Get It Written, Get It Published: How a Writing Group Can Help

Should a serious writer bother with a writing group?

I led a forum on this subject at Festival of Faith & Writing. About 30 writers came to the forum and I shared with them why I believe in the power of writing groups. Here are my notes:

BENEFITS of a Writing Group:

  1. can help each other clarify writing goals
  2. provides support all along the way – writing the query, first draft, second draft, final draft, finding publication, doing publicity, building a platform
  3. can ask each other the key question: Where is the energy in this piece?
  4. provides critique
  5. provides structure/deadline
  6. can help each other find venues, contests, grant opportunities
  7. can help each other with technical parts of blogging and building a platform
  8. some people will love your work — “get it” — be your cheerleaders — their affirmation will help replenish your energy
  9. some people will not love your work — not “get it” — be your critiquers — their questions will help you make your work better
  10. writers have different strengths (e.g. sentence structure, dialogue, scene setting)
  11. some members may understand that writing is your vocation/call, help you live into that by asking the spiritual questions
  12. now you have people to thank in your acknowledgements!

SUGGESTIONS for Writing Group procedures:

  1. agree on a number of pages in advance (probably less than 8 pages)
  2. send material in advance (set deadline)
  3. each member reads and comments ahead of time using “track changes” (or on paper)
  4. on the day of the meeting, treat work in order received
  5. divide up time available by number of people (e.g.: 5 people, 90 minutes = 16 minutes each)
  6. set a timer for each person’s work and honor it
  7. if someone didn’t bring pages because they’re stuck in their writing, they can claim their time to discuss the problem
  8. build in traditions if desired (yearly Christmas lunch, or occasional dinner party w/spouses)

DISCLAIMERS:

  1. A good group will replenish your energy, but it may also make you cry. This may be the beginning of some real work.
  2. Yes, you may have a difficult person to deal with. This is life. Keep it about the work.
  3. A writing group helps. But you still have to do the work. The best writing advice is the classic: Apply seat of pants to seat of chair.

WHAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE?

What’s your experience with Writing Groups — good and bad? I’d love to hear your thoughts, either in the comments or through the contact form if you’d rather be anonymous. I could also blog a list of “Reasons Why I Am Not in a Writing Group.” Let me know if you’d like to see that list, or have reasons to add!


Comments

2 responses to “Get It Written, Get It Published: How a Writing Group Can Help”

  1. I have never been in a writing group, so I don’t have anything to compare this to. but it seems like a good start. I don’t know yet, but I’m wondering if I can get a few local friends to doing this with me.

    1. If there’s anybody in the Minneapolis area who’s interested in joining Diane in a writing group, go ahead and contact me via email, or the reply form on my site and I’ll put you in touch with each other.

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