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:
- can help each other clarify writing goals
- provides support all along the way – writing the query, first draft, second draft, final draft, finding publication, doing publicity, building a platform
- can ask each other the key question: Where is the energy in this piece?
- provides critique
- provides structure/deadline
- can help each other find venues, contests, grant opportunities
- can help each other with technical parts of blogging and building a platform
- some people will love your work — “get it” — be your cheerleaders — their affirmation will help replenish your energy
- some people will not love your work — not “get it” — be your critiquers — their questions will help you make your work better
- writers have different strengths (e.g. sentence structure, dialogue, scene setting)
- some members may understand that writing is your vocation/call, help you live into that by asking the spiritual questions
- now you have people to thank in your acknowledgements!
SUGGESTIONS for Writing Group procedures:
- agree on a number of pages in advance (probably less than 8 pages)
- send material in advance (set deadline)
- each member reads and comments ahead of time using “track changes” (or on paper)
- on the day of the meeting, treat work in order received
- divide up time available by number of people (e.g.: 5 people, 90 minutes = 16 minutes each)
- set a timer for each person’s work and honor it
- if someone didn’t bring pages because they’re stuck in their writing, they can claim their time to discuss the problem
- build in traditions if desired (yearly Christmas lunch, or occasional dinner party w/spouses)
- A good group will replenish your energy, but it may also make you cry. This may be the beginning of some real work.
- Yes, you may have a difficult person to deal with. This is life. Keep it about the work.
- 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!