You know about writing groups — folks who meet at regular intervals to share excerpts from works in progress, exchange tips and information, and discuss conventions such as character, plot, narrative, and tone. But you’ve always shrugged the idea off — yet it keeps coming back. Maybe you should reconsider. Here’s why:
Starting a writing group helps you develop deadline discipline because you are accountable for being ready for the next meeting. Such a support structure is a great cure for procrastination and practice for turning manuscripts in on time.
Meeting with kindred spirits helps motivate you to keep trying in the face of adversity, whether it’s in the form of a busy schedule or writer’s block. Writing is by necessity a solitary pursuit — but only when you’re pecking away at your keyboard. Interacting at intervals with a small community of like-minded people will give you the nudges you need.
You’ll benefit from the empathy of others who have also received rejection letters or, just like you, have felt that they didn’t have what it takes to succeed. A writing group will encourage you without being ingratiating.
You’ll learn from others — and feel a boost of confidence when others acknowledge the value of your advice and information. Whether or not you’re comfortable with your grasp of the building blocks of writing — character and the other aspects I mentioned above — you’ll note alternative approaches, and it’ll make you feel good to offer your own.
Besides learning and teaching about the craft of writing, you can exchange ideas about research and taking notes; finding competitions, publications, or an agent; and preparing pitches and proposals. Remember this: Teaching is one of the most effective ways to learn.
Most important, you’ll get objective, instructive feedback not only on your works in progress but also on your pitches. Go ahead and ask your partner or close friends to evaluate your writing, but consider how much more you will get out of honest, informed responses from people without emotional attachments to you.
Starting your own group, rather than joining a new or existing one, allows you to call the shots — at least when it comes to forming the group. Don’t be the mom; just set the parameters: group size and meeting setting, type or length of writing form, method and other ground rules for presenting works in progress, and so on. And you get to select your compatriots for compatibility with you and your goals and guidelines.
The Next Chapter
So, now that I’ve convinced you about the why, how about the how? Stay tuned.