Thursday, June 09, 2011

Finding Support with Bob Sanchez

Please welcome Bob Sanchez as he offers tips about writing support.

Hi Diane, and thanks for hosting me on my blog book tour. What fun it is to see old and new Internet friends stopping by and commenting.

The other day I was thinking about what to write for this post and remembered your Circle of Friends. We often think of writing as being a solitary pursuit, and rightly so, up to a point. When I started writing fiction in the late ’80s, it was just me and my Writer’s Digest instructor, who gave me a lot more attaboys than I remotely deserved. Had he been my only lifeline, I would have quickly quit. But then someone introduced me to a writers’ group that met at members’ homes twice monthly. That group still exists, and I stayed with it for 15 years until I moved away. They are a mix of published and unpublished fiction writers, all of whom are skilled and attentive listeners. Our chemistry certainly wouldn’t work with every group, and over the years we showed the door to several people who creeped out the women, never wrote anything, or otherwise didn’t fit in. Occasionally people left us because we were too social. We did socialize a lot at our meetings, but we always got down to business eventually. We’d sit in a circle of friends with our munchies and our notepads while people read usually 10-12 pages of a work in progress. In all that time we had no organization, and everyone was always treated equally. A couple of them—may I write this on your blog?—had well-honed b.s. detectors that tended to set off loud alarms when someone (usually yours truly) would read something outrageously dumb. Or a member might pipe up, “cliché alert!” and point out an overused phrase. Yet the critiques were kind, constructive, and honest, with an occasional dollop of teasing.

All three of my published novels (and my several unpublished ones) went through many Friday night sessions with this group. Sometimes we’d pick nits on each other’s work, but more commonly the comments had real substance that helped immensely with plot, character, setting, and tone. Often a member would privately agree to read and critique an entire draft, knowing that reciprocation would follow down the road. One of the best lessons I learned from my friends is the value of rewriting. Many a reading would start out with the person saying, “This is my third draft of this chapter.”

Finding such a group may not be practical, possible, or even desirable for you. But I’m convinced that most writers need someone. If you’d like to find an online group, consider the Internet Writing Workshop where I’ve been a member for years. It’s free to join, is well-run, and has a number of specialized critique groups.

What resources do you use for support? Face-to-face writers’ groups? Conferences? Online groups? Please share what works for you.

I hope you’ll visit all the great blogs on my tour. Please post a comment for a chance to win an ebook or signed paperback copy of one of my novels. And thanks for visiting!

Thanks, Bob! For more information:

Bob’s tour schedule
Bob’s Blog
Background on Little Mountain
Purchase Little Mountain


  1. Excellent post, thanks for sharing, most interesting to read.


  2. Hi Bob. I've been in a number of critique groups over the years. My only advice is if you're in a group where someone is constantly criticizing without offering support and an attaboy once in a while, either boot him from the group or boot yourself. It's important to think of these groups as not just a critique group but a support group.

    Thanks for the link to the Internet Writing Workshop. This is the first I've heard of them.

  3. Diane, thanks for hosting me today. Good morning, Yvonne and Ginger! After a strong dose or two of caffeine dissolves my cobwebs (won't take all that long), I'll check back in.

  4. I have two test readers and I bounce ideas off them. They let me know if something sounds stupid. Now I also have three awesome online critique partners and they've made a big difference.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this. I guess we all need attaboys/attagirls to keep us going. But I agree, interaction shows us different parts of the story.

  6. AnonymousJune 09, 2011

    Awesome post, Bob's writing group sounds absolutely amazing! I'm trying to get up the guts to go find an online critique group, but I have a lot of worries on whether or not people should read my first drafts. (It would be embarrassing, but they could help me straight from the beginning.) Thanks for sharing!

  7. Yes, attaboys and attagirls are important, but they are of no help without constructive criticism. In fact, if all you ever hear is how good your work is, people are doing you no favors. A good friend critiqued one of my novels and wrote next to a poorly-done passage: "This needs some TLC." He was very tactful, but I got the message.

    Madeline, I am not sure that anyone but you should read your first draft. Even for the early drafts, be sure they are as good as you know how to make them. Otherwise, people are going to waste their time commenting on things you already know.

    Do check out the Internet Writing Workshop. It's well-run, constructive, and flame-free.

  8. Hi, Bob,

    I'm a believer in writers having a support system. Where I live, I don't know many writers. I've been lucky to find like minds on the internet and know I've been published because of the support and knowledge I've gained by being part of writing groups. I never underestimate the value of different sets of eyes and minds.

  9. Thanks, Diane, for introducing us to Bob! Thanks too, for the great links. Will check them out! :)

  10. AnonymousJune 09, 2011

    Thanks for the post. I have yet to join any such group. I did use my family and friends for feedback on the first book. Maybe I should look for a writers group for my next book. Best wishes for Little Mountain!

  11. I have great online crit buddies, but I haven't been brave enough to look for a crit group in the 'real' world. :)

  12. An in-person crit group can be fine, but again the chemistry has to be there. If you have people who are selfish or bossy or just not helpful, then it's probably not a good group for you. Also, of course, they take time to get to, have to fit into your schedule, and so on. So if an online group suits your needs, it can be perfect. A few years ago in an online group, I found one person's posts annoying, so while I stayed with the group, I just filtered out all of her emails. So you can take control.

  13. I mentioned the Internet Writing Workshop but forgot to give you the address. It's

  14. Thanks for the tip on the Internet Writing Workshop - I'll have to check that out.

  15. Nice to meet you, Bob. I was a member of FF&P Crit Loop. Now, I have a few critique partners that I switch off with. It's so important to find crit partners in this process. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Hi Bob! I'm enjoying Little Mountain so far. (Won it for leaving a comment on Stephen Tremp's blog for the blog tour!)
    Thanks for some valuable tips re not reading your first draft, filtering out annoying people's comments. Great idea!
    I used to belong to two crit groups, one every other Monday, and the other group every other Saturday. Now I only attend the Sat. group, and we've been together 7 years. We know each other well enough to be honest, but the atta-boys are always rewarded. We're a little easier on newbies. They can only absorb so much at a time, and they need to adjust to being out of their comfort zones. We've had a few people who just didn't fit in. One person couldn't handle edgy stuff and was easily offended. She wanted to go to another table (we meet in restaurants) while that offensive piece was read, but we decided it was best that she find another group Too awkward. Others that didn't fit in seemed to pick up on the bad vibes and quit coming.
    I've learned so much over the years by listening to everyone's critiques and giving my own input. The support system is fantastic.

  17. It's imperative to being able to bounce ideas back and forth in order to learn and grow. Reading other writers is a necessity and educational discourse helps round us out as we are able to get answers to the questions we may have and help other with the knowledge that is our strength. Good tips, Bob. I'll have to check out the Internet Writing Workshop.

    Tossing It Out

  18. Thanks everyone for visiting! Sorry, your hostess was out of town the past two days for a speaking engagement.

  19. I wouldn't know what to do without my writers group. I love 'em.