John M. Wills

Books and blog


Short story

Charlie’s Rescue, A Christmas Story

The old woman locked the door to her apartment and turned toward the stairway. Elizabeth held the leash tightly with one hand and the railing with the other as she began her journey to the first floor. “C’mon, Charlie, let’s go to the butcher shop before the snow gets too deep. Ole Ralph promised to save a big ham bone for me.”images

Since her husband died four years ago, Charlie had been her only companion. A mixed mutt, the two had become inseparable from the moment Elizabeth had seen the dog roaming the streets looking for food. Not that she had much food herself. Her social security barely paid the rent and utilities. The two had been sharing one meal a day for the past year.

She reached the vestibule and stopped to pull on her gloves and put up her collar. She looked out through the glass door. “My oh my, the snow is blowin’ like crazy.” She hesitated. “Well, I guess it’s not going to let up any time soon. If we want to have soup for Christmas tomorrow we’d better just go.”

She opened the door and stepped into a swirling wind that made the snow dance like a snow globe when it’s turned upside down. Once on the sidewalk, she slung her purse over her shoulder, put her head down, and then headed toward the butcher shop two blocks away. A few buildings into their journey, the dog signaled he needed a break. “Okay, boy.” She steered him to the curb where he quickly relieved himself and then they continued on.

As she moved back onto the sidewalk, she felt a strong tug on her purse. “Give it up, lady!” a tall figure shouted at her. She dropped the leash and held onto her purse with both hands. “Let go before I have to hurt you!” The man shoved her hard and Elizabeth fell to the ground struggling to keep her purse.

“There’s nothing you’d want—I’m poor. Please don’t take my purse.”

The man kicked her in the stomach. That ended Elizabeth’s attempt to hold on. As he bent down to remove the strap from her shoulder, Charlie sunk his teeth into the back of the thug’s leg.

“Damn dog . . . let go . . . ow . . . The robber spun around several times hoping to throw the dog off, but Charlie had a tenacious grip and hung on tightly. The man let go of the purse and reached around to grab the dog. He pulled at the dog as hard as he could, breaking Charlie’s grip on his leg. While still holding onto it, he flung the dog hard against the side of the building. Charlie let out a loud yelp and then lay still on the ground in a pile of snow.

“Charlie!” Elizabeth crawled over to her precious pet. “Oh, Charlie, are you okay?” She saw the dog’s stomach rise and fall. He’s alive. Charlie looked at her but was unable to move.

Thomas Wickham hated driving in the snow. Even though he was from the Midwest and had been through his share of harsh winters, he never felt comfortable driving this time of year. The east coast sometimes seemed worse, with its Nor’easters that crashed into the cities crushing them like an iron fist.

He slowed to stop for the red light and caught movement from the corner of his eye. The snow was relentless and his wipers fought a losing battle to clear the windshield. Thomas squinted to see . . . what . . . is that . . . no! He saw an old woman being pushed to the ground and a man trying to steal her purse.

Thomas threw his car in park and leaped out. “Get away from her! Leave her alone!” He ran toward the figure lying in the snow, as the man ran away with the woman’s purse. Leaning over her, he saw the dog in the snow bank. “Ma’am, are you okay?”

“It’s Charlie, he’s hurt,” she sobbed, tears streaking her weather-worn cheeks. “He saved me . . . he went after the guy who robbed me, but now he’s hurt.” Elizabeth laid her head on her friend’s body. “Don’t leave me, Charlie, I don’t want to be alone again.”

Thomas Wickham was a man of action. He always knew what to do in every situation. As much as he wanted to comfort the woman, one look at the dog told him it was crucial they get him to a vet. “Can you get up? My car’s right over there, let’s take Charlie to the vet.”

She sat up slowly. “My ribs are sore, but I just live down the block. If you could help get us home.”

“Nonsense. Your dog is hurt, he needs medical attention.”

Elizabeth shook her head and wiped her tears with her coat sleeve. “I don’t have any money for a vet. If you can carry Charlie to my apartment, I can nurse him there.”

“You don’t need money, c’mon, let’s get going.” Several minutes later they were in the car headed toward the west side of town. They parked in the lot of a glitzy building.

The woman looked around. “Mister, I, I, can’t afford anything around here. Please take me home.”

Without a word, Thomas scooped the dog up and in minutes they were in a veterinarian’s office where Charlie began receiving emergency care. Thomas and Elizabeth chatted while the vet examined and treated the dog. Thirty minutes later he came out and spoke to Elizabeth. “He has a concussion, and it looks like he lost a tooth somehow, but in a couple of weeks he’ll be just fine. I’d like to keep him overnight as a precaution.”

“Oh, no, I can’t afford that. In fact, I don’t know how I’m going to pay you at all.”

Thomas took the woman’s hand in his. “I’ll take care of everything, Elizabeth. In fact, I’ll make sure you’re both taken care of.”

“What? What do you mean.”

“Have you ever shopped at Wickham Food Stores?”

“Oh, no. I can’t afford those prices.”

The man laughed. “You won’t have to worry about that. I own the entire chain of Wickham stores up and down the east coast. I’ll make sure you shop for free at my stores for the rest of your life.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes, dead serious. And I’m going to pay your rent and utilities as well.”

The old woman’s eyes welled with tears. “Thank you, Mr. Wickham. But why are doing this?”

“Because I can, and because it’s the right thing to do. You and Charlie came into my life at a time when I had begun to forget what’s really important. I was on my way to look at a property to purchase for another store when I saw what was happening to you. I’m convinced God brought us together today to show me that I need to give back and be grateful for what He’s given me. Let’s just say Christmas for the Wickham family is going to be quite different from now on. We’re going to be giving much more than we’re taking.”

Elizabeth wrapped her arms around Thomas. “Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome. Merry Christmas to you and Charlie.”




A Visit With Author Jay Padar

My guest today is Jay Padar. Jay, a Chicago police officer, and his dad, James, retired CPD, have written an anthology of interesting and compelling stories about their time on the job.

Please introduce yourself and tell the readers about your background, where you live, and when you began writing.

My name is Jay Padar and I’m a married father of four-year-old boy/girl twins.  I am also a sergeant with the Chicago Police Department where I’ve worked for the last fifteen years.  I’ve written short stories ever since I can remember.  My most serious writing came when I was a brand new rookie cop just starting my career.  You see, I had lived in Chicago my whole life but I consider my youth and young adulthood to have been somewhat sheltered.  I went to private grade school, private high school in the suburbs, and went to college in a small Midwestern town.  The next thing I knew I was chasing dope dealers into high-rise public housing projects.  The things I experienced as a rookie cop were new and exciting.  I didn’t really have an outlet at the time so I started writing emails to my father after my tour of duty detailing my night’s activities.  I knew he’d understand.  He was contemplating retirement after having served nearly thirty years as a Chicago police officer.  “Keep writing, son,” he emailed back.  “For every story you write, I’ll write one.”

Jay Padar
Jay Padar

It’s evident that your law enforcement background has influenced your writing. Do you think you will ever move toward the fiction genre, and will your writing continue to be police related?

At this point I’m still writing police related non-fiction.  I enjoy my career and still see something new every day.  I’m a believer in the saying, “The truth is stranger than fiction.”  So many times I’ve ended my stories with, “You can’t make this stuff up!”  I would never eliminate the possibility of writing fiction, but I’m excited to share what a big-city cop experiences day by day. 

What/who inspired you to begin writing? Do you write every day?

No one person inspired me to begin writing but I have to say my parents always encouraged me to continue writing.  My dad still tells me to “put it down on paper.”  Even if I don’t have a complete story I still jot down notes that I can go back to and transform into a story.  Unfortunately I never find enough time to write.  Between working 50+ hours a week and spending time with my family there never seems to be enough hours in the day.

I know you have a book that’s just been released. Please tell my readers about it.

I’m very excited to have co-authored “On Being A Cop” with my father, Jim Padar.  This book contains 53 short stories written by father and son detailing over forty-five years of combined police experience.  These are all true stories of laughing, crying and clinging to family, before and after moments of humor, loss and profound tragedy.  Our goal was to try to change the negative perception some people have of police.  We wanted the public to know that police officers suffer tragedy in their own lives, have good days and bad days and that police officers aren’t emotional robots.  What we see day in and day out affects us and changes who we are.On Being A Cop cover

Tell us about your publishing experience. Was it difficult finding a publisher?

My father and I were completely new to this world of book writing.  We had more questions than answers when we started.  Both of us consider ourselves very lucky to have found a wonderful publishing coach, Patrick Snow, who guided us through the ins and outs of this industry.  Our coach helped us create a book that he felt would stand out and get the attention of publishers.  Shortly after completing our work we signed with Aviva Publishing.

What is your most rewarding writing experience?

“On Being A cop “definitely tops the list.  I am truly honored to have been able to share this experience with my father and create something that I can show my kids years down the road.  How great will it be to sit down with my twins years from now and show them the book that daddy and grandpa wrote together?

Do you belong to any writing groups, or critique groups?

I am a recent member of the Public Safety Writers Association.  It’s a wonderful organization that I highly recommend.  Their members have been extremely helpful and encouraging.

Are you working on any new projects?

Right now I’m focusing on joining my father as a writer on his blog “On Being A Cop.”  New police stories are being added on a regular basis.  It’s a wonderful way to keep me focused on my writing and develop more material for a possible upcoming book.

James & Jay Padar
James & Jay Padar

Is there anything you would like to share with our readers?

Any one in law enforcement knows that this career is filled with danger.  Two organizations that provide tremendous help to Chicago police officers are the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation (CPMF) and the Police Chaplains Ministry (PCM).  The CPMF provides financial support to officers who have been catastrophically injured and to the families of officers who have given their lives on this job.  The PCM provides constant emotional and spiritual support to officers struggling in their personal lives.  My father and I are proud to be sharing a portion of the profits from this book with these two organizations.  We are also proud to have donated copies of our book to be included in holiday care packages for all active-duty Chicago police military personnel.

Please provide the readers with a link to your website, and a link to your book.

Our book and blog can be found at






Meet Hard-Boiled Detective, Ben Solomon

Please introduce yourself, when you began writing, etc.

I’d first like to thank John for this swell interview. A little further on I mention encountering plenty of gracious and generous folk online, and this is a prime example.

As for me, I’m a lifetime Chicagoan. I’ve always had my hand in one art form or another—call me a renaissance hack. I can’t say I’ve done it all, but I cherish some experiences uncommon to most hog butchers to the world. For example, I’ve danced as an extra with the Bolshoi and Joffrey ballet companies, performed in David Mamet’s only children’s show, worked tech for The Steppenwolf Theatre, and sang “Happy Birthday” to Paul Newman on the set of “The Color of Money.”ben solomon author pic

I’ve been writing since grammar school, everything from stories to comic books to poetry—such as it was. In my time I’ve founded a literary journal and a critical guide to video releases, and I penned regular columns for Hollywood Online, AOL and Chicago Parent magazine. But I’ve never touched operettas—can’t say I’ve ever done that one.

Have you written any novels?

No, I haven’t. Short fiction and commercial assignments make up most of my recent output. It’s a cliché, but sweating out a 3,000–9,000 word piece gives me all kinds of respect for anyone who can craft a complete novel in any way, shape or form.

I know you have an interesting website. Give my readers an overview of what it’s all about.

“The Hard-Boiled Detective” takes it own unorthodox slant on publishing. (Or maybe I’m just an upstart.)

In a nutshell, the site offers an ongoing subscription series of hard-boiled adventures. Every month, subscribers download three works of short fiction in their format of choice: ePub, mobi or PDF. I’ve fashioned the stories in the old-school tradition, very “retro detective.”

In addition to the detective stories, the site features a hard-boiled glossary, a long-lost interview with Dashiell Hammett, and a fabricated interview with Raymond Chandler.

What else do you write?

Lately I’ve been dabbling with short works of a macabre nature, sometimes in a hard-boiled style, sometimes not, but always with a twist.

What is your most rewarding writing experience?

What comes to mind may sound like the smallest of things, but I especially dig discovering a minor moment that reveals a character and/or reveals a sense of ourselves.

For example, in one detective story, the P.I.’s in the bathroom just before a climactic confrontation (it’s a glamorous profession). He removes his jacket and shoulder holster, and plans to walk out with the gun hidden beneath a hand towel. Just before he leaves the room, he catches sight of himself in the mirror and tosses himself a quick grin. Maybe it comes off a bit silly in this context, but I felt very proud of capturing that brief moment.

Do you belong to any writing groups, or critique groups?

I’m getting to know a community of writers at local, ongoing readings in the city. I’ve also met quite a number of the most generous and gracious people on-line through social media and listserv’s. I’m very interested in pursuing professional affiliations as I become more established and generate a little more scratch.ben solomon book cover

Are you working on any new projects?

It’s a bit early to give too much away, but I am beginning a new series of sorts. The fantastic nature of the main character allows for the stories to take place in any setting of place or time, and that’s intriguing.

Is there anything you would like to share with our readers?

I’d like to humbly thank them for reading, period, whether they come anywhere close to my work or not. I’ve been removed from being a “regular” audience member for so long that I truly appreciate anyone who reads simply to read, whatever they read, on whatever level they read.

Please provide the readers with a link to your website.

Series info, subscription info and links to features can all be found on The Hard-Boiled Detective homepage:


Ben, thank you for visiting my blog. You are an interesting man, and based upon what we’ve just read, I can imagine your characters and stories are riveting. Much success to you in your present and future endeavors.


A Visit With Author J.L. Greger

Today I’m visiting with JL Greger, scientist, professor, textbook writer and university administrator. Now, a fiction writer, her work inserts glimpses of scientific breakthroughs and tidbits about universities into her medial mysteries and suspense novels.


Please introduce yourself to my readers.


Hi. Although I no longer teach biology and do research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I still enjoy reading about scientific breakthroughs and putting tidbits of science into my medical mystery/suspense novels. So far, they are Coming Flu (2012), Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight (2013), and one tentatively called Ignore the Pain (hopefully 2013). Bug&me5


When did you begin writing?


I’m always confused by the question: When did you begin writing? Writing of what? In 1973, as I struggled with my dissertation in nutrition, I learned that publish or perish was a reality for me. Thus, I began a career of churning out research articles in nutrition and toxicology. If you want to know the fine points of how your body handles metals, such as aluminum and manganese, I’m your woman.


In the mid-eighties, I recognized that I could reach thousands of students interested in nutrition instead of hundred if I wrote a textbook for non-majors. Actually, I should admit that many students who take a “non-majors nutrition” course aren’t interest in nutrition per se, they’re meeting a requirement to complete a course in the biological sciences. It’s a tough crowd but with a co-author, we produced four editions of Nutrition for Living.


I retired early so I could start writing novels in 2006. There are many differences among writing styles used for research articles, texts, and novels. However, in all three, you’re telling a story and the details are important.


Do you write every day?


I try to spend time writing or editing a novel or short story and publicizing my work, mainly with blogs, every day. Reality is: I’m successful five days out of seven.


Tell us about your latest book.


In Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, physician Linda Almquist must discover whether an ambitious young “diet doctor” or old-timers with buried secrets have the most to gain from the deaths of two women in a medical school in the Southwest. Otherwise she might be next woman killed. 


This book could be considered an insider’s view of a medical school. It’s not what is portrayed in many novels and movies; it’s grittier and funnier.


What other books have you written? What are your new projects?

In Coming Flu, epidemiologist Sara Almquist, Linda’s sister, is trying to stop two killers:  the Philippine flu, which is rapidly wiping out everyone in a walled community in New Mexico, and a drug kingpin determined to break out of the quarantined enclave. Coming Flu was published in 2012.


In the third novel of the series, tentatively called Ignore the Pain, Sara will find the wrong people from her past follow her to Bolivia when she accepts a public health assignment there. I hope Oak Tree Press will be publishing it in November of this year. And yes I have visited Bolivia.


What is your most rewarding writing experience?cover Murder- A New Way to Lose Weight


I’m still waiting for it.


Do you belong to any writing groups?


I’m a member of Croak and Dagger, the Albuquerque chapter of Sisters in Crime, and Southwest Writers.


Are you working on any new projects?


I plan to send Sara to more exotic locations with medical or epidemiological problems (i.e. Cuba, Thailand, Jordan and Lebanon) in future books in my medical mystery series. I’ve already traveled in Lebanon and Thailand and have booked a trip to Cuba.


Then there are other pet projects. I’ve extensively rewritten and renamed for the third time my first novel. Maybe, this one set in New England will see the light of day in 2014. I also dabble in short stories about my childhood on a farm in the Midwest in the fifties. My short story “Shoes” was published in the Oak Tree Press anthology Felons, Flames, and Ambulance Rides and won second place as a short story in the 2013 PSWA  (Public Safety Writers Association) competition.



Is there anything else you’d like to share?


I included my Japanese Chin Bug in all three of my novels. He’s a great pet therapy dog, but he has a mind of his own, as the picture shows.




Link to sale of Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight:


Link to Coming Flu:


Link to website:

Links to blogs:;;

Author Interview with J. Allen Hill

Please introduce yourself, and tell us about your background.

My name is J. Allen Hill. I am a first time novelist with a PhD in Living – a little conceit of mine, as much like my secretly adopted mentor, John Steinbeck, I have never completed a degree program. A Midwesterner by birth, an East Coaster by choice, writing has been both a source of income and a lifetime’s pleasure. If experience has anything to do with putting words on paper, I’ve probably done it or taken a class in it: newsletters, white papers, administrative, technical and financial reports, government proposals, user guides and training plans, software test plans, meeting minutes – facts, protocols, standards. My only relief from this routine was working in the theater and trying my hand at drama. These days I can indulge full-time in short stories, poetry, and novels.

When I sit down to write, I draw on my pool of distilled experience: everything from people I have known to places I have been to achievements and DIARY cover jpgfailures, pleasures and pain. The memory bank can be a strange place to visit, but so much of what I dredge up from there often lands on the page – a fit of laughter, a painful affair, the scent of a long desiccated sprig of lavender plucked from a childhood garden, all woven together with fragments of truth and wild sprints of imagination. And that is why I write. It is such an adventure.

When did you begin writing?

Around the age of ten. I wrote a play about a band of gypsies gallivanting around a forest – kind of a cross between Carmen and Robin Hood.

Do you write every day, and are novels the only things you write?

One way or another, I do write every day, much of the initial drafting taking place in my head, getting acquainted with prospective characters and working out plot problems.

I prefer writing novels but am also working (slowly) on a novel constructed of short stories – somewhat in the style of Olive Kittredge. Sadly, I do not put pen to paper every day. It’s a form of writer’s block, I suppose, but I write chronologically, and am completely unable to begin a piece until I have worked out the beginning in my mind. I have, however, usually written the main character’s back stories and know the end of the novel before I begin.

I know you have just released a new novel. Please tell my readers about it, and what your inspiration to write it was.

The Secret Diary of Ewan Macrae was originally inspired by my reading of Born Fighting:

How the Scotch-Irish Shaped America, by Virginia Senator James Webb, as well as my love of the story of the founding of America, and my own trip to Scotland where I unexpectedly discovered that my family name, Allen, has Scottish roots. Wanting to tell the story of an early Scottish immigrant and how he might have influenced future history, I decided to tell two stories of one family spanning two centuries.

The novel, set in 1946, is the story of two very different people. Margaret is an abused small town North Carolina mountain girl. Phil is a Manhattan writer running from the law. Both are launched on journeys of self discovery. Together they search for the answers to a mystery, the solution probably buried in the past. Along the way they uncover a conspiracy, overcome conflict and fall in love. A source of strength and inspiration for them both is the 200-year-old diary written by Margaret’s Scottish ancestor who fled to America in 1746. The accounts, spanning two centuries have amazing parallels.

I chose to construct the novel using these particular dates that I find quite significant in the history of our country: 1946, when the United States, victorious in World War II, is poised to take over the leadership of the world. And 1746, when waves of immigrants were arriving in America just as it is poised to launch the war from which it will emerge as that fledgling power.

What is your most rewarding writing experience?

There are many, but probably the best is the satisfaction in completion of a project lovingly crafted for (in my case) well over 5 years.

Do you belong to any writing groups, or critique groups?

I am a past member of the Playwrights Forum, Washington, DC, a member of the Writers Center in Bethesda, Maryland, the Virginia Writers Club and its chapter, Riverside Writers. I also participate in Riverside critique sessions and a local novel-writing group named SCADR.

Are you working on any new project?

Yes. Several years ago I discovered the tomb of an unknown Revolutionary War soldier in a churchyard in historic Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. Apparently, he was first discovered buried in an “ammunition box” wearing a “Patriot uniform with Kentucky buttons.” After polling every organization involved in his dis- and re-interment for information as to who he might have been and I found, while there is much speculation, it appears he really is unknown. I decided to write a story of what his life might have been and how in the world he ended up in that box. The Unknown: An American Odyssey is due out in 2014.

Is there anything we have not covered that you would like to share with our readers?

It has been said that writing is a lonely occupation. However, it is also a collaborative life and for that I thank all of my cohorts. So many have given generously of their knowledge, skills, and support to this project – it could not have happened without them.

Please provide the readers with a link to your website, and a link to your book.

As The Secret Diary was released just days ago, my website is in the design stages. The book can be found on Amazon at the link below:



Try A Novella

Nightstand Cover low resI’ve had conversations with fellow writers who tell me they dream of writing a book. However, some of these aspiring novelists always seem to have a reason why they have yet to realize their dream. They insist their wonderful, unique storyline is sure to be widely accepted,  but then moan that the task of writing a book is just too demanding. Is that a valid excuse? I guess it might be. On the other hand, writing a book might also be a wonderful cathartic exercise.

In lieu of writing a 300 – 400 page novel, might I suggest writing a novella? It has many of the characteristics of a novel, yet lacks some of the structure and requirements. A novella is basically a long short story. If you research novellas, you will find varying opinions regarding what length they should be. The most common answer is probably somewhere around 20,000 words.

The novella is an interesting piece of literature because it doesn’t seem to fit well in conventional publishing mediums—magazines and books. It’s too long to be included in some online publications, yet it’s too short to be deemed appropriate for print.

Nevertheless, a novella is a great way for a writer to develop characters and plots. It’s also a good way to flesh out a writing portfolio. While there are no chapters in novellas, there can be distinct breaks to divide sections. Novellas contain protagonists and antagonists, conflicts, and more than enough space to fully develop settings.

So, where is the market for this type of writing? Some publishers may consider a novella as a print piece or ebook. However, Amazon recently introduced “Kindle singles” in their online store that specializes in standalone works like novellas. Writers follow simple instructions to upload their work and, voila, a best seller may be born.

I took a test drive at the Amazon Kindle store and created my own anthology, “The Nightstand Collection.” It’s a collection of my short stories and poetry. The process of self-publishing was straightforward and easy to understand. Amazon even provides a video demonstrating the steps involved in an easy to understand tutorial.

My recommendation? Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you’re reluctant to commit to a novel, try the novella. If you have success with writing a novella, you may have discovered your writing niche. Or . . . the novella may just be the springboard that launches your book career.


Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

"Writing", 22 November 2008
“Writing”, 22 November 2008 (Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle)

I’m a member of the PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association), which means all of the members share a connection with public safety. As a result, we write about things we know, things we’re comfortable with, e.g., police work, firefighting, dispatching, etc. And while it’s not easy to write a novel, an article, or short story,being intimately familiar with the topic about which you are writing is certainly a plus.

There’s an old axiom advising writers to “Write what you know.” Good advice? Maybe. While writing about things you are familiar with makes the task less arduous, it also makes your writing more predictable. I think a better piece of advice to writers might be, “Write what you feel.”

In the past couple of years, I’ve been travelling that path. Having written several thrillers and dozens of training articles, I began to realize my writing was becoming too pre-packaged. It all seemed to reflect the same theme. Therefore, I started to experiment. I discovered a genre called flash fiction. This particular short story template limits the word count to a paltry sum of less than 1,000 words. Some formats, I found, were even more stringent, allowing less than 500 words.

Daunting as it seemed, I nonetheless accepted the challenge. To my surprise, the words flowed quickly and easily on to the page. Being constrained to a word count made my writing much tighter. My prose was crisp, my characters and scenery fresh and vivid. I wrote about love and hate, about loss and renewal. My endings were sometimes happy and other times sad and unpredictable.

In short, if you find yourself in a writing slump and everything begins to look the same, try something different. Write a love story, a poem, or a piece of science fiction. Tackle a topic you never thought you’d ever write about. This past year I even wrote several technical manuals—boring, but challenging nevertheless, and the exercise took me out of my comfort zone.

Writing is a gift we should never take for granted. This unique craft gives rise to emotion and passion, not only in those who write, but also in those who read. As with any living thing, writing needs nurturing. Don’t ignore your muse. Tend to it; baby it. Don’t ever let the writer in you become apathetic or comfortable. Challenge yourself, you won’t be sorry.

The Online Critique Group

English: Hands collaborating in co-writing or ...
English: Hands collaborating in co-writing or co-editing or co-teaching in online education. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my last post, I discussed the importance of having one’s writing critiqued. In order to improve, constructive criticism is a necessity. That short story, poem, or novel may seem perfect to you the way it is written, but with a little help it may become fabulous and worthy of publication.

If you do not have a critique group in your area, consider joining one online. Make sure that it truly is a critique group, and not merely a writing group. The difference is that a writing group will be just that: a group of writers who form together to produce a story or other work. The problem is they never critique, they just write.

Once you’ve begun researching online critique groups, consider the group’s makeup before making a decision to join. Who are the members, are they writing in the same genre as you? You may not get the feedback you need if you are a novelist, and you join a group consisting primarily of poets. How many other members are in the group? If there are more than a dozen or so members, that may be too many.

What are the guidelines regarding how much a writer can submit, and what’s the turnaround time? Be prepared to have your email inbox filled with questions and comments from group members. Depending on the group’s rules, you may easily become overwhelmed answering queries.

You may find the first group you decide to join is not a good fit. Members may be excessively harsh in their criticism, or the number of submissions may be too burdensome. If your search for an online group results in failure, it may be time to start your own. Just make sure the makeup of the group includes a good mix of established writers and newbies.

The bottom line—don’t be afraid to put your work out there. If you want to be successful, writing is like any other discipline, it’s best learned from those who have succeeded, and by trial and error.

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