Do you ever feel like a lonely writer isolated in your office? Have you considered being part of one of the many writers’ groups?
The most successful writers of fiction, memoir, and narrative nonfiction know that they can’t go down the writing road alone. When they do the actual writing, quiet and solitude are essential. When they are ready for feedback, they turn to others.
When I say most successful writers, I don’t necessarily mean New York Times best-selling authors, although if you read their acknowledgments pages, you’ll find that many of them thank the members of their writers’ groups. I also mean the writers who keep on writing, despite setbacks and failures. Success means staying in the game.
Writers’ groups can help you meet your goals. When you know that you’ve agreed to submit a piece for group critique, you feel accountable to keep your promise.
Fellow writers can give you invaluable feedback. They may pick up on details you missed, like repeating the same information in two chapters.
You can go to your writers’ groups and present a content problem that’s stopping you. Because the members don’t have investment in the material you are writing, they can often come up with ingenious solutions.
You can also learn a lot from how other people write. Maybe you’ll see an approach you can use. At a minimum, you’ll be impressed by the variety of ways in which people express themselves.
Possibly most important, over time, your writers’ group will become a mutual support group. They will encourage you through the rough spots of writing, which every writer experiences.
Are You Ready to Join a Writers’ Group?
You are if:
You have the time to participate in a group. This includes reading the work of others. Before asking to join a group, you do need to know what’s involved: how many members, what length work do they submit? Are they asking for critiques or line editing? If every writer is submitting 2500-word chapters per week, you may reasonably feel this is more than you can handle.
However, if the reading load is manageable, make the time. Make the commitment and keep it.
You’re already writing. Being in a writing group alone is not going to give you the fuel and drive to start writing. That needs to come from you.
You already have material you can share. Again, a group can’t push you past the finish line. You don’t have to have a completed piece of work. It can be a first draft, but it needs to be something.
You write consistently. Ideally, this means every day, but if you have a full-time day job and are a weekend writer, that’s fine, so long as you write consistently.
You’re willing to have your work critiqued, and you can handle it. This is crucial. People are going to tell you about what does not work in your writing. You must be willing to listen. This might be the most difficult aspect of participating in a writer’s group. It’s also the aspect that will give you the most growth, both as a writer and as a human being.
Pat Iyer is the author of 60+ books, and loves the writing process.