Joining a Writing Group
Writing is the quintessential solo pursuit. When it comes to writing, at least as you get started, you’ll have to act as your own boss, cheerleader, editor, reviewer, employee, and more. Even writers that wisely decide to seek feedback from others, or hire professional help for a book project, will normally be on their own when writing the first draft of a manuscript. Setting aside time to write, being an impartial judge of your own writing, and drumming up new ideas when you hit a dead end are all serious challenges that can be hard to solve working solo.
While some may be cut out for this kind of self-direction, many aspiring authors could get better results with some help. This is where a local writing group comes in.
In short, these are locally-based communities of writers that meet regularly to share feedback, advice, resources, and inspiration. Bringing in diverse opinions to your writing process early on can greatly improve the quality of your work. But that feedback is only the beginning of what a local writing group can offer.
Why join a writing group?
Most simply, a local writing group that meets regularly will help you set aside time from your schedule just for writing. If you wind up putting off your writing frequently, whether it’s because you’re just too busy or because you’re avoiding a challenge you’ve run into, joining a group is a great way to schedule time that is dedicated specifically to your writing. Sometimes it can seem like there’s always something in your life more urgent than sitting down to write, even when it’s among your most important long-term goals. A group will help hold you accountable to make sure your writing objectives don’t get forgotten in the chaos of your busy life.
It’s also next to impossible to review your own work and give yourself the criticism you need, especially when you’re in the midst of the writing process. It’s almost equally impossible to get detailed, critical feedback from friends are family, as many writers have learned. Not only will a local writing group provide impartial and knowledgeable feedback, but you’ll also get to practice hearing and using that criticism. You’ll see how other seasoned writers respond to feedback, and it may help you get past a fear of receiving criticism. This feedback is one of the best ways to improve your writing.
Even beyond specific feedback, working with other writers will get you an inside look at the way they approach their work. There’s no telling what you can learn this way, and many authors never get outside their own process to see other ways of approaching writing. This is a great advantage you’ll give yourself by working with other writers.
On a related note, it’s hard to imagine a better networking opportunity than a room full of writers with a range of different levels of experience. A writing group won’t just help you write, it could help you find opportunities and navigate other book publishing hurdles.
Finding a writing group
A Google search is not a bad way to start looking for a writing group, but to find truly local results you may need to look into some other methods on and off the internet.
Writersrelief.com offers a great list of writing groups based in various parts of the country.
Meetup.com will not only help you find a group, but is a great platform if you find you need to start a new group for your area. Check out groups for writers on social media platforms such as Facebook. You may find a group, or you may simply find others in your area that would be interested in starting one.
But don’t forget to try some offline methods as well. First and foremost, if you know any other writers, ask around. A group with a mixture of friends and strangers would be an ideal place to hone your writing.
Talk to other writers at conferences, check out local bulletin boards at coffee shops, other local hangout spots, or even a college campus.
If you can’t find anything, and can’t start your own group, online writing critique groups are a decent alternative. It may not be as helpful as an in-person group, but sites like Critique Circle, Scribophile, or Destructive Readers on Reddit.com, will still get your writing in front of other people who will understand the need for constructive criticism.
But it’s worth the effort to first look for a local, face-to-face writing group. Because not only will other writers offer advice to improve a given piece of writing, they can inspire you to improve your entire process, stay on task with your writing, and can even connect you to new opportunities for writers. Writing doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor.