I am a big fan of writing groups. I’ve been a member of two over the last eight years (one while I was in New Hampshire, and one in Utah). Both have helped me improve my writing and up my game. Here’s why:
In a writing group you help each other. We read each other’s manuscripts and give input. My friend Becca may have read one of my manuscripts more than me (is that possible? No?). I owe her pages and pages of acknowledgments.
Writing groups give you actual deadlines. I am not enrolled at school. I don’t have papers due. I can’t usually trick myself into producing something by a certain time just for the sake of it (I’m too clever for that J). But I work well when something has to be completed by a certain date. Currently, my writing group meets once a month. Sometimes life happens and one or two of us don’t bring anything. But we still meet. And we motivate each other.
Writing groups motivate you to write well. I want people to like what I’ve written. In my current group, we read each other’s manuscripts aloud (this is a great exercise—you notice things in a different way when you’re listening to your words in someone else’s voice). With an audience, I can gauge reactions—Does this work? Where did I fail? What could I improve, where?
You learn about writing (and about life) from your writing group. I love to read Jenny’s quick wit, Emily’s just right voice, and anything by Amy who can make the most ordinary of things beautiful with her word choice (I could go on—truly, everyone brings something good to the table…).
Your writing group members understand and support you. When you read each other’s work, you can’t help but get to know and love each other. And when success happens (publishing or otherwise), it’s a full-on dance party.
Joining a writing group is a chance to meet with people who are different from you (and hurray for that!) but who share a passion and think deeply. I mentioned in a previous post how going to writing group is like therapy. Writing and meeting together is a chance for antisocial writer-me to be social. It’s fun! It’s something different from my everyday life, and I love that.
While it would probably have been easier for me to become a member of a writing group when I was a student (I took classes and peer review for granted then), both of my writing groups evolved from post-graduate writing classes. One evolved from a workshop that was part of a larger conference (sometimes big conferences feel overwhelming, but smaller workshops make for instant friends), and one came from a class listed privately on two of my favorite authors’ blogs.
Both of my writing groups have made a big difference in my work and in my life.
For those of you who have a writing group: Where have you found them? How have you come together? [I worried about finding a new one when we moved]. What has being part of a writing group done for you?
Emily Manwaring spent her childhood in Wales, her adolescence in Utah and the time since in England and New Hampshire respectively. She has a degree in English Literature from BYU and currently lives in Northern Utah with her husband and children. She likes to sleep [mostly she just misses it], read, and write [this makes her sound very lazy]. She is currently working on a picture book series.