2014-09-21

Are Writer Groups Necessary?

Yesterday, I attended (for the second time) a writer's group. Prior to the meeting, the group's leader handed out a prompted writing assignment. I did not do it because I was finishing up with Peacekeeper 2. At the meeting each of the attendees who did the writing prompt read their work and received feedback. I then handed out the final chapter of Peacekeeper 2 for feedback. Some of it was quite good. I got my papers back and when I got home I flipped through them to see what people had said. A couple had taken the time to make punctuation changes. My wife is my grammarian. She worked at a newspaper for 27 years and has a good grasp of how things should be written. I showed her the one copy with a bunch of suggested punctuation changes and she disagreed with quite a number of them. So did I.

It was interesting to compare the notes from all the other attendees with one another. A couple simply wrote 'Nice article' or 'Good world-building' at the top with little to no comments in the body. Others wrote great feedback while another attempted to proof the entire handout for punctuation.

So here's the point. I attend two writer's groups mainly so I can interact with other writers and be exposed to different styles of writing as well as receive feedback and suggestions on my own works. But you must also consider who is providing the feedback. One member of both groups holds a master's degree in creative writing. Her feedback carries more weight than the others. I am unsure of the background of the other members and so I listen to their feedback but I don't always necessarily follow their advice. Each writer has a style of their own and one person may not agree with how a paragraph is written or even if it needs to be there.

I also pay particular attention to how the group reacts to someone's comment. If the entire group seems to agree to a particular statement then it carries more weight. If there's a discussion or a disagreement, I'll listen and then chose what I feel is correct. Even something as mundane as punctuation has some leeway in how it is used. Do I put a comma here or not? Do I use a colon or a semicolon? Long sentence or short? Obvious errors in the use of punctuation are easy to spot. The more subtle ways of using a comma are a matter of personal choice. Some strict grammarians may disagree with me on this but English is a flexible and changing language. Writers can shape it to produce anything they want as long as the readers enjoy the story.

Bottom line: Yes -- I strongly believe writer groups are something every writer should be a part of. Don't think you are an expert on every subject and your writing is the best in the world. Listen to what others have to say and accept their comments as a way to improve your writing.

I am working on a prologue for Peacekeeper 2. My wife is making good progress and is about 50% complete. I hope to have the prologue done today and then I start putting her changes into the book. The cover is nearing completion. Looks like I am all systems go for a publication launch next month. I will post the cover on Google+, Facebook, my website, and on Twitter as soon as it is complete.

So what's next? I haven't decided for sure yet. As always, I'm going to take some time off writing before starting my next project. I have books to read and other things to do that get put aside while I'm working on a project. I'm leaning toward a YA novel about a boy and a dragon. I know this sort of thing has been done before but I think my take on it is unique. I also have a desire to do a third Dragonverse book. It will require making some minor changes to the first two in the series. Dragonverse needs a bit of a rewrite to stretch out the timeline or at least better identify how long it takes for the main character to develop his powers (feedback from a reader). I have possible stories for a sequel to Off Course as well. At the moment, I do not have any ideas for a sequel to When Ships Mutiny which is also a reader request. I am open to ideas from my readers though.