J. L. Harland • May 31st, 2018
We are sometimes asked if joining a writing group is something a writer should do. If you are just beginning to write, then it can seem a huge step to take. After all, most writing groups are designed to share work and provide constructive criticism. (Check out the blog post on giving and taking constructive criticism.) For some people the thought of reading their work aloud is terrifying. For others, it provides the audience they need to improve and refine their work. Only you know which category you belong to.
If you are the sort of person who would rather tear out your own fingernails than read aloud to a group of people, then why not consider an online writing forum? There are a number of these (just google) or you could enrol for a writing course. The OU has a free Writing Fiction course on Futurelearn.com which provides ideas and criticism from fellow learners across the globe. No face-to-face so a safe environment in which to share your work. Of course, the criticism you will receive is subjective and may be based on experiences which are much different from your own.
Writing groups vary so you need to establish what you hope to gain from a group. If you are desperate to be published, then choose a group with a focus on publication. If there isn’t a group in your area, then why not start one? The dynamic of the group is important. It is easy to damage someone’s confidence so if you find that the group members are too harsh in their criticism then you need to ask yourself if this is the right group for you.
Perhaps you just write as a hobby but would enjoy the company of other writers to share work in progress. After all, writing can be a very lonely business. It isn’t until you read your work aloud that you know if the rhythm and pace are right. The cat may be happy to listen to you, but a live audience’s reaction will tell you more. That touch of humour could fall flat or what you thought of as a tragic scene could be met by laughter. It’s a valuable experience and as a writer you need to develop a bit of a thick skin at times. Your words of wisdom may not be to everyone’s taste.
At the end of the day we both agree that having a writing group is beneficial. The right group provides support, enthusiasm, encouragement and a good social base with people who are interested in working with words.