Wow! It’s week three already and we’re nearly at the end of this short series on writing groups. I hope what we’ve covered so far have been useful. If you haven’t seen them yet, here’s parts one and two.
Writing groups – huh, good God y’all – what are they good for? A lot it seems. A solid writing group is a great tool and platform from which you can develop and hone your writing craft. When done properly, they urge and promote both on a personal and a public growth, exposing you to new thoughts and ideas.
How do writing groups help writers develop?
1. Constructive criticism
I’ve mentioned this before but writing groups are the perfect source of peer reviews. Many groups encourage members to read and discuss their work in the public forum of the meeting. The very best don’t even let the author talk once the reading is over; they are to listen to the feedback and take notes. The odd question often is permitted where specific attention is needed i.e. character, realism etc., but these are to be asked before the reading. Constructive criticism is a learning exercise. Listening to what your peers think of your work and making any relevant changes allows you to tweak and polish that story/novel/screenplay into a masterpiece.
2. Find your voice
There is nothing like sitting in a group (or on an internet chat), listening to people you trust say things like “it doesn’t even sound like you” to give you a total sense of dread (or relief). For a writer, finding your unique voice feels like an uphill struggle. That struggle gets so much easier the more you write and almost a cake-walk when you get your friends and colleagues pointing out when you’re straying from the path.
You thought the classroom was where you learned all you know about writing? The streets? Well, both are true to an extent but (voluntarily) sitting in a room full of likeminded people and discussing the finer points of past perfect tense (damned if I know, don’t ask me) is an education all of its own. The upside to a writers’ group setting is that we’re all…most of us are looking to improve our work (there are a few who think they know everything already. Feel free to ignore them. The rest of your group will be) and are often more than willing to help others struggling with difficult concepts. Sometimes all it takes is one person to explain a concept in a different way and, all of a sudden, it sticks.
Here are a few things you can pick up at a writing group:
- Manuscript style and formatting tips
- Technical aspects of writing
- Word and sentence flow
- New words
- Grammar tips
- Acronyms (thousands and thousands of acronyms)
- Pit falls to avoid
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger right? A good writing group will always challenge its members. It should rip you out of your comfort zones and prise your white-knuckled fingers loose from the back of the chair you’ve been so desperately clinging to. Above all else, it should inspire and challenge you to write, and write often.