AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

January 17, 2009

Building A Writer’s Group

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 12:44 am

stefanoelayne3 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



  1. I know what you mean.
    I met up with a bunch of fellow writers who knew my past – I told them about my present. Upshot was that I wrote a short story that was included in their anthology. A novel followed and that got published in June last year.
    I’ve experimented since with the odd short story but they’ve not seen the light of day.
    Then I met David Cranmer and a couple have winged their way in his direction.
    Only one person can write but it takes encouragement to do it and a reason to do it.

    Comment by Ray — January 18, 2009 @ 12:58 am

  2. You’ve done very well, Ray. Just finishing a novel is an achievement. Getting one published is a feat.

    Comment by ashedit — January 18, 2009 @ 8:07 am

  3. Elaine, I’m sure you’re right about crossovers, and the view (which I hope is not yours) would be held by most of the traditional genre publishers looking for reasons to say “no thanks”. I had a short story languishing, forgotten, on my hard drive for years. It was a fantasy, it was SF, it was romance, it was humor, it was a western. . . . I had fun writing it but, being in New Zealand, couldn’t be bothered doing the necessary door-knocking to find it a home. The short story is a form I’ve largely abandoned because the markets are so few and the competition huge. BUT an invitation from David, passed on by Gary, and it will be seeing the light of day at Beat to a Pulp. I’m crossing my fingers the fantasy readers won’t ask where are the elves, dragons and wicked wizards; the SF readers condemn its lack of novel scientific concepts; the romance readers look for chaste kisses; the western readers demand a shootout!

    Comment by Chap O'Keefe — January 19, 2009 @ 2:55 am

  4. Ah ha, Keith! Yes, you have written a sci-fi western laced with elements of bodice-ripping romance BUT, first and foremost, you’ve written a satire. And within satire, the absurd works. I’ve read your story, “The Unreal Jesse James,” and love it. I’ll promote the story more as publication time nears.

    Comment by ashedit — January 19, 2009 @ 9:37 pm

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