We hope by now that you have watched the MBP interviews series, particularly our interview with author Pamela Haynes. Pamela gave us so many nuggets of advice but one that really resonated was her comment about being part of several writing groups. She said,
“I am part of a women's writing group. We tend to meet and share information via WhatsApp but hopefully we're going to start back with in person events as well every four weeks. Online and I am also part of two groups on Clubhouse as well. These groups give me the opportunity to read one of my chapters aloud and get instant feedback.”
Writing can be a solitary business. Some people prefer it this way. American author Jessamyn West said, “Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.” We agree to a certain extent. If family, friends, and society is distracting you then of course you are not going to write or write at your best. Finding a space where you can write with limited distraction is a good thing.
That said, there is definite value to an author in establishing a writing community. Author Jeff Goins said, “The writing process is definitely a solitary act, but the community factor is important. We don’t do our best work alone. Most pieces of great art are not created in isolation…they are forged in community and collaboration with others.”
Find Your Creative Community
Writing with others is fun. You get the opportunity to review your drafts, have discussions that can help provide shape and direction to your writing. Like Pamela said you can read out loud and receive encouragement, invaluable (and free) critique, corrections, and advice!
One of the benefits of lockdown was the springing up of online groups. Hence it is easier than ever to find like-minded writers without ever leaving your home if that is what works for you. In these groups you can simply sit and write in silence, have guided writing sessions, or even join social media writing challenges that use a shared prompt or hashtag.
Otherwise, there are in person groups that meet at cafes to discuss technique or simply to write on separate projects in the same space. Writing retreats are a fun way to power through personal goals with a posse of fellow writers. Churn out a few hundred words, then relax with others who appreciate your creative challenges.
Benefits of Joining a Writing Group
Going to your first meeting and reading your work aloud to a group of people might seem intimidating at first. But once you overcome your fear and get more comfortable, you’ll quickly realize the benefits of joining a writing group. When you join a writing group, you’re able to:
1. Craft your story in a safe place. Share your own writing and get authentic feedback so you know which elements are working and which ones are not. Critiquing someone else’s writing can even show you ways to improve your own work.
2. Be accountable to your group. When you set writing goals for yourself, share them with your group. It’s easier to stave off procrastination when other people are counting on you.
3. Refine your writing process. A regular writing group can help you become a better writer. Members will be at all different levels and can share their experiences and give advice on the writing process. Some members will know how to write a great opening line while others might know about self-publishing. A writing group is a support group where members can exchange ideas on the finer points of the craft.
5. Find beta readers. When you finish the first draft of your short story or novel, choose writing friends from your group to be your beta readers. These are people who do a read-through of your story and give feedback before you submit it for publishing. As writers, your writing peers will have good insight into the literary elements that make a great story, like structure and character development.
Tips for Finding a Writing Group
Whether you’re focused on fiction writing or even screenwriting, having a writing community can help see your project through to completion. Here are some ways to find a local writing group near you.
i. Visit a nearby community centre. Also, check the listings at your local library where people often gather for literary talks or groups.
ii. Go on a writing retreat. This will cost money, but it is a destination event. It’s a writing-intensive place to dedicate all your time to writing. If you have some time and funds to get away this is a great option.
iii. Join a writers’ association. They may have local groups you can attend which offers workshops, classes, lectures, and writing groups.
iv. Start your own writers group. If you’re having a hard time finding a community, start your own creative writing group. Recruit other local writers by posting a note at a coffee shop or library, asking members of your book club to join, or posting on social media. One advantage is making it what you want. For example, you can start a general writing group, or you can keep it to a specific genre. Pick a day, find a location, and start realizing the benefits of being a part of a writing group. We hope you’ll find or create a group where you’ll laugh and have fun. And that’s a good place to start, isn’t it?
Until the next time.