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O’Rorke’s Restaurant in Gettysburg, PA, where the Gettysburg Writers Brigade meets.

 

On any given Wednesday night, on the second floor of O’Rorke’s Restaurant in Gettysburg, you’ll find a group of men and women gathered around a long table. Some of them will be eating, some sipping a beer, many of them talking to each other. Newcomers are welcome to the group, but if you sit down, you had better be ready to hear some unusual topics of conversation. How do you make dialogue snappier? How do you use Facebook to promote your writing? How do you get your novel published? Members of the Gettysburg Writers Brigade are all likely to have an opinion on the topics and probably not the same opinion, but that diversity of ideas is what makes the group so useful.

Writing a book is on a lot of people’s bucket lists, but they don’t know how to get started. The blank page that they are expected to fill with words can be intimidating.

You don’t have to face the challenge alone or uninformed, though. The Gettysburg Writer’s Brigade has been helping writers navigate the pitfalls of writing a book for nearly seven years and at the same time offering encouragement to those writers.

Will Hutchison, an author of three novels and two non-fiction books, formed the group in 2010.

“I think writers need to talk to writers and I wanted to get together with some writers to talk,” he said.

Since January 4, 2010, the group has had 372 official meetings and numerous unofficial ones. The official meetings are about 60 percent social and 40 percent writing technique with a little bit of critiquing thrown in, according to Hutchison. It seems to be a combination that works. Group membership has grown from six to eight members to 83 members on Meetup.com and 8 to 12 people on average attending the Wednesday night sessions.

Curt Herring is one of the newest members of the group. He joined in July 2016 when he was looking for tips on how to write a book about his father. A neighbor who was a member of the group told him about it.

“I like the fellowship and I’m learning something new every week,” Herring said. “I look forward to it each week.”

Not everyone in the group is an unpublished author. When the Gettysburg Writers Brigade first began, Hutchison was the only published author, but now he estimates that a third of the group has either had articles, books, poetry or something else published.

 

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Gettysburg Writers Brigade Founder Will Hutchison

“More people are getting published and that’s the bottom line,” Hutchison said.

 

Gail Furford joined the group in 2012 and now has two books published. “I like the input I get from each member,” she said. “I like learning from each other’s styles.

Even the group’s founder learns from the meetings. He has had two of his books published since the group started meeting.

“This group has also helped me write the books. I bounce ideas off the group and get feedback from the critiques,” Hutchison said.

While most writer’s groups are critiquing sessions that can be quite brutal to an insecure author, the Gettysburg Writer’s Brigade only does readings once a month. The group critiques must be constructive to help the author and not tear down the writer’s confidence or enthusiasm for writing.

A typical meeting begins with members filtering in a half hour or more before the meeting just to talk about what is happening in their lives. Between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. when it looks like everyone who is going to show up is in the room, Hutchison will get the group’s attention. Sometimes there are some general announcements to be made. Other times, he simply gets started on the evening’s presentation. It will be something having to do with writing, whether it’s technique, marketing, publishing or something else. Each week’s topics are decided on by the group at the end of the previous meeting.

“There’s a lot of pressure to have a presentation each week, but this is how the group likes it,” Hutchison said.

He originally thought the Gettysburg Writer’s Brigade would meet monthly, but the members enjoy the regularity of weekly meetings.

“It’s fun to sit with people who are going through exactly the same things you’ve gone through writing,” Hutchison said.

Furford agreed. “I’m getting so much more than I expected out the group learning from people’s different styles and the various topics,” she said.

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untitledI got a chance to go on television again the other week. The first time was last year when my co-author and I went on PCN’s PA Books to talk about The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg. I’m not sure how much it boosted my book sales, but at least I got a chance to put it out there. I also heard back from some people who saw the show.

I was on the WHAG Sunday Newsmaker program on October 16. I got to talk about freelance writing and three of my books (although only two books made it into the clips on the web site). Here are the different clips if you’d like to take a peek. Enjoy!

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I know this article is a bit old, but I think it helps put some perspective on what the author saw as new trends at the time.

I took three things from this article that might have larger application if we, as authors, eventually want to join the ranks of the highest paid.

  1. Embracing new technology. The highest-paid authors are embracing new technology, such as e-books and audio. The article even notes that J.K. Rowling’s reluctance to sell her Harry Potter series      electronically had hurt her financially, but that was expected to change with the launch of the Pottermore site.
  2. Diversifying. The bestselling authors are diversifying. Many of the top name authors have launched YA series. (I just finished reading Harlan Coben’s first venture in this field called “Shelter.”) This can be seen with authors trying to develop new series characters in  the same genre or jumping into a new genre.
  3. Keep writing. The writers who stay on top keep writing. Some, ike James Patterson, start getting others to help them with the writing.  To keep selling, you want to keep your name out in front of readers so      that not only will they get your newest book, but they’ll also want to grab titles from your backlist.

You may take something different from the article and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it because I’m always looking to better understand this crazy profession I find myself in.

Here’s the link to the Forbes article.

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