Wednesday, March 6, 2013

3 Reasons a Writers Group is a Must-Have for Serious Writers

Hello folks,

I’m a little late this week, but better late than never, right? Go me for being a good writer and not using cliché sayings. *cough*

Anyway, a bit about writing groups. I somehow ended up a member of four of these at once a few months ago. Things have settled down some, and I now have 2.5. Two actually meet and discuss writing. The third wants to meet and discuss writing but never seems to quite get there. That’s just fine by me considering my thesis crit partners count as a third group. I really need to crack down on that thesis.

Aside from the dreaded thesis, though, there is still writing to be done. That’s where the other 2 functioning groups come in. I met with one last night and got some great feedback on a short story that, fingers crossed, will be published soon. And that’s what I’m here to talk about today—3 reasons a writing group is a must-have for a serious writer.

Back in January, one of my professors told us during residency “Go home and get two things. A first reader and a writing group.” A first reader is that person who, well, reads your stuff first. The initial “this is good” or “this is bad” person. Pretty self-explanatory. Everyone, regardless of what they do, needs someone to tell them the truth. So the need for a first reader is, hopefully, obvious.

But the writing group. This one’s not so clear-cut. Many writers, including myself before I started at Seton Hill, argue “But writing is a solitary process.” True. Writers may get together, sit in a room, and write, but ultimately each individual person is the one to put the words on paper. No one can write for us.

So what’s the point of a writing group? Hopefully these three factors will shed some light.

-Getting your work looked at

“Isn’t that the job of that first reader you were talking about?” Yes, initially. That first reader gives you the okay to show your work to other breathing humans. The first reader doesn’t need to be a writer. They just need to be an impartial party. A writer’s group is a group of writers. Think of them as the level before the lit magazine/agent/editor/whatever you’re submitting to. They write. They know the pitfalls and what works/what doesn’t work. They’ll give you a bit more detail than that first reader, which brings me to reason #2….

-Get your work critiqued

You need to let people critique your work. In the cases of short works or poetry, you might be able to get away with just submitting and getting it published. Even so, still give it to a group of writers to pick apart. Where longer works are concerned, I repeat—you need to let people critique your work. There comes a point where you just can’t see your own mistakes anymore. That’s the point at which you need someone else to look. It’s amazing what another set of eyes will find.

-Learn to critique others

If you are serious about writing, odds are very good you will need to critique someone’s work at some point in time. Writing groups, especially friendly/relaxed atmosphere writing groups, are an excellent place to start. And yes, it is important to find a group that you are comfortable with. Critiquing or being critiqued by people that you are walking on egg shells around helps no one. If you're not sure where to start, listen to the feedback others give. If they are doing it right, it should be supportive and constructive. Start there. Stay there. Even if you have a lot to say, always be supportive and constructive. It keeps relationships positive and ensures that both you and your groupmates walk away with usable feedback.

There it is—3 reasons why a writer’s group is a must-have for a serious writer. Writers, I hope you will take this and run with it. The industry is too competitive to do it all yourself. Everyone needs help—supportive and constructive help.

As always, thanks for reading.

Oh, and per last Monday’s post, 5 bonus points to Zeee for correctly identifying Donald Duck’s middle name as Fauntleroy.

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