Writers are often encouraged to belong to writers’ groups and there are certainly plenty of them around. In all shapes and sizes, you will find them in most small towns and every city. So finding a writers’ group in your local area should be relatively easy. Finding the right sort of writers’ group, however, is a much trickier proposition.
Firstly, you have to determine what you want to get from a writers’ group and, crucially, how much you are willing to give in return. That old saying about you only get back what you put in is as true for writers’ groups as it is in many other areas of life. Someone who shows up to as many meetings as they can, who actively engages in the group’s activities and makes an effort to get on with everybody is going to find participation a lot more enjoyable than someone who holds themselves aloof and doesn’t really want to engage.
If you are a novel writer, a poetry group may be an interesting diversion but it is unlikely to help you develop your skills as a writer in anything other than an abstract way. If short stories are your bag, people launching themselves into a 100,000 word novel are going to have a whole different set of reference points to your own. Find a group that specializes in the type of writing you do. You don’t have to be genre specific if you are a novel writer. Indeed, I think belonging to a group with a mix of genres is best because it gives you a different perspective on how other types of novel are created.
If you are serious about writing and have specific career goals, you want your group to be comprised of like-minded individuals. Lots of writers write for fun and are happy to be hobbyists but a group made up of hobbyists will not be suitable for a career oriented writer who wants to grow and push themselves.
Ideally your group will consist of writers at different stages of their careers. This gives you a wonderful overview of the writing world in general. From the creation of material to the approaching of agents and editors and, if you have published authors, indie or otherwise, amongst your number an insight into the actual business of writing – marketing, sales, publicity.
Writers should never underestimate the power of a writing group. A good one can energize and inspire you. They can also be there for you during the down times. Whilst family and friends try to be supportive only other writers can truly understand your frustration at trying to nail a particular character or work out a fiendish plot twist. To have members of the group at the end of an email between meetings is invaluable as a kind word or constructive advice can be the difference between turning the laptop off and indulging in a spot of reality TV or ploughing on and working through the problem.
Once you have identified your core group and if you have the time and the inclination, you can always stretch yourself and join a second group particularly if you have split disciplines or just a hankering to do something different.
I am fortunate enough to belong to two writers’ groups. One is a group for novelists. We are an eclectic bunch writing at least 9 different genres (some of us writing in more than one!). The mix of genres is brilliant. Each genre brings with it its own particular set of intricacies and problems. We critique a section of writing from two different writers each meeting. We always ensure that whilst the critiques are honest they are also constructive. Writers’ groups should not exist to batter writers’ egos into submission or to massage them. They should be there to quietly and consistently encourage, so that everyone progresses no matter what stage they are at. We learn as much from critiquing other people’s works as we do from having our own work scrutinized.
The second group I belong to is a flash fiction group. I was unsure about this group at the start purely because I don’t write a lot of flash fiction. I found it fiendishly difficult to begin with and sometimes still do but it is also very enjoyable and they, too, are a great bunch of people. We pick out a title from a tin of suggestions and have to write a piece of flash fiction as homework which we read out at the next meeting. Then, at the meeting itself, we pick out another two titles and have to write pieces of flash fiction during the meeting itself.
It was utterly terrifying at the start and is only marginally less so now! I have mixed results so far as quality is concerned but this group is all about testing yourself and writing completely different things than you are used to. It’s all about saying goodbye to your comfort zone and pushing yourself. I have written pieces that I would never have written without this group and yet have thoroughly enjoyed producing them. I can literally feel my writers’ muscles being stretched at each meeting and that can only be a good thing.
If you don’t yet belong to a writers’ group, I hope I have whetted your appetite and that you will hunt out one that suits you.
If you do belong to a writers’ group please share with us what you get out of the experience.
Today’s blog is the fourth in my Flower Seller Thursday collection of writing related blogs leading up to publication day of my first novel The Flower Seller on Thursday 2nd June #FlowerSellerThursday