3 Reasons to Join a Professional Group

At the end of the year, it seemed like all I was doing was paying dues. I belong to several groups and membership expired on Dec. 31. As someone who has served as the membership director, I know how wonderful it is to see all of the renewals come in before the year ends.

I know that I have to pay my dues at the end of the year. I set money aside throughout the year, knowing that with the holidays I may run short of expendable cash. This way I’m ready.

I didn’t hesitate in paying my dues because of the value of the organizations.

My mystery writers group (Sisters in Crime Central Virginia) provides me with hope and confidence. Most of the members are published authors, some of whom have made the best-seller list. All of them have offered tips and encouragement as I work on mine at my own pace. Hearing their stories gives me confidence and hope that one day my book will appear in print and reside on a shelf or an electronic device.

zen-rockMy coaching group (International Coaching Federation Virginia) is helping me to learn and develop skills. I’ve been informally coaching for years, and decided I wanted to formalize the process. I attend monthly meetings and learn from successful coaches. I’ve learned about imagery, mindfulness and credentialing. Last year I created my own coaching page so individuals can secure my services.

My communications groups (VPC, NFPW) have provided me with hope, confidence and new skills. They also have provided me with leadership opportunities. I have served as president of both my state affiliate and the national organization. I’ve led a strategic planning workshop for NFPW with another member.

As an added benefit, I have found that in all of these groups there are several individuals who also offer friendship. That’s a nice bonus.

Many more reasons exist for joining a professional group. I am interested in hearing from you about what groups you belong to and why. If you are willing to share, please post your reply in the comment section.


Writing a novel draft by draft

Tweet: Writing a novel, draft by draft, will help you write better. Each draft focuses on one area of writing. http://ctt.ec/2P6na+

You can fix garbage but you can’t fix a blank page.

That was the advice of Mary Burton at a recent writing workshop sponsored by the Virginia Romance Writers with Sisters in Crime.

She should know given that this year she will write four novels. Burton is a USA Today bestselling author, who has written 23 novels.

When Burton first began writing, she would share a chapter with a critique group, but she quickly discovered for her that the stopping and starting process wasn’t conducive because she would lose the thread.

Now she simply plows through and writes a complete first draft, which she refers to as “sloppy copy.”

To ensure that she gets through the first draft, she writes daily goals on her calendar. Some days it might be to write 10 pages, other days 15. The point was that having goals made it real.

“There is nothing better than an external deadline,” she said.

During the sloppy copy phase she doesn’t edit. She does in subsequent drafts. Once the first draft is written, a subsequent draft will focus on structure, another on pacing, until she gets to what she calls “The Big Read.”

It’s at this point that she prints her novel on three-hole paper and puts it in a binder to read away from the computer. “Your job is not to be nice,” she said. “You have to be the editor.”

Each draft will lead to a rewrite and ultimately should lead to a novel that is published.

Sleuth or Writer, Websites Help Solve the Case

Whether you are writing a mystery or solving a case as a private investigator, you need to have some tools at hand to help with the investigation.

Meriah Lysistrata Crawford, a private investigator and owner of Rhino Investigations, has covered a wide array of cases ranging from background investigations to patent infringement,  and even a murder, but not marital infidelity. She also is a full-time assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

She shared some of her tools with the Central Virginia Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Sherlock Holmes

Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes investigates.

Wunderground.com provides historical weather, which is ideal if you need to know if the weather could have influenced the investigation.

Google maps help with setting the location or determining the ideal spot for a stake out. “You don’t want to get burned,” Meriah told the group. She explained that getting burned is when someone not only sees you but they know what you are doing.

The maps also provide you with information about a neighborhood. If Meriah sets a story in New Orleans she’ll use Google maps to look at houses in a neighborhood so she can better describe them. Google maps provide possible street names for setting the scene, too.

Another website she recommends is pipl.com, which offers a comprehensive people search on the Web. The site notes: “Unlike a typical search-engine, Pipl is designed to retrieve information from the deep web. Our robots are set to interact with searchable databases and extract facts, contact details and other relevant information from personal profiles, member directories, scientific publications, court records and numerous other deep-web sources.”

Meriah uses Facebook to access a lot of information. She said it’s not that difficult to get a stranger to friend you, which allows her to find out information depending on their privacy settings.

Facebook also is valuable as a writer because it’s a great way to promote yourself. “As a writer you put yourself out there,” Meriah said. “You tell people when you are at conferences. It’s such an amazing tool for interacting with your readers.”

Now that you have the clues, good luck solving the case.