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Are You Really Writing?
(part I)

by Terry W. Ervin II

Time is a finite commodity. Every writer is reminded of this as they juggle schedules that include family and friends, careers, homestead obligations and upkeep, holidays, and the occasional crisis.

Dedicated writers make sacrifices and find the time to write. Their composition efforts include editing, networking, and research. They do what veteran writers, influential editors, successful agents, and other professionals have stated (in books, articles, and at conferences) is necessary to succeed.

Unfortunately, if unwary writers are not careful, they end up wasting vast amounts of time on what appears to be legitimate writing and writing related activities. It feels like they are writing. It seems like they are doing what writers are supposed to do to succeed, but the time invested doesn’t pay off.

So, what’s wrong? The following is a list of eight legitimate areas that can turn from constructive writing activities into the loss of valuable hours, days, months, or even years of progress.

Writing Chat Rooms - Of all the listed writing activities, this is the easiest one to identify as a devourer of time. Pop into a chat room, discuss some writing topics, and three hours later what has been accomplished? Writer chat rooms can be good places to meet writers struggling through the early parts of their career along with the occasional grizzled veteran. Inspiration, ideas, help in locating resources and markets, and simple support have merit—but only so much. Networking is possibly the weakest justification for spending hours online in a chat room week after week. The time spent compared to the number of writers one connects to is a concern. And, until a writer has something to market, focusing on participants in the chat room today may be futile. Those who’ve spent time in chat rooms know that a year from now a whole new crowed (except for a few diehards) will be there.

Forums - Forums for writers are places to meet other writers, post questions, learn of new markets, bounce ideas off other writers, and sometimes just a place to have a little fun. Networking in a writer forum is more effective than in a chat room. A thoughtful and positive minded participant can build respect among forum regulars as well as visitors. Once a writer does break through, time spent in those contacts can pay limited dividends by selling a few novels and getting word out.

Beware. There are many writer forums on the internet, and some are better than others. Becoming a “forum haunt” and constantly posting while keeping up on what is happening in a half dozen or more forums is time consuming. It’s time spent that won’t pay off. Stick around in a forum or two for a year. There will be a handful of consistent members over time, but even established and respected forums have a high participant turnover. The expectation of time spent in multiple forums translating into massive future sales is not likely to happen. Picking one or two forums that are active, focused, and helpful in finding answers to posted questions is the better bet.

Email - Email correspondence falls into the same category as forums and chat rooms. Networking, giving and receiving support and information have great merit. Email can be posted through writers groups or email exchanges between individuals. Email can establish a closer connection with other writers, but it’s also a time consuming activity, especially in one-to-one correspondences. Spending hours reading and responding to emails takes time. Every click of the keyboard composing an email message is one less keystroke adding words to an unfinished story.

The other concern is that a very giving writer can find themselves doing the research and spending vast amounts of their time answering questions of other writers far out of balance with the corresponding assistance they receive. There is nothing wrong with helping fellow writers. It is commendable and to be encouraged. Simply watch out for those in chat, forums or email groups that take, take, take and never give back.

Critique Groups - What can be wrong with crit groups? A good crit group, whether online or one that meets face to face, can be the most synergistic of all writing activities. To writers, a crit group can provide insightful readers for their works in progress. It can become a tight knit, supporting, and inspiring group that improves the writing of all involved. Peers helping peers.

But, critique groups take a lot of time away from writing. One cannot only write and submit to the group. One has to read and evaluate other members’ works. This can be beneficial, as long as it isn’t a dysfunctional crit group. Groups that meet without an agenda, that have writers who don’t submit or provide useful critiques, or continually resubmit the same work over and over and over are a waste of time. Crit groups made up of members who only talk about writing and being published but never actually take the steps for that to happen are a colossal waste of time.

Check out part II of Are You Really Writing? to read Terry's other tips on how not to stall your writing career.

Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. He is a frequent contributor to Fiction Factor and his fiction has appeared a number of places, including The Sword Review, Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and MindFlights.

When Terry isn’t writing or enjoying time with his family, he can be found in his basement raising turtles. To contact Terry or to learn more about his writing endeavors and recommended markets (among other things), visit his website at:


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