Let’s make this short and sweet: this group was what made being a writer worth it in the early days. I was sixteen, only starting out, not that confident in what I could do, and nowhere near ready to really attempt writing all the time, for a living, or for any other reason.

What happened? I set up the Den back in the days when Bebo was cool and the Books section had just kicked off. I wanted us to be the place for writers to go to discuss their books. Unfortunately, Bebo sucked as a model, so a writer joined me in the running of the group and set up a forum. That forum became the centre for everything to happen in the Den. We had dozens of topics running at once, and we were really getting to know one another.

That was when someone suggested we do a book. An actual, for-sale, book. And we did. Five people volunteered to edit, with one taking the role as lead editor. Someone designed a cover, we all spread the word around, and within a year and a half of the group first appearing online, we had a book and we were connected to a charity in Yorkshire. I was seventeen years old, going into my final year in school, and from there things kicked off.

It was in the months that followed that I wrote the novel that stands out for me, Meet Sam. It’s not Fantasy or Science Fiction. It’s completely different to everything I’ve ever written. Friends who read it laughed out loud. That helped. That really did. It was written to be funny and light hearted, while hopefully engaging people with the life of the titular character. It was fun to write, and I did it in a month – my first attempt at NaNoWriMo.

When I joined Twitter in the March following, I was brave enough to declare in my username and bio that I was a writer. To this day, I still have that username and I openly tell people how many books I’ve written. If I hadn’t started this group, I wouldn’t have had that confidence. I reckon it was those little things about my Twitter profile that really got me a following.

Now, I have a writing job on an online magazine, I have a website, I’ve released an ebook and I’m set to release more this year. I’ve continued to meet new writers, and I feel I can actually engage in conversation with them.

And that’s the point of this post: I didn’t get all that confidence in being a writer from setting up the group. I got it from being part of the group. I learned to talk to other writers about the craft, and I’ve learned a lot from so many different people I couldn’t tell you how I know what I know. It’s the one bit of advice I would pass to new writers beyond “Just keep writing”. With a writing group behind you, you can engage with the people who have been at it longer than you, learn more about the craft and build up some confidence.

And who knows, if you join this group, you might even have a story in our next anthology.

I’ve made some real friends here, and I invite you to do the same. And in case you’re wondering if it really helps: it’s seven minutes to midnight as I write this sentence, having forgotten I had to write today. We’re just back to writing the blog, and look – now I’ve written something for the day. Admittedly this has been a rushed job, but at the end of the day this is what’s important, actually writing something.

What can you take from this post, then? Three things:

  1. Join a writing group. It’ll help. It really will. Join this one, even. We’re still looking for bloggers. Email me at literaryden @ gmail.com Simple as that.
  2. Write every day. It helps you to get into a good practice. Keep a blog on specific days is especially useful, because it forces you to write to a deadline.
  3. Everyone starts off small, but it’s possible to do things you didn’t think likely. Just write.

Happy writing, and I’ll see you next Monday. Maybe next time I’ll give myself more than eight minutes to write.