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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