2017-02-19

Writing Groups

Up until recently, I've been going to the same writing group for nearly 5 years. Due to an unfortunate series of circumstances (bad weather, health of the group's founder, and a hacked computer) the group has fallen apart. I hadn't been to a meeting for about 3 months and when I finally had a chance to go, nobody showed up. I sent out an email and nobody seemed to know what was going on. This month, I went again and the only other person to appear was the group's founder. Her computer was hacked and she has had no access to her email account for some time. Unable to keep the group members informed, things fell apart. I fear the group is no more.

I've always enjoyed getting feedback from other writers. I've also tried out other writers groups. There is another one that meets at a library and yesterday I decided to go to that one. The location and timing are such that my wife cannot attend which is why I chose the other group over the one I attended yesterday. I've always learned something from the feedback I receive at a meeting and I believe it's important for a writer to get periodic feedback.

Choosing a writer's group is a personal choice. Some groups get together to talk about what's happening in the publishing world or just to discuss things like how to format a book, how to find an agent, or other topics. I prefer a group where a member reads something and the others comment on what was read. It's better if the group asks the writer to bring printed copies to comments can be returned to the writer for later reading. This type of constructive feedback along with the questions concerning the overall feel of the piece can help a writer improve. The key here is the feedback should be constructive. Instead of saying, "this sentence is garbage," the person thinking that should say instead, "I think this sentence could better be written as ...".

I took back 5 different sets of written comments on the short piece I brought. Many commented on the same parts of the text. When that happens, take note! That means there's something to be learned here. Read the comments carefully, think about them, and incorporate them into your writing skills. If only one person comments on a section, take that into consideration as well. Every comment is valid and a chance for even an experienced writer to learn.

The piece I brought was from Peacekeeper Pathogen. It had already been gone over twice. While the general feeling was it was good, the group did have some specific comments. Taking those comments to the bookstore afterward I quickly saw a pattern. I accepted most of the comments and made changes. I learned. Now, when I write and edit, that new knowledge will help me become a better writer. In fact, I will most likely go back and take another look at the entire manuscript knowing that my mind will see things differently.

Another way to learn how to write better is to read. Pick up a book from a well-known author and read it. Read it slowly. Identify the paragraphs and sentences that strike you as well-written. Even if you don't consciously see something, your brain is picking up on the writing style and learning. The trick is to read it slowly. If you find yourself picking up the pace because you are enjoying the book, then slow down. Savor the words. They didn't become well-known because their writing is bad!