Writing, we’ve heard time and time again, is a lonely business. It’s just you, the keyboard and maybe a pet curled up in the corner—preferably a quiet pet with no incontinence issues. Of course, you’re a writer, so chances are you enjoy this situation, but at some point you’re bound to have the feeling that something’s missing, something important, something often annoying yet just as often warm and engaging… oh, yes! Other people! Most of us need to come out from underneath our rocks once in a while and be with our fellow humans, and what better way to do that than with a writer’s group?
I’m very grateful for my writer’s group. We meet at my church and are a small, eclectic bunch who love the craft and talking about it. Being with them always gives me the shot in the arm or kick in the behind I need to keep going. With these good folks in mind, I present my top 5 reasons for joining a writer’s group.
#5. Talking Shop. Most people don’t want to talk about your writing. They might be crazy about you, but they aren’t writers and after the initial inquiry about how your writing is going and your initial reply that it’s going pretty well, the subject is going to pretty much peter out. Having other people to talk to who are as excited as you are about stringing words together until they form a coherent something is often like water to a someone stranded in the desert.
#4. Catching Errors. I’m not just talking about grammar and punctuation. I recently described a character as wearing a tux with a morning coat—in the evening. One of the members has deep experience in this kind of thing and kindly explained to me that such a sartorial combination would never occur, thus preventing me from looking like an idiot to my readers, if I ever have any.
#3. Solving Problems. There’s no better place to go for help with knotty writing issues than a good writer’s group. They can help you with wording, plot twists, you name it. If you’re stuck on something, the group is a place to get unmired.
#2. Boosting Morale. Ours is a gentle, tactful group and I like it that way. We always look for something good to say about a member’s writing even if there’s criticism to be given. The criticism itself is given in a positive tone, often with suggestions or offers of help. It’s hard to walk out of there feeling put down. Corrected, maybe, but not put down. I do want to know if my stuff stinks, but tell me in a friendly, resprectfl way. I’ve been in critique sessions where ripping the writers apart was like a blood sport—no thanks.
#1. Getting It Out There. Presenting your work to your writer-group friends might be the only time anybody ever pays any attention to it. Many are the essays, short stories, novels, poems, etc. that have been written, yet never seen the light of day. By bringing your writing before the group, you know that somebody, somewhere, has heard it. What a wonderful gift that is! Even if they tell you—politely and respectfully—that it stinks.