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Writers tend to fall easily into the coffee / computer / confined office trap. If this is you, have you considered a writers’ group?

WRITERS LOOKING to ramp up their knowledge, receive feedback on work, as well as share information and insight may find a writing conference is the way to go.

But for writers searching for a more consistent and supportive environment, a writers’ group may be a better fit.

I’ve been a member of a women writers’ group and facilitated a children writers’ group over the past few years and found that while certain topics and genres gain and lose popularity, the overall success and dynamics of a group ultimately depends on its members. To be a productive member in your writers’ group and to get the most out of your participation, I suggest the following:


1. Find a group that meets your needs
. Don’t settle on a group just because it’s the first one you find. There are many different options both online and in-person, so take your time to find one that makes you feel comfortable and supported.

You should leave your writing group feeling energized and inspired to write. If you feel frustrated, upset or unmotivated, move on and find a different group.

2. Give in order to receive. Writers’ groups are places where everyone involved should benefit from the interaction. If you hope to receive feedback on your work, you need to provide feedback to others, and this means saying more than you like or dislike something.

Be specific by pointing out passages or sentences that stood out. Provide suggestions on resources you’ve used that may help others. The more you engage in the conversation, the more people will reciprocate that engagement by providing you with suggestions, resources, and feedback.

3. Provide constructive criticism, pointing out both strong points and areas for improvement. Nothing is more unproductive than a writers’ group where everyone says they love what everyone else has written. If you are concerned about providing feedback on areas for improvement, work your feedback into a criticism sandwich by providing constructive criticism between positive feedback and words of encouragement.

4. Be timely. If you are expected to deliver a critique on a piece, follow through on your commitment to do so. Don’t leave your fellow writers waiting. Time is scarce for everyone, so if you’ve promised someone that you’d take a look at their work by a certain date, make sure you keep your promise. You are much better off by under promising and over delivering rather than the other way around. If you don’t think you can follow through on a delivery date then don’t commit to one.

5. Come prepared to participate. Turn off your cell phone and have a pen and paper handy. In order to get the most out of your writers’ group, you need to engage completely in the topic. Listen when others are receiving feedback on their work; you may be able to apply some of what you hear to your writing. Take notes on the feedback you receive. Ask questions. Speak up if you have something to add to the conversation. If your group invites a special guest, take the time to introduce yourself and always have a few cards handy.

6. Make it a routine. Be accountable to yourself and others by attending writers’ group meetings on a routine basis. Schedule them into your busy day and consider attending meetings as part of your job as a writer. If you participate in an online group, login to forum discussions and check comment boards on a frequent basis. A writers’ group is only as strong as the people who are committed to them, so prove to yourself and your group members that you are serious about your writing by making a point to attend and be engaged each and every time you attend a meeting.

Community Connection

What experiences have you had with writers’ groups? Please let us know in the comments below.

Travel Writing Tips

 

About The Author

JoAnna Haugen

JoAnna Haugen is a freelance writer, former Peace Corps volunteer, globetrotter planning her next great adventure. Journey with her on her travel blog and follow her on Twitter.

  • http://Travel-Writers-Exchange.com Travel-Writers-Exchange.com

    Finding a writer’s group can be tricky, depending on where you live. Second, you must be dedicated to learning and connecting with other writers. Some people sign up with Meetup.com, find a bunch of groups to join, and then never attend any of the Meetups. Don’t waste the organizer’s time. It’s not fair to the organizer or other writers if you don’t participate. Some of those groups have 200+ people, but only 5 or more will show up. This could work out in your favor, especially if the organizer is a writing coach!

    On a personal note: I’m very lucky to have a screenwriting coach who started a writer’s group on Meetup.com. She doesn’t charge us a fee. I attend every Wednesday and receive great advice because our screenwriting coach is an actress, director, and screenwriter. She Italian and spends time in Italy and France; great foreign connections. I’m very grateful for this opportunity because I may write a “fiction” travel novel and write the screenplay for it.

  • http://musictravelwrite.wordpress.com Michelle

    Great tips, JoAnna! I love my writer’s group. They’ve become some of my best friends, but we still manage to be very helpfully critical of one another’s work.

  • http://milesofabbie.com Abbie

    I think if people don’t feel comfortable with a writing group, at least have a writing buddy. I found mine through MatadorU and it has been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot just from her honest feedback!

    • http://www.kaleidoscopicwandering.com JoAnna

      I love the idea of a writing buddy! What a great way to stay accountable for what you’re working on.

  • http://joshywashington.wordpress.com Joshywashington

    I Joining a writing group was a wonderful thing for me. I have taken a break for the last little while but am about to get back into the routine.
    My group was great for my discipline, community and craft.
    My writing group is comprised of play writes and published authors who were very talented and very receptive and encourages to my work.

    We would write for a half hour in silence then read what we wrote in the half hour, no critique, no praise usually, just let the words be what they are.

    It was a big hurdle for me to let go of wanting to write something “good”. Especially with seasoned writers effortlessly penning prose around me, I struggled to be where I am at in my development.

    So just having the time set aside, with no judgment and a willing group of writers is maybe the best ting you can do for your craft. Especially as the rain sets in.

  • http://nancythegnomette.com Nancy

    Great tips Joanna! (Love this: a “criticism sandwich”). Makes me want to finally find a writers’ group.

    • http://www.kaleidoscopicwandering.com JoAnna

      Pretty tasty isn’t it?? :)

      Some people struggle with giving criticism just as much as they struggle to receive it. I’ve found that this helps soften the blow (even if the criticism is actually a tool to help improve a piece of writing).

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