Why join a writers’ group?

In these days of “interaction everywhere”, mostly online or via mobile phones, the idea of a writer tucked away in a lonely garret is appealing. Peace, quiet, focus, no internet. And the truth is, a writer still needs to be alone to write. Alone inside their head. And to get that alone-ness, you often do need total solitude. I find I can write in cafes these days – there is something about general chatter that is easy to cut off from. Chatter from a spouse or child is a different matter!

But when you’ve finished your story or novel chapter, it’s not so easy to stay in your writing space and be objective about it. The hardest thing in the world for a writer to learn, I think, is how to be critical and constructive about their own work. It can be difficult to even see whether a story or poem is working. You wrote it, so how can you “see” what is on the page and what is still inside your head? How much of what’s in your head should be on the page?

critique group for writers

Writing groups are handy!

This is where a good writer’s group can be effective. They can read and give constructive feedback (known as critiquing), simply by being aware of what a writer goes through, and knowing what to look for. Notice I said a good writers’ group. There are bad ones out there. Occasionally you might find a group that is destructive and overly-critical (often without the knowledge and experience to back it up). More likely is the group where people rarely write, and when they do, they just want a pat on the back.

A writers’ group is your first real critique on your work. Everyone will offer something different, and it’s then up to you to make the most of their comments. Some you might choose to ignore, but a lot will be helpful. They will see things you didn’t realize were there, and ask questions about what’s missing. They’ll also offer you support and encouragement – totally valuable assets. And if they’re like my group, when you get published, they’ll gladly share your chocolate cake and celebrations!

Coming next: How to find a writers’ group.

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