’ve been to a site that all the information is old, links are broken, and nothing is updated, right? Bet you were frustrated. Bottom line: it’s never good to frustrate your audience (a.k.a. your buyers).

Making old content go poof is the easiest way to show your readers your care about them and their time. While it’s true people remember negative impressions more than positive ones, never giving them a negative impression certainly makes it easier for them to remember a good one, right?

  1. Constant evolution.

Content, information, is constantly changing. Forget a better user experience…who wants to be the person with the old information?

We all write dated material. There’s nothing wrong with that (although you should try to keep dated material at a minimum and balanced with evergreen material). Writing a brilliant article about “The Best SEO Techniques in 2016” is all well and good except, before you know it, it’s suddenly 2017 and that article is old news.

Change it up. update it by replacing 2016 with 2017 through little tweaks in content (like new links and research material) and the different images. One, using updated and different images should be a staple to marketing any product or content. You never know what will catch different peoples’ attention. Two, you may find a better image than the one you originally used. There is nothing wrong with going “Oh hey, yeah, that works so much better!”

And what happens if your whole brand underwent a change? If you had old screen shots or logos in your content, you will definitely need to update those.

  1. In with the new readers.

Q&A time: How often do you personally scroll back through a blog’s content just to find what that field expert may have posted 5 years ago when they started their blog? Okay, I don’t know about you but I rarely go back more than a few months to a year to see what I might have missed. Unless that business posts their old material (which you should be doing btw) regularly, it just isn’t prudent for me to waste my time. But think about this: what if half of all your new readers really really need to see some of that content? You know, it’s just perfect for them; just what they are looking for.

The whole point of generating content is to build your expertise with readers. If they don’t know you’re an expert simply because they don’t have time to dedicate to stalking you and your product, how are you supposed to be considered an expert?

 

Look, it’s important to update your old content regularly. Secondly, it’s really not that difficult to do. And, third, you’ve put this much work in making yourself more viable to your audience (you know, like reading up on how to be more viable to your audience in this blog post) so why aren’t you?

 

Image of a redheaded woman in a black leather jacket. She has her hands held up in the American Sign Language sign for 'I love you.'BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.

Books: A Touch of DarknessA Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love StoriesA Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

What Consistency in Social Media Marketing Really Means

What Consistency in Social Media Marketing Really Means

Consistency. It’s the $65,000 word when it comes to social media marketing. Readers/fans anticipate that once they start hearing from you, they will keep hearing from you. It’s your job to continue to deliver.

At a recent book marketing lunch, several authors bemoaned the necessity for social media marketing. They had tried it; it didn’t work. They would rather invest their time in actually writing instead. Getting into the discussion deeper however proved why the authors had such dismal results.

Boring consistency.

Yes, it’s necessary to be consistent when interacting with readers/fans on social media, but consistency doesn’t mean the same ol’ same ol’ all the time. When poked, the authors admitted they shared the same thing every day, never fail. A blog post shared every day, a promotional item after that, a picture about their lunch or a place they visited followed that…rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat.

I grew bored just listening to their social media marketing. Consistency isn’t about the same schedule held daily. It isn’t about the exact same post IMAGE: Two women laying on the hood of a car; their knees are bent, and they are laying on their backs. One woman is laughing and looking at the other while she makes a funny face. CAPTION: Social media is about friendships, not sales. BC Brown, Author and social media consultantshared regularly. It’s about interaction. A good social media marketing campaign has variety. There are sometimes weeks where I don’t share a single blog post or a note about my books. There are some weeks where all I share are Star Trek memes and pictures of my animals. Sometimes I share them on the same schedule I usually do, and other times I decrease frequency. What is important is that I don’t disappear; I still have a presence. On top of that, I make sure to interact with others, participate.

Consistency in social media marketing isn’t just about what an author puts out in the world, it’s more about how well they play with others. That includes dialogue and discussion, sharing.

Sprout Social has a great article about social media engagement as it pertains to customer relationships here. And that is what engagement is about, building friendships that could one day equal customers and sales. But it isn’t all it is about.

Patience is a virtue.

The next item discovered at the book marketing lunch was how quickly authors abandoned their social media. One author shared that she consistently posted to social media for 3 whole months before she called it quits. Another mentioned how he tried it for about two months and saw zero results so he quit.

A common misconception with social media marketing is that it is either quick or easy. It is neither. A good social media marketing campaign requires a minimum of 6 months of careful planning and study, adjustments and interactions to be successful. Even 6 months would be expectant. The fact is, social media marketing can take a while to bear any fruit, and then it may not be what most authors expect. Social Media Today has a great article about the realities of social media marketing campaign goals. They go on to share:

“Marketers hoping for quick returns from their social media marketing will be sorely disappointed by the long-term plans required to fulfill those campaign goals,” writes Jonathan Crowl for Skyword.com. “Social media strategy can require years to take root and start generating returns.”

According to Crowl, almost half of marketers in a survey reported that they used social media for two years before they saw an impact on sales.

Find the truth.

Social media marketing isn’t about sales. That’s right, you heard me – it isn’t about sales. It isn’t even about followers or clicks. Although followers and clicks are helpful – but not in the way you might think. In fact, Shout Me Loud has an amazing article about success and the followers where they say:

“Having 10,000 followers who are not interested in your product or brand is NOT BETTER than having 1,000 followers who are very interested in your product or brand.” Read the full article here.

IMAGE: Faded background of ared-wired global network with social media icons. CAPTION: choose targeted followers like you would friends: individuals who share like interestes and to whom your relationship could benefit mutually. BC BRown, author and social media consultantThe followers every company on social media should be actively seeking are targeted followers. (See my upcoming article: How To Find Targeted Twitter Followers Fast)

Targeted followers interact with you; clicks mean you’re offering those followers valuable information they also find worthy of sharing with others. Basically, it’s about the quality of content you offer and the relationship you build with others. It’s making friends. Friends aren’t sales. They can equal sales, but that’s not the real reason for it. And if it is the reason you’re doing it, well then you aren’t being very genuine anyway.

After a little more discussion, the importance of social media marketing seemed to become apparent to, at least, a few members of the group who previously wanted nothing more to do with it. With a little added guidance, many have started reconsidering their social media campaigns. A few have even started small in re-engaging with people through SM. What’s most promising is seeing the inconsistent consistency they’re posting with and starting to see some results from…I mean, who wouldn’t thought?

Announce Image: REdhaired woman playing the piano with a maniacal smile. Several book and e-reader cover images and the Phoenix Comic Fest 2018 logo and dates.

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of How To Be An Author, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction, as well as use her celebrity to advocate for others.

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

Books: A Touch of DarknessA Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love StoriesA Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Lets’ get weird together!

Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest ~ Google+

 

How to Read A Book Every Week (Minimum)

How to Read A Book Every Week (Minimum)

“I want to read more!” Having time to read isn’t something precious to be put on a pedestal and admired. Reading a book every single week is not as difficult as many people make it seem.

I’m not special. I don’t read hundreds of books each year. But I do manage to consume one to two books a week, not counting comic books and graphic novels (which can be several per week). Am I bragging a little? Yeah, okay I am. But the key to my bragging rights is that anyone can make the time to read more. One of the most common utterances of busy adults everywhere is “I wish I read more.” But the secret is to take the act of reading itself off the pedestal. Reading isn’t something that needs special pomp and circumstance. If you think you can only pull out a book when you have an afternoon off and a snuggly blanket, and the rain pitter-pattering off the roof outside…chances are you will only ever read when you have the afternoon off, a snuggly blanket, and it’s raining.

Reading isn’t a luxury; it’s something you make a part of your daily life, a habit, a necessity. Like creating any new habit, or breaking an old bad habit, it’s making a conscious effort. And it isn’t hard to do. When creating a new habit, it just takes a little bit of hard work and willpower. Oh yeah, and a little bit of self trickery.


Don’t read before bed, read before work

It’s common practice for most people to keep their reading on their nightstand. If you read at night, you probably only get through a few pages before you relax and get sleepy. Remember, you’ve already logged a full day’s worth of work and activity, and your brain has already been set to ‘sleep mode,’ not learning mode. Instead, make reading a morning habit in order to read more. If you’re like me, you’re not an early riser. Instead of spending each morning checking Instagram or surfing Facebook in bed, try replaced it with reading a couple chapters. (I promise not much has happened since you opened the app at midnight.) Make tea or coffee and ease your way into the day. (If you’re like me, I read two or three blogs in the morning, reserving my lengthier chapter reading for throughout the day. Of course, that’s mostly because I’m not much of a human being first thing upon waking.) Plus, there are additional benefits to morning reading, such as: your eyes are fresher and you’re less likely to gloss over words or paragraphs due to fatigue orbs; your mind isn’t bogged down by the days distractions, and you can really absorb what you’re reading; and, of course, there are tons of educational advantages to reading first thing in the day, such as easier absorption of ideas to recall later; plus, added health benefits of taking a few extra minutes of relaxing wake up time instead of rushing through your morning routine.


IMAGE: Attractive man on a city bus reading.Take advantage of your commute

Changing up my morning commute was one of the best decisions I ever made to be able to read more. If you take the bus or the train to work, use that time to your advantage: read. Instead of listening idly to music or a podcast, actively read. The average commute is around 30 minutes one way. In 30 minutes, you can read a couple of chapters (depending on the book and its average chapter length). Besides, don’t you want to end up part of the whole internet movement of “Hot Dudes Reading“?


Read on your phone

I love the smell of real books. I love the feel and weight of real books. That said, I read (on average) half of all my books on either my android’s Kindle app or my iPad’s Kindle app. Chances are you have your phone on you pretty much at all times. Most people never let it out of their sight for more than a few minutes, and it’s conveniently right there in your pocket when you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or at the coffee shop. Even if you only read a page or two for a few minutes, those minutes add up over the course of a day. For these short wait periods, I tend to have a non-fiction or short story anthology loaded up and ready to go.  Most short stories can be read start to finish in about 10-15 minutes, so if the line at the grocery store is interminable (like it always seems to be anymore) then you are set to go.


Stop reading books that…suck

Nothing will make you quit your new reading habit faster than feeling like you’re trapped in junior high school and forced to read, or just because you paid money for it or someone said you should read it. There are literally millions upon millions of books out there. Books you will love to spend minutes, even hours, on. If you don’t like a book, don’t read it. Pick up a different one. That doesn’t mean you should never give the book another chance. There is something to the thought that people need certain things at certain times in their lives. That includes books. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up a book to read (usually on recommendation from someone I trust) and it just wasn’t interesting to me…right then. Later when I picked it up again, it was just what I needed to read. And I’m not the only one. Check out this article by two avid readers at The Guardian debating the issue. Even if you’re broke after spending money on that last book you didn’t read, there is…


The library!

If there is a universal constant in this world, it is: free shit rules! The library is probably one of the best bastions on that constant. If you were using “Hey, I paid money for that last book so I have to read it!” then consider instead the fact that library books come with due dates! It’s built in incentive. Also, there is something infinitely gratifying about the treasure hunt that is finding a truly awesome book among stacks and stacks of books.


Multitask, babyIMAGE: House cat laying on top of as if reading a book.

We’re kings and queens of the multitask. It’s a staple of modern life: needing to be able to process and do a lot of different crap all at once in one day. Picking multiple books to read at once is just smart planning. You never know what your taste will be at any given point in the day. Usually I go for a fiction book, something epic and escapist; a nonfiction, improve thyself yaddah yaddah; and at least one comic book (or comic series). There are days your brain will be fried after work during your commute home; grab the comic instead of the dense fantasy novel with a million characters and plots and subplots to follow.


Read while you watch

Most of us aren’t so uppity that we don’t watch some form of live TV. You can still use that time to read. I mean, what can be more gratifying than saying you read hundreds of hours or thousands of books during Geico ads? (Hell, tweet about that and tag Geico; maybe you’ll get some kind of sponsorship, or at least free stuff?) Also, even if you don’t watch live TV, many streaming services still have 30-45 seconds worth of ads periodically throughout the program; keep a book right beside you for those “down times.” An avid moviegoer? Read during the previews or while waiting in the concession line.


Keep track of what you read

We’re competitive, gratification-seeking mammals. We like to feel a sense of accomplishment. Reading is no different. Keep track of what you read. One, it will help you keep from accidentally picking up and wasting time (possibly spending money on) books you read a year, two years, or even three years ago. There are sites like Shelfari and Goodreads, which are fun and will let you do a bit of social bragging, or you can just keep a quick note in your phone or on your tablet. However you do it, the point is to remember to give yourself a little pat on the book for every book you complete (even the ones you don’t complete – you don’t want to accidentally waste time on those again). Doing so will reinforce the good reading habit you’ve worked so hard on.

So, there you have it. Increase how often you read; do the thing you say you always want to do: read more. All you have to do is tweak a few little things in your life and get over yourself. There is time.

Announce Image: REdhaired woman playing the piano with a maniacal smile. Several book and e-reader cover images and the Phoenix Comic Fest 2018 logo and dates.

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of How To Be An Author, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction as well as use her celebrity to advocate for others.

Books: A Touch of DarknessA Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love StoriesA Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: KARAOKE JANE

Let’s get weird together!

Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest ~ Google+