Is Your Writer’s Group Bringing You to Life or Sucking the Life Out of You?

If you are a writer it’s imperative to get your work out there. And the sooner you do this the better to correct any significant plot or character glitches and get back on track. For me, my first draft is pretty lean, my second draft is fat with details, and my third draft has a better balance of show vs tell. But I’ve learned if I let people read my work earlier in the writing process, I can shave months off a completed novel. So how do you find a good group? It’s important to determine how you like to receive your critique?

Personally I like mine with a glass of Prosecco. In fact, everyone in my current writer’s group drinks a glass of wine or some other cocktail. This helps take the edge off when it’s your turn to submit your chapter, short story, or essay for feedback. The first group I was part of years ago was serious. No drinking allowed unless you sneaked it in. And that’s great, if serious is what you want/need. We were required to submit weekly, as a result I wrote two novels during my two years in this group, though only one was publishable. Sometimes that first one makes for good tinder, but not always.

Which brings me to luck – because along with talent and patience, a writer needs luck. Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little, but when you constantly work on your craft you are telling the Universe you are ready for something to happen.

And for me, my writer’s group is part therapy. Don’t tell them or they’re libel to charge me for it, but it’s nice getting together with great people, eat some food, drink some wine, talk about writing, and feel like I’ve accomplished something.

It’s important to have different perspectives from others because when writing fiction you typically have several different characters and you don’t want them to be one-dimensional.

Getting responses from others will help you achieve depth for your characters. But there are guidelines to receiving this kind of information about the writing you’ve submitted that you think is your best work ever. Here are a few tips:

  • Resist the temptation to go home and crawl into a ball, under the covers and stay there for several hours.
  • Forget about this being your baby and someone told you your baby is ugly. It’s not about that. Your baby is not ugly, it just has baby acne. Get a thicker skin, but keep in mind it never feels good to hear something you’ve poured your heart into needs work.
  • Decide which type of person you are: Work on it right away or Set aside for a while. I’ve done both, but overall you need to put the critique away for the night. Sometimes the answers will come to you just before you fall asleep or just before you wake up.
  • Remember everyone is trying to help you achieve a better body of work. You will catch on quickly as to who’s feedback is more in line with your vision, but don’t discount what the others are saying and don’t argue about it. Just discard their advice.
  • Keep reading other’s work, but don’t become despondent when you think you’ll never be able to master the written word like they have. I recommend selecting any best-selling author you’ve recently completed, then read their very first book. Published authors grow over time, too.

Most importantly, find a group that makes you feel respected. You won’t like everyone’s style, but honor theirs when giving your critique. Don’t try to make them conform to your style or let them make you conform to theirs. With the help of Meetup or your local library, you can organize a group of writers and select a quiet bar or restaurant with a backroom to meet. You could be creating friends for life besides completing that masterpiece novel.

If you have any other advice for finding a good writer’s group post them below.

Missed last week’s Random Thoughts? Check it out here.

Random Thoughts! Is Your Writer’s Group Bringing You to Life?
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