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Writing Groups: Why we need them

If you’re anything like me, some of the simple things about writing, which seem obvious now, were once an enigma. For example; I didn’t have a clue about basic formatting when I started. Several years back, I spent many, unhappy, hours editing two, novel-length, manuscripts after I learned about double-spacing.

Had I the sense to seek out a good writing group when I started, I might have avoided some of the classic errors made in the first 'draft' of my novel, Fur-Face, which included just about every rookie mistake on the technical, storytelling, and grammar ‘How to write wrong’ lists.

That said, no matter where you are in your writerly career, I believe you can benefit from belonging to a good writing/critique group.

Take the GSHW for example. New writers – at least, new writers who are prepared to accept that they don’t know half as much as they think they know – can learn the most fundamental ‘tricks’ of the trade from the group’s more experienced members, who, in turn, learn some of the finer skills of the craft from better writers in the organization and the many guest speakers who appear at our meetings throughout the year.

But it’s not just about improving our skills. On-line groups are fantastic, but, for me at least, they can’t hold a candle to a good in-person one. It’s a wonderful thing to walk into a room full of like-minded people and know that you’re not the only one who spends hour after hour typing out stories which no one but your long-suffering spouse may ever read.

Of course, you have to do your bit too. You don’t have to be a good writer to make a positive difference to a writing group. You never know how much a friendly greeting or a word of encouragement can mean to someone who’s wondering if he/she will ever see their name in print and on the verge of giving up.

Whether on-line or in-person, a good writing group gives you a sense of belonging, a feeling that, wherever you are on your journey, however far you still have to go, you’re at least heading in the right direction, and the path ahead is well-lit, well-trodden, and lined with folks prepared to help you along.

Writing is by nature a solitary business, but that doesn’t mean we have to do it alone.

How about you?

Do you belong to a writing group?

What do you get out of it?

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( 85 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 5th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC)
For sure. I was a member of one group before Clarion, a group which mostly dissolved but still could be revived if there is sufficient interest. But Clarion is basically a six-week, five-days-a-week writer's group, so we formed our own online group after.

Couldn't do it without them. Must, must have the outside perspective on the stories.

Edited at 2009-12-05 09:14 pm (UTC)
Dec. 5th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
Six weeks is too much for me, though I can see how it makes a huge difference to people's writing - assuming you haven't all strangled eachother by the end :)
Dec. 5th, 2009 09:38 pm (UTC)
I've heard that some workshops end that way, but we were more wanting to marry each other at the end.
Dec. 6th, 2009 02:25 am (UTC)
I have personally found my informal online group of friends (well, I do know two of them - three, now - personally, and one is my sister!) to be much more helpful, thoughtful and inspiring than the writer's group I belonged to a few years back. It was a tremendous amount of work reading everyone's stories in advance, and it seemed that people felt obliged to be critical - which could get discouraging. I have tremendous respect and liking for the writer (a well-known published author) who ran the group, but part of my problem was that they were focusing on a rather different sort of literature than my sister and I. We are both more YA/speculative/ironic; they were firmly commercial children's lit. A great bunch of women, but I just found that there was too much criticism and not enough encouragement. Then again, I still consider myself a beginner!
Dec. 6th, 2009 11:50 am (UTC)
'Then again, I still consider myself a beginner!'

In many ways, I feel the same eg; Though I write novels, aside from a couple of earlier attempts, I only started writing & pitching flash fiction this year, and I've only ever written on short story. Then again, that's when we need encouragement the most, right?

Thanks for sharing :)
Dec. 6th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
I belong to the OWW, though I haven't been active enough there to have a dedicated group of critters. I'm trying to remedy that.

I do like having an in-person group, just to talk about all aspects of writing, not nec. to get crits. When I moved here 18 mos. ago, I couldn't find such a group, so I ended up starting one. We meet monthly to talk about various aspects of writing, though our conversations usually end up veering off in other writng, reading, and publishing-related directions. It's a lot of fun.
Dec. 6th, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC)
'I couldn't find such a group, so I ended up starting one.'

That's excellent! :)
Dec. 6th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
Lots of great insight here. I have never been a member of a face to face writing group. But I joined Critters a few years back and they are a very helpful group of writers, although sometimes I feel it is a bit too big. I think it would be wonderful to have a more regular crew of people to share views and critiques with.
Dec. 6th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
I definitely recommend it :)
Dec. 13th, 2009 12:19 am (UTC)
I've had a lot of mixed feelings on some groups I belong to. Most of the groups meet in public places and it's so transient. People that write every genre critique things that they wouldn't normally read and the pieces have to be so small. When I meet someone who's opinion can help, I don't see them for months again.
In my dream world, I'd love to find a group that reads and writes the genre I'm working in and is within a half hour from home.
That isn't happening so I work with the groups I can.
Dec. 16th, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC)
Hi Jim, sorry, I didn't realized you'd commented - I'm still not getting most notifications about comments from folks with numbers in their LJ names.

'In my dream world, I'd love to find a group that reads and writes the genre I'm working in and is within a half hour from home.'

I might just have a way for you to find people for that group. I'll be posting about it tomorrow :)
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Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



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