A question I often get asked from other writers is, “Should I join a writer’s group?” My answer is always the same. “Yes.” I believe we need the constructive feedback from others to help us become better at the craft. Notice I used the word constructive. This is very important, because I have spoken to other writers who have given up the idea of joining a writing group because of their own bad experiences. Some have shared to me that the groups they used to belong to was nothing but a toxic environment with others trashing their writing or telling them to quit trying to become a writer, or any number of other negative remarks.
This can kill a writer’s dream before it even begins. On the flipside, so many authors fail to get their work critiqued by other writers. We see our manuscripts as works of art, when in fact, the writing could be better. It’s difficult to gauge your own writing because we don’t see our mistakes. We’re blind to them. I know, because this was me.
When I attended my first meeting with the Panhandle Writers Group, I sat and listened to others read a chapter of their work in progress. Each person had ten minutes followed by five minutes of critique. After a month, I finally got the nerve to read my first chapter. My work of art or so I thought.
When I finished reading chapter 1, I got a real dose of reality. The group spent at least ten minutes highlighting everything wrong with my work of art. Run-on sentences, too many adverbs, point-of-view shifts, weak plot, and a host of clichés. Basically, anything that could go wrong in writing was written in my first chapter. Not a big deal, right? These can be fixed.
Before I continue, there’s two things worth mentioning.
First. My manuscript was finished or so I thought.
Second. All of my friends and family loved it. If those close to me loved the story then how could these writers not. Seriously?
All of us have friends and family who love our stories. The problem is they don’t generally give helpful or constructive feedback. And that’s if they give any at all. Beta readers do. For more of beta readers, click on the link.
After getting feedback from my newfound writing friends, all of it constructive by the way, I almost gave up a career before it took off. If my book was going to be published it needed a lot of rework. In fact, the entire manuscript had to be changed. Instead of quitting, I came back again. I’m not a glutton for punishment, but those first few months were the toughest. After all, who wants to get their work back with so many red marks. One of the reasons I continued to come back was because my fellow writers cheered me on. They saw potential where I didn’t.
This is where the real process of writing can start. From a first draft piece of trash that can be honed and massaged and turned into a polished piece of fine writing. As a writer, I thrive on feedback. I need to know where my plot is weak, the characters are lacking and the dialogue plain sucks. Some writers don’t won’t to get this kind of feedback, they only want to hear how great their stories are. The fact is, we all need constructive feedback to get better. Otherwise we will be on a constant writing flatline that never gets better.
If you’ve never been in a writer’s group or you’ve had bad experiences here are some examples of a group you want to join.
- A good writing group offers frank and constructive critique within a positive framework. Our group prefers each writer bring extra copies to distribute. This gives you a better critique from each person in attendance.
- Group members can be a source for ideas, or offer writing assignments and prompts. When we have a new member who is struggling, we encourage them to try something different such as writing prompts or a short story. Friendly competition with others can also motivate and inspire you to become a better writer.
- You can learn a lot from other writers from what they have read, how they write, and what they write about. One of our former members is an international best seller who provided a wealth of knowledge.
- Getting tips and information from fellow members on publications, contests, conferences, workshops, and academic programs is one of the most valuable perks of a writing group. I write a ‘Tip of the Week’ with all sorts of writing information.
- One of the most rewarding benefits is the joy of sharing, collaborating, and forming friendships with fellow writers. Our merry band host several gatherings each year. Each of us bring a dish, snacks, or coffee—my favorite. We eat and mingle while sharing stories.
There are a lot of writer’s groups out there. The key is finding one that helps you grow. They say writing is a solitary art, but there’s nothing like hanging out with your artistic friends.
P.S. If you would like to read my books, click here and it will take you to the page.