How to Write Well | Lessons Learned

The Importance of a Writing Group

July 30, 2014

Recently, I got to experience serendipity. I was tweeting away on Twitter minding my own business when I came across a few writers who happened to be tweeting about the discipline of writing. I know! One of these writers was developing a virtual writer’s workshop designed to give serious writers professional-level critique. He asked if any of us were interested in participating. Many of us said…um, yeah!

I was not expecting much because this was a virtual group. I didn’t think I’d get as much out of it as I would a “real” writing group that met in person. The workshop ran for three months and we had weekly deadlines.

To my surprise, everyone was fairly committed and gave valuable feedback and critiques. I got some great insight into how readers would react to my novel as well as what worked about it, and what needs more development. There was no drama and no prima donas either. We were all professional, supportive, and honest. Because of this group, I believe my novel is better than it would have been if I had just relied on friends and family for feedback. Not that family and friends are bad but they’re not critical enough.

Here’s why I think every writer needs a writer’s group:

1) Writer’s Think Different When They Read – When someone who is as focused as you are on making their work better, they are also focused on the same task when they read your work. They don’t just read it and tell you, “that was nice” or “not sure this works.” They’ll give you the nitty gritty you need (story structure, character arc, writing voice, point of view, consistency, etc.) to make it better.

2) No Writer is an Island – Writing is a horribly lonely craft. There is something about gathering with other writers (albeit virtually) that makes you realize you are not alone. You have a group of people who can commiserate with and motivate you to get out of your slump, keep writing, and help you realize that what you are doing is pretty darn amazing.

3) Giving Critiques Actually Makes You a Better Writer – The more you recognize when another writer is doing something terrific or something terrible with their work, the more you notice the same in your own work. Critiquing itself is an art, like writing. There are ways to do it right, and ways that don’t work well at all. Receiving critiques is helpful beyond the obvious because they help you develop a thick skin. As soon as your writing gets out there, chances are you’ll get a bad review. Critiques help you weather those storms so you can focus on what you need to write next.

I plan on staying in touch with the writers I met that auspicious day on Twitter. They are my new secret weapon! If you’re interested, here’s the link to the workshop. I know there will be more workshops in the future. If you don’t join this one, I hope I’ve convinced you to find one for yourself.

Do you think a writer’s group is beneficial to your development as a writer? If so, tell me in the comments. If not, tell me why. I’d love to hear from you. 

 

  • I especially appreciate the statement, “Critiquing itself is an art . . .” It definitely is a hard won craft and set of skills. I’ve done many workshops over my career as a writer, and I find them very beneficial. Not all writers do, though, and that’s OK. But for me it expedites the learning process with my own work and gives me that extra kick in the pants I need to polish up my writing.

    Also bouncing my ideas off other creative people leads to an overflow of inspiration. So although I always find it challenging to share my work and accept criticism, the experience always provides me with new ideas and growth.

    This exchange of ideas with my peers is really an important aspect of my creative life and career.

  • K.

    Hi:

    I started participating in writing groups a number of years ago. Why? Because writing is a lonely activity and I was hoping for some constructive criticism. What did I find? Much more than that — I found brilliant writers who were willing to share. It’s been great and I’ve become addicted. At this point, I attend about 7 meetings a month. I actually think I became more addicted to the meetings than I was to writing.

    I’ve learned so much from my writer friends and the friendship has been wonderful. My writing has improved exponentially and I highly recommend this practice.

    • Dana Leipold

      I am so happy for you K. Keep up the good work!!! Wishing you much success in your writings!