Writing can be a solitary business. While often you may be quite happily lost in your characters, your story, and your keyboard, there are days when it will be lonely and insecurities about writing, the craft, and the industry can become overwhelming.
This is when you need your people—your writing group—a small group of like-minded writers who meet regularly to exchange ideas, share the highs and lows of the writing life, and critique each other’s work.
While this may seem like an intimidating commitment, it is probably one of the best things a writer can do.
One of the biggest benefits of a writing group is the accountability—you pledge to others to strive for your writing goals. Generally, all members in your group plan on writing a certain number of words in a fixed amount of time on a consistent basis. By doing this, you will not only have fulfilled a promise to yourself, but several people will also read and comment on your work. Additionally, you will have the gift of reading their work. And if for some reason, you can’t write your words, you will have people who understand how hard it can be and let you off the hook (occasionally).
However, if you can fulfill your agreed upon word requirement, the feedback you will get from your writers’ group is specific, unlike the well-meaning feedback you get from your friends and family. The members of your group have studied the craft of writing and understand the technical aspects of structure, pacing, and dialogue. As such, they can provide constructive criticism in a way that other beta readers can’t. They can also help you when you are stuck in a plot point with a brainstorming session or ideas about mapping and development.
How do you find these groups? Groups often come together through writing classes, workshops, retreats, and conferences. Your local writing association can be a great source of this information as can your neighbourhood library or bookstore.
However, there are some things to consider before committing to a group: How much time will it require? Will the amount you read and critique be worth the feedback you get? Are the other writers in your group at your level of writing? Have they taken the same courses? If not, their feedback may not be as helpful and will take more of your time than is returned in value. Do you like the other members? Would you enjoy a Zoom meeting every month with them? Would you be able to tell them about your latest setback or pass?
This, perhaps, is the greatest benefit of a writing group: your family and close friends may not completely understand the passion a writer must have in working to find a place in the complicated publishing world. But other writers do. They understand the moments of fear in front of the screen when the words don’t come, the pain of rejection and the burst of joy when you lose yourself doing what you love. Having a group of people who understand the work so deeply can go a long way in keeping the momentum going on your project.
Find your tribe. Give it your time and it will give back to you.
As a start, consider our Manuscript Accelerator Workshop to help make some of those connections.