Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Why You Should Join a Writing Group

Writing Groups

First off, let me explain what a writing group is . . .it's simply a group of writers who get together on a regular basis (once a week or twice a month) to read and critique each other's work.

The group doesn't have to consist of "professional" writers, simply people who write, are serious about their writing, and want to get feedback on what they write.
My writing group started in 1999, and at the time none of had a book published. Since then we've had four published writers emerge from the group.

What kind of feedback can you expect, and expect to give? The group looks for the same kind of things an editor looks for. They'll critique your writing, point out if you continually make grammatical or puncutation errors, let you know if your characters are fleshed out, and help you rough spots when you simply don't know where to go next in your book.

But the key is, you have to give as good as you get. If you expect someone to take the time to thoroughly read and critque your writing, make sure you have the courtesy to do the same for them. We've had people in our group whom we eventually asked to leave, because while they enjoyed our critques they only gave a haphazzard "Oh, I really liked it," when it was their turn to critique someone else's work.

In my particular group, we email each other's a chapter of our work every Monday, and then we meet in someone's home the following Thursday to give the critques. All of the critques are done before the meeting date, and everyone's work is discussed at every meeting.

One of the things I've found is that being in a writing group keeps you disciplined (you're expected to turn in a chapter each week!), and also once the manuscript is finished it seldom, if ever, needs to go to an editor to become 'submission ready' because the group has already pointed out all the problems during your writing process. This can be invaluable, because having a manuscript edited can be a VERY expensive endeavor. Most good editors charge between $6-$12 a page . . . so if you have a 300 page manuscript you can be paying close to $3,600.
Oh . . . by the way . . . there is no cost to joining a writing group!
How do you find a writing group?

Well, even if you're not aware of it, there are probably a few already in your community! Go to your local library or bookstore and ask if the librarian or clerk if they know of any groups in your area.

If you simply can't find one, then why not start the group yourself? That's what I did when I started writing Satin Doll. Just find other people like yourself who are interested in writing (not as a hobby but as a serious endeavor!) and get started!
And of course there are online writing groups; but I suggest you use those only as a last resort. It's my experience that people tend not to take their writing -- and the critiques of other's writing -- when they can hide behind the Internet. There's a LOT more honesty and discipline to be found in off-line groups, where people actually have to have face-to-face meetings.

My very best of luck to you in all of your writing endeavors!


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