This weekend I will hold the third meeting of my new writing group. The group is something I’ve been thinking about and working on for a while. And I think there’s some real good to it. But, then again, this is the third meeting. Will it be like a third date? You know, the time when those horrible secrets come out…
Depending on who you listen to, writing groups can be the best thing we do, or the biggest mistake we can make. Being me, I’ve listened to both arguments and made my decision (you should make your own decision too).
What I’ve realized is that a writing group is just like any other group or project. You’re going to get out of it what you put into it. If you gather a group of people who really want to be successful, published writers and will support each other in getting there, then your group will produce published writers. If you gather a group of people who love story, you’re going to sit around talking about story (which isn’t wrong!). if you gather a group of people who sit around whining about how hard writing is, then… Well, you get the point.
I’m not saying you have to gather a group that all think alike, or even a group that has an equal level of experience. I’m saying you need a group that comes together for a purpose and actually works toward that purpose. There are lots of things you can do in a writing group (or any other group). The group that will actually help you is the one heading for the purpose and providing the support you need.
So, step one before joining or building a group figure out what you need the group to do. Based on that, you can gather some people, set some rules, and create a group that leads to success.
Note that in that last paragraph I said you can gather some people. One of the biggest mistakes is expecting the group to do things for you. And by the way, you shouldn’t be doing everything for them either! A writers’ group needs to be a place of give and take. Every member of the group contributes positively toward the goals of the group. With my group, those duties include participating by putting up work to be critiqued and critiquing each other’s work from a reader perspective and sharing information and experience that will help the other members of the group toward their success.
Again, not everyone has to have the same skill level or even the same skill set. In fact, it’s probably better if they don’t. Sure, the old hand has more experience in submitting work to publishers. But the “new kid on the block” may see a problem in a story that all the “old hands” have missed. The point is everyone is contributing and working toward the goal of the group (be that publication, a better story, or just getting away from the daily rat race and having a lovely beverage with some like-minded folk…).
A lot of writing is a very personal, internal, and often lonely business. But you can’t do it all alone. After all, you won’t sell a million copies of your book to yourself! By creating or joining a writers’ group, you can surround yourselves with others who share similar struggles and goals. But you need to make sure the goals of the group actually go where you need them too (sitting and whining doing nothing to improve your situation gets you nothing!).
How’s this week’s meeting going to go? No idea. But it’s going to be fun finding out! If something really interesting happens, I might even talk about it here. Until then dear reader, good luck with your own work and I’ll see you next post.