With a Little Help From My Friends
Why every aspiring author needs a writing group
With everything going on in this crazy world right now, we can all appreciate how important it is to have good friends (albeit virtually) around us.
I’ve very fortunate to count among my friends an amazing group of writers who I’d be lost without.
Now I’ve been plugging away at this creative writing thing for more than a decade but it’s only been in the last couple of years of being in a writing group have I experienced some true wins.
Winning at Writing
What do I mean by true wins? Winning for a writer can mean a lot of things but these are just some of the wins I attribute to my writing group.
People who understand
It takes a writer to understand what it’s like to be a writer. Other people in your life may struggle to understand what you are doing and why on Earth you are bothering. I found my tribe in my writing group. People like me. People who just get it.
Every writer goes through moments of doubt, self-criticism and the dreaded imposter syndrome. Sometimes we get bad news about a writing opportunity or are rejected by an agent or publisher.
It doesn’t matter why I may need a pep talk, just that I know my writing group is right there to give me a much-needed boost.
Creative writing isn’t a job for most of us. It’s not a thing where you “have to show up”. It is more likely to be something we squeeze in around our day job and all of the other commitments in our lives. And let’s face it, writing can be mentally exhausting at times so it’s not unusual to feel unmotivated every now and again.
With regular check-in and coordinated virtual write-ins we motivate each other to turn up and put the words on the page.
Recently our writing group implemented ‘Monthly words’ where each of us has to submit a chapter or equivalent to the group for review and feedback.
We have a deadline and calendar reminders and it’s a way of forcing us to whip at least one thing into shape and get over the fear of sharing our work. It also helps us to identify and rectify potential plot issues before they get too big.
Partners in crime
Our writing group often shares and participates in writing opportunities and competitions.
Every month we all try to write and submit something for the Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction competition as well as other contests.
We share our work among the group and cheer each other on right up until the last minute of the submission window.
Having someone right next to you in the trenches means you’re more likely to get the job done and have fun along the way!
Having a brainstrust of skilled writers with diverse professional and life experiences means you always have someone to ask for when it comes to writing advice.
Whether it’s about punctuation, structure, comparison titles, or something random like, ‘what do you think this character would be wearing?’, I know I can count on the group for stellar advice.
My writing group is particularly good also at helping with sanity checks.
As hard as it can be getting and giving feedback on writing, it’s the only way to get better.
I appreciate the fact that our group members are not only generous in their feedback but they highlight things they loved as well as the potential areas for improvement.
The critique opportunity and the fact someone is looking at your work with fresh eyes is invaluable.
More than one typo has been picked up by the group which I never noticed despite reading the same page 100+ times.
While we stay connected via text messages, social media, video calls, and email, our group also schedules regular in-person catch-ups (when not in social isolation).
The catch-ups might be a simple coffee, lunch or dinner. Sometimes we coordinate to go to an industry event, conference or writing retreat together.
We talk inevitably about writing but also anything and everything else going on in our lives.
We aren’t just writers, we’re friends!
There’s nothing like having an in-house cheer squad especially when it comes to celebrating and sharing successes.
No writing achievement (big or small) goes by unacknowledged in our group.
Actual Writing Wins
The reason why most writers join writing groups is to get closer to individual writing goals.
All of the benefits outlined above are a massive bonus, but I can honestly say my writing group has helped me achieve several of my personal goals.
I believe my writing has significantly improved since being part of the group and with their encouragement and feedback, I have pursued many opportunities.
Thanks to my writing group I have been fortunate enough to have my work recognised via several awards, including Queensland Writers Centre Flash Fiction (winner), and Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction (shortlisted out of 1300 entries), as well as second in GenreCon’s short story competition 2019. I was also shortlisted in The Long Way Home’s short story competition with the story published in their anthology.
And I’m not the only one. Every member of our group is pursuing their writing goals and achieving success (and some award wins) along the way.
Finding a writing group
There are many ways to find a writing group such as:
Joining a writers centre – search for one in your state/territory/country. They often have listings of writing groups in your local area.
Look on social media – there are many writing groups set up on social media. Search for something in your genre or area of interest and join in the conversation.
Try your local library – your library may have a writers group that already meets there or can direct you to one they know of.
Make your own – this is what our writing group did. We met each other at an Australian Writers Centre (AWC) event and got chatting (with a little prompting from AWC National Director Valerie Khoo). We just clicked.
The most important thing about a writing group is finding writers who share the same goals as you. Whether you all write in the same genre is less important (I love the fact our group members all have different styles and can offer diverse views).
For example, if you are looking for a group to critique your work to get it ready for publishing, you may not want to join a group of retirees who are writing for a hobby only.
So go out there and meet other authors at events. Find someone you click with. Ask around about writing groups and if you can’t find your tribe, create it!
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