Grouping Up

So I just got back from my first meeting with the Denton Writers League

DWL meets once per month, usually have a guest speaker who talks about his/her experiences with writing, and then they go out to lunch.  Last year the group worked on an anthology for publication, a project that everyone seemed enthusiastic about repeating.  They also attend various cons and discuss what projects that they are working on. 

This month’s speaker was Dr. Alexey Root.  She is an instructor at UT Dallas, a volunteer Jr. High teacher, and 1989 US Women’s chess champion.  She spoke on putting together a non-fiction book before sending out your query letter.  She has had several books published on incorporating chess into the classroom.

After the meeting, I had lunch with a few of the members of the group, including the speaker.  We had a lovely meal with good conversation about writing and I got a bit of the history of the group.

DWL was not quite what I expected or was looking for.  It is not a critique group, which was what I was thinking it would be. I felt that a critique group would force me into some sort of writing discipline.  However, with the broad base of writing styles represented by the group, it doesn’t really seem the venue for critique workshops…which is actually OK.

I get the impression that this is more of a support group, a club of like-minded people who come together and understand what we’re all going through and what we’re all trying to do.  There’s nothing wrong with that and it may still help me feel like a “real” writer.  It’s a small but earnest group that I think would be worth my time.  So, I’ll probably become a member.  I can still look for critique groups should I feel the need to do so.

I also got some good tips from today’s speaker, Dr. Alexey Root, on preparing to write a non-fiction book:

  • It is important to have a firm grasp of what you intend to write before sending out query letters to publishers.
  • Pull on your personal knowledge…hobbies, professional interests, etc.
  • Find a topic (Elimination Phase)
    • Eliminate what’s been done before
    • Eliminate what you are unwilling or unqualified to do
    • Eliminate what doesn’t fit into something your class (or your audience) will want/need/can do
  • Find a topic (Generation Phase)
    • Read everything you can about the topic…find what points repeat
    • Find out and decide about standards that need to be met/satisfied (education standards, safety standards on a how-to, etc.)
    • Make these points your own…what is your twist/slant on the topic
  • It can take a long time to determine/narrow-down your actual topic (even a year or more)
  • Have this work done before submitting a query
    • You may need a sample chapter
    • You will need a chapter outline and specific descriptions of what you intend to do
    • This will make the actual work of writing the book easier
  • For magazine/journal submissions…
    • Read back issues…know the types of articles the magazine is looking for

Anyway, an interesting first meet and I hope the first of many.

About Shedrick

I am a professional librarian and a part-time writer that's working to do that the other way around. I currently live in North Texas in the lovely city of Denton (“The Home of Happiness“) with my lovely wife and the obligatory demon-spawn cats. When not writing, gaming, or watching cheezy kung-fu flicks, I can sometimes be found in a pub (or the American equivalent) enjoying a fine brew.
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