The Value of Joining a Writing Group

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by Kyle Massa

Just the other day, I finished a first draft of a piece I was working on and thought to myself, This is pretty darn good. I brought that piece to my writing group a week later, and after fifteen minutes of critiquing, I was reminded of this fact:

The first draft is never, ever good enough.

Little reminders like this are why writing groups are so valuable. Writing alone and never sharing anything with anyone works for some people, but if you want to write professionally, that’s not really an option. Somebody’s going to read your work, whether that be family members, beta readers, or your editor. And, as solitary as writing can be, sometimes it’s nice to get some outside input.

The writing group I’m a member of meets in Boulder every two weeks. Though we all write speculative fiction, everyone brings a unique perspective; we’ve got a pharmacist and mother of two, a couple retirees, a computer programmer, a landscaper, a guy who sells fruit in the midwest for four months out of the year so he can write for the other eight.

It’s these unique personalities that make our critique sessions so beneficial. For example, we’ve got one member who can find something to like in every piece and another member who can, without fail, pinpoint exactly what isn’t working.

Having these diverse perspectives in a writing group is key. “I liked it” is great and it makes you feel good, but it doesn’t improve your piece. Likewise, “You need to change everything because I hated it” doesn’t give you much to work with, either. The best writing groups are specific with feedback and judicious with both praise and criticism.

In addition, you’ll find that your fellow writers tend to have unique backgrounds that can help you out. The programmer in our group, for instance, challenged me on a character description in one of my stories: “The man who lived in A-2 looked like he’d just gotten home from work. Probably worked at a software company, from the look of his clothes; white and blue checkered shirt, along with a red tie and black pants.”

That’s a bit of a stereotypical description for someone in the computing field, now that I look at it. At the time I was writing it, however, I thought nothing of it. Good thing the folks in my writing group had my back!

Which brings me to my next point, the fellow writers in your group will see everything in your piece that you didn’t. They’ll see the inconsistencies that you missed, the subplot you forgot to resolve, even that killer theme that you didn’t realize you’ve woven into your narrative. It’s because writers often get too close to their work, to the point that they don’t even see the fine details anymore.

Writing groups can be hard to find, however, especially if you live in a small town. I found my group through Meetup.com, which has a whole category for writers. There’s also Codex—I’ve never used it, but I understand it’s an online community for writers. However, Codex does require that its members meet certain criteria, and it’s a specifically speculative fiction community. If you don’t meet the requirements or aren’t writing in a speculative genre, you might try a similar community like WritersCafe.

Also, Googling “writing groups” works pretty darn well, too.

So get out there, meet some fellow writers, and share your work. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

 

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Kyle Massa. Kyle writes speculative fiction, blogs, some non-fiction, and the occasional tribute to coffee. 


226373498_dacf4f263f_bNeed help with your book or novel? Check out the Writer’s Toolbox, a list of free, discounted, and overall helpful links to tools and benefits to help you with what you do best: writing.


 

 

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18 thoughts on “The Value of Joining a Writing Group”

  1. Excellent piece! I would not have finished my novel, Almost Human, had it not been for a supportive but critical writers’ group. I stumbled into it through a University extension course. It continued informally for several years after the course ended.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I just blogged about how to start a writing group, which also would help writers find a group to join. Your blog post is the why of being part of a writers’ group to get feedback. I’m reblogging yours on my site as a companion. Thanks for your fatefully good timing with mine.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, the first draft is never good enough all right. Or the 3rd, or the 50th. You can always find stuff to tweak. But the real value in writers’ groups is the input from outside your own head. They point out what you haven’t thought of, what you can’t see because you’re too close to it, things you may not have knowledge of, and how a reader might interpret the writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for pinpointing the advantages of joining a writing group.Hitherto I haven’t thought about it though I am aware of it.But my difficulties in joining a writing group emanates from a different quarter.English being my second language in India where the official language is Hindi and my mother tongue being Tamil, it is really tough to find a genuine writing group in English.Still,I have the passion and I may have to find a group through the channels referred to in your article.Thanks again.

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  5. For years I wrote badly but dreaming of one day being able to publish. This year I finally joined a writers group and found myself improving out of sight. When you write by yourself, you tend to not see things because in your head you know exactly what is going on and it might not always translate the way you want in on the page.
    A good first draft is just a fluke but the finished product will always be better.

    Like

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