Our writer’s group has been around for over a decade. If you belong to a writer’s group or are thinking of joining one here are 4 tips to help make the most of the experience:
1. Writer’s group or fan club?
It’s nice to know other people like what we write and even the way we write. Praise puts some gas in the writing tank but can it drive the car all the way home to a first draft?
A writer’s group can be full of praise for you as a writer and still not help your story ever get written. A first draft is the first step in sharing a good writer’s work with a larger audience. It’s great to keep working on your writing but polishing a first chapter at the expense of plugging on toward finishing a first draft may be a bad trade off.
A first draft doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to be ‘done’.
Looking for admiration on a chapter or two is nothing like the over the top joy of holding a first draft in your hands not to mention a final draft. The real polishing comes with the first rewrite.
2. All ‘critique’ all the time
If your writer’s group is a ‘critique’ group ask this: can anyone critique your writing or only those writers who contribute work? Fair is fair. If you don’t submit work why should you be able to critique someone else’s work?
What’s the alternative to critique? Feedback. Writers can really use feedback as to whether or not their story works. Comments writers give writers on how a story comes across are priceless because those comments are from writers working toward similar results.
Writers hear stories like mechanics hear engines so to share your story in an open forum is the number one benefit of a writer’s group. And again, it’s not about asking for or expecting criticism.
There’s no need to tear any writer’s story apart or do a literary autopsy on it. Even though feedback on the craft is always helpful, just listening for how the story feels without any critical antenna out can be incredibly helpful.
3. “Let me explain…”
This one is when writers read: No need to ever defend your writing. The point of reading to a writer’s group is to gain honest feedback and in order to get that kind of input the slate starts clean, as clean as picking up a random book off a shelf and deciding whether you are going to read it or not.
You won’t see the author around to excuse any possible shortcomings in his or her book. It’s too late for that so you better get used to letting go of your writing.
Before you read:
If you feel like you have to defend something you are going to read, the lack of time you had to prepare it, the state of mind you were in when you wrote it, or any kind of self-deprecation – don’t do it.
After you’ve read:
When you get feedback from other writers don’t argue with them. Feedback is just that person’s opinion. Listen to it, or disregard it.
It’s totally up to the writer to accept feedback or reject it. But there is no reason for the writer to argue with the person who listened to the work and has an opinion about it.
Just say thank you.
4. All for one: readers who write and writers who read
There is honest, positive gain to be had in the early days of writing a short story or novel from other writer’s input and a dedicated, established writer’s community can provide it.
Think of it his way: It’s a sampling of future readers sitting around a monthly book club after reading their current book selection.
What’s great about hearing commentary and hearing it long before the book is in a final edit is a writer gains insight into what‘s good about the story and what might not be.
But the most important and powerful gift of a writer’s group is the continuing support of like-minded people who are there to ask and answer questions of a writer’s work in progress.
A dedicated community of writers will commit to each other and to whatever is brought for review. Writer’s groups can uncover what works and what doesn’t before a good story becomes an uninteresting or bewildering one and they can help make a good story an even better one.
So why should you join a writer’s group if you are already writing and even publishing? Because one, you can help other writers grow and flourish and that will make you feel really good and two, the encouragement and camaraderie of other writers will make you a better writer.
It’s a perfect circle. Find a writer’s group close to you and make good use of it. If you are in the Atlanta area look up our group:
We meet twice a month, every month. I hope you find a group and can grow with it as our writers have grown with us.
Keep writing and sharing,
Christina for PenPaperWrite
The next 60 Scenes Writing Method Workshop is July 22nd in Atlanta.
www.60scenes.com for more information