The Writer’s Toolkit and writing groups

I attended the Writer’s Toolkit at the University of Birmingham on 7 November. The annual event, hosted by Writing West Midlands, was entertaining, informative and exciting.

I attended panels on becoming a writer (i.e. a paid professional), finding an agent, pitching and more. I learned a huge amount. I spoke a real, live literary agent. I asked a real, live fantasy author a question – no, not ‘where do you get your inspiration?’ though someone else did ask that. Cringe.

My biggest takeaway from the day was to join a writing group. Get some feedback. Get other people who don’t love you to read it – they won’t say nice things unless they actually mean them.

It’s something I’ve thought about and never done before. But all these professionals were telling me – over and over – that I should. So I have.

Last week I attended my first session at Birmingham Writers. It didn’t get off to the best start as I was early, so I got to the room before everyone else and then felt like I was invading when they all filed in. I didn’t have any work to read aloud – well, I mean I did, but after my bumbling beginning I didn’t want to read anything and appear like some over-enthusiastic freak.

So I didn’t contribute. I sat and listened – as writers read their work, as they gave feedback on others’ work. They were good – the writing was good, the feedback was constructive and well thought out. They seemed friendly – despite my less than auspicious start.

So I’m going to go back. I’m also going to give their suggested theme a go, try and produce a couple of thousand words on the premise of “A great day out”.

That means I’ll have to read my work aloud. I’ve never actually done that before, so that will be a huge step for me, let alone getting their feedback. At the moment they’re strangers, so it will be even more intimidating.

But if I’m serious about being a writer – and I AM – then I need to do it. If I haven’t got the guts to read aloud in front of people there to help me, what hope do I have of ever successfully pitching or getting an agent or editor?

So, here’s to Birmingham Writers and courage. Bottoms up.

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