Nobody can work in a vacuum.
A few years ago, I tried to find a short story and novel writers group here in Los Angeles. Every attempt backfired and led to a dead end. Screenwriters groups are on every street corner, but novels and shorts, not so much. I knew being isolated wasn’t doing me any good, so, if what I needed didn’t exist (or maybe it did but hey, I couldn’t find it), then I needed to build it myself.
How do you build a writers’ group if you can’t find any short story writers in town? Answer: Go world wide web, young woman.
I started reading the short story sites and identified a writer I really admired. His name was Glenn Gray, out of Long Island, New York, and he wasn’t so widely published that the literary world was beating down his door, (meaning he was approachable) but he also had a sharp sensibility and way with words that impressed me. He’d left his email in his bio, so I dropped him a complimentary note. I also made myself helpful, and with due respect, pointed out a small typo in the text. I heard back from him within the hour, thanking me for the compliments, and saying he’d corrected the small error.
Groovy. I had his attention. We began emailing perhaps bi-weekly. I didn’t waste his time with chitchat, I stuck to writing, and offered to proofread anything for him that he cared to send. After a few favors, I asked him to give me feedback on something I’d written and voila, I had my first online writing buddy; someone who knew the crime genre, had a great grasp of noir style, and was willing to be a sounding board and valued critic. I met David Cranmer and Albert Tucher the same way.
When you use the web to find a writing group buddy, the world is your oyster. You can search for another writer just your style, who will intuitively “get” your stuff and offer informed comment. There’s nothing worse, in my opinion, than cross-genre writer’s groups where the hardboiled writer gets to opine on the romance writer’s opus. Hardboiled is not the right sensibility for romance and it doesn’t work the other way around either. Best to solicit crit from a fan of your genre, otherwise you could end up trying to please everybody and concoct a romantic crime story with a fantasy subplot and sci-fi back story that satisfies every member of your group in some way, but will in no way appeal to a devoted reader of any of those genres. It happens.
Now get busy and find yourself a likeminded buddy who will kick your butt when you need it, read and comment on your stories, mourn your rejections, and celebrate your successes when nobody else gives a damn.
There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum.
—Arthur C. Clarke