Fall weather has come to Louisville–sunny blue skies, crisp air. I don’t know if it’s a holdover from college, but fall always feels like a time of new beginnings, new projects, and fresh ideas.
This Saturday I had the chance to workshop with my favorite writing gals, the women in my writing group. Here we are outside a retreat house graciously made available for women artists by the Kentucky Foundation for Women:
It was such a good feeling to reconnect and talk shop with everyone that I thought I’d post this week about how joining a writing group can help you grow as a writer.
Reasons Why You Should Join a Writing Group:
- Motivation: Attending monthly (or weekly, in some cases) meetings can motivate you to keep writing, to have new material to bring, and to kick those creative juices up a notch. Deadlines are good.
- Inspiration and Ideas: Reading, listening to, and critiquing other writers’ work can give you new ideas for your own work. The way someone handled a fight scene, or used paragraphing to emphasize a point, or played with point of view, can inform your own writing when you get back home. Also, your fellow writers may suggest something about your work that starts you down the path to discovering something wonderful.
- Learning to Grow Your Writing Muscles: While it’s nice to get feedback from your spouse or family members, it’s likely you won’t be getting the focused sort of advice you need. (And let’s face it—they love you and they want to tell you it’s great). No one will point out the holes in a piece faster than a table full of writers. And remember, this is a GOOD thing. Especially early on, when you’re first beginning, there are many writing “rules” you may not be aware of. Once you know all the rules, you can figure out when and how to break them. Later on, after you’ve been writing for a while, there are craft issues regular readers would likely never pick up on. You will want someone who knows what “third person limited” means and who can distinguish “narrative summary” from “scene.”
- You’re Too Close to See Clearly: While you may think you’ve written the most fantabulous thing ever–and it could in fact be the most fantabulous thing ever– you might also want to consider the possibility that…just maybe…coughs…it might be an ugly baby that you adore because it’s your baby. When it comes to killing your darlings (parts of a story or MS that may not be working) you may have trouble spotting them and excising them on your own. You may even think the malign growth that has attached itself to your MS is cute. You’ll need feedback from others to tell you it’s a tumor that’s got to go.
- Developing a Thick Skin: Writers need hides as tough as dragon scales. You will be stepped on, put down, rejected, told that writing is nothing but a hobby, and have agents say your characters aren’t speaking to them and your pacing sucks. Learning to be critiqued by others will help. You will realize writing is a journey and you just have to keep moving forward. You write because you love it. You write because you have to. Remember that.
- The Publishing World is Crazy Complicated: Oh poor sweet darling if you have not yet had the illusion shattered that you can write a book and send it off to a publisher who will snap it up and have it in Barnes and Noble by next year. *hysterical laughter* It is NOTHING like that. I could write thirty posts on the topic, and I won’t even try to touch on it here, but trust me that you need other writers to tell you what the hell is up.
- Camaraderie: When the winds are blowing and the rain is coming down in sheets (and your inner critic is ripping your writer’s ego to shreds), it’s nice to have a group of people who can relate and buoy you back up. Sometimes there is no one who will understand what you’re going through like another writer will. And it doesn’t just have to be for the down times—they’re the ones that “get it” the most when there’s cause for celebration (finishing that MS, having a short story published, or finally figuring out that character).
Ready to join a group? There are many places to look to find like-minded writers, but the internet is a great place to start. A Google search for writer’s groups in your city or town should reveal regular groups open to new members. The “Meetup” site also lists writing groups. If you are a children’s writer, SCBWI has local chapters, as does RWA for romance writers, etc. Local libraries and bookstores often host groups and writing-related events. If all of this fails (likely meaning you live in a very small town), attending a writing conference in your genre is a great place to meet people interested in swapping work via email. My other group, besides the one pictured above, is a group of young adult writers I met at a writing conference in New York a couple years ago. We got to chatting at the conference, exchanged emails, and we’ve been swapping material ever since.
Already in a writing group? I’d love to hear what you LOVE about YOUR group in the comments.