Writing Groups

My guest today is Darlene Jones, author of five “must read” books. Darlene is an excellent critic and editor for those who need advice in the structure of their novels. Please feel free to contact her through her web page which is listed at the bottom of the page.

For the writers out there who don’t belong to a writing group, Darlene has offered to share her thoughts to help you decide whether you should join one. Each group is slightly different with its own strengths and weaknesses, but after reading this, you may have a better idea of what to look for in a writing group.

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Why join a writing group?

Chances are, if you’re a newcomer to writing, you won’t be admitted to a group of experienced writers. They are looking for colleagues who are equally experienced and talented to help them hone their writing skills.

Your only option then, is to join a group of fellow beginners. They may know a little more than you. Then again they may not. So what’s the benefit?

I joined one such group early in my writing career. We were all eager to write that blockbuster novel. With initial guidance from the leader of another group that had been operating for some time, we set the parameters of our monthly meetings.

  • Each member would read two to three pages of their work in progress. The others would take notes and then, one at a time, make their comments. Once they had spoken, they were to remain silent.
  • The one who read was also held to a vow of silence. They were not expected to comment or try to defend what they had written. They were to take note of the comments and accept or reject as they chose. The final decision on their writing was theirs alone.

How could a bunch of amateurs be of any help in the above described scenario? Amazingly we all learned a tremendous amount. After all, we were avid lifelong readers. We knew what we liked, what flowed smoothly, what jarred. A couple of members were conversant with proper grammar and punctuation and willingly helped with that aspect of our writing. A bonus with this particular group was that every member genuinely wanted to help the others and that desire shone through as honest comments were made with no malice.

With the second group I joined, each member emailed their piece of writing ahead of time so that we could print it out, read it, and make notes. At the meeting the author read his or her piece before we critiqued. Listening often afforded a new perspective on the piece and we added more notes. Then we each commented verbally and passed our copies to the author.

The method worked well, but this group wasn’t quite so pleasant. Some members asked pertinent and insightful questions and offered constructive criticism. A couple of members were spiteful, making harsh comments. One, who was far from being a professional writer, told me I wasn’t learning. That was my last evening with that group.

I’ve moved on to work with a writing partner, but would happily join another critiquing group. Why? A group forces you to write to have something ready for the meeting, and to polish what you have written to present your best possible work. A group offers insights that you don’t see yourself as you are too close to the work.

And, most importantly, a group offers encouragement and camaraderie in this quest for the blockbuster that will hopefully come one day.

*****

 If you want a treat, check out these books by Darlene Jones:

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Find out more about Darlene at http://www.emandyves.com

Why not tell us about your experiences with a writing group. Was it a good thing? Tell us how? Does your group do anything special you’d like to share? Please leave a comment and tell us.

 

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10 thoughts on “Writing Groups

  1. What a great post, Darlene (and Anneli).

    I belong to our local writing group. The members have a mix of strengths and abilities, and we enjoy watching how each person’s skill develops.

    For each meeting, we write 1000 words of prose or 40 lines of poetry, either on one of the themes set for that meeting, or our own ideas if we prefer.

    Each member reads their piece aloud, then positive feedback is offered by any other members who wish to comment. This is all done in a friendly, supportive way, I’m pleased to say (although that wasn’t always the case; a changing of the guard was helpful).Everyone feels ‘safe’ sharing their work, and both Ron (my co-author) and I find ithe meetings invaluable.

    The short stories we write for the meetings have a secondary use as many of them are brought together and published in our short story collection ebooks. Some of the pieces are taken away to expand or rework first, so we often have works in progress, which we feel is a good thing. We all learn, but have a lot of fun doing it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That sounds like an excellent workout for your pens, Joanna. It would certainly keep you writing. What a good idea to use the writing projects for your short story collection. Thanks so much for your comments. It’s very interesting to hear what other writers do re: writing groups for support.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences with writers groups. I’ve been a member of a local writer’s group for 7 years. The man who formed and led the group moved out of state 3 years ago, and when he asked if I would take over the leadership, I accepted. What I recommend for any new writer’s group is for everyone to discuss how they’d like to run the group and come up with a set of guidelines. This way, if any member, either new or established, goes outside those guidelines, the leader can remind them. Our guidelines state that authors must be tactful and helpful with their critiques. No negative words like “bad” or “terrible.” Those words aren’t helpful. Stating where something doesn’t come together smoothly and what might help to fix it is best.

    What we found as a group is that letting just anyone join can be challenging. We had many people show up who weren’t serious writers and just wanted others to fix things for them so they can get their novel up on kindle. They really weren’t interested in helping others. We remedied this by requesting that all our group members join the Florida Writer’s Association. This shows that people are serious about writing and helping others. We did have a mix of beginners and seasoned writers, but the beginners don’t remain novices forever. Most of us have improved to seasoned writers. As of the first of the year, several newcomers have joined again. We are pretty full to capacity at 14 people now. We split off into smaller groups, and have decided that 15 will be our limit. It’s difficult finding a venue to hold any more.

    This writer’s group has been a Godsend for me. I started out green, and with their help, I’ve learned how to hone. We’ve all been a great help to one another and I’m very grateful for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Anneli and Darlene for sharing this post. I have been involved in a writing/critique group for close to two years. Most members attend once/week. We are on a “reading” rotation schedule. There are set rules to ensure order and time management. My writing has definitely improved from the group’s comments and their high standards. These are talented writers and I am the novice. There was a period of time that I wanted to “stop” writing; writing was consuming my head! I tried to ignore the whispers to write; I can’t!

    I also attend an educational writing group. Speakers/authors are brought in to share their craft, tips, and stories. This group also meets once a week to write in silence. The local universities offer on line courses and I have attended a couple of Geist sponsored workshops.
    Reading,listening and learning always! I also learn so, so much from my wordpress writing circle! Glad that I found all of you!
    x

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so good to have your input on what you’re doing to support your writing.Maybe others will get some ideas for what they can do to further their writing efforts too. I know what you mean, that little voice inside won’t let us stop writing – ever!

      Liked by 1 person

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