Writing groups are an excellent resource for writers. Last year, while attending a writer’s conference, one of the speakers spoke about writing groups and getting the most out of your them.
Sharing your writing—especially when you’re starting out—can be intimidating and scary. The important thing to remember is we’ve all been there. We know how vulnerable you feel about putting yourself out there and this is part of the process of being a writer. If you’re still having a hard time sharing your writing, check out Susan Jeffers book, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, for tips to help you move through your fear.
Once you’ve decided to share your work with others, the next thing to do is find a writing group.
Finding A Writing Group
As you begin your search in finding a critique or writing group, there are a lot of resources out there to explore. There are local meetup groups, Writer’s Association’s, online groups, and local writing centers and communities. Check bulletin boards—I recently discovered a new writing group while visiting a local coffee shop—for possible groups.
If you’re still having a hard time finding a writing group, why not start one of your own?
Side note, when you start your group, find people who you mesh with and who enjoy reading the genre you’re writing in and vice versa. Although, if you have a diverse writing group (in one of mine, we all write in various genres), you’ll learn a lot and might find a new genre you’re interested in.
Another key focus for the writing group should be on helping others. The cool factor, the more you review and critique other people’s work, the better your own writing will get.
Why? Because by reading other people’s work, you’ll pick up on your own errors in your writing. In the end, you’re actually helping yourself by helping someone else. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Providing A Helpful Critique
The first thing to keep in mind when giving a review, you want to provide constructive criticism. Telling someone their writing sucks—even if it does—will not help them improve, could completely discourage them, and might cost you a friendship (or working partnership).
While you critique someone else’s work, remember this is their book and, therefore, so is the world, characters, and plot. Your critique should suggest areas they may want to work on. If needed, give them an example on the section, but never tell them how to fix the section or book. Let them write their story as they want, pointing out sections and other areas they may want to revamp or explain further.
Take a moment to understand what the author wants before you begin editing. Once you know what the writer is looking for, what they expect from your critique, you can provide them with a more specific critique to benefit them…and yourself.
Side note: when giving your work to someone else to edit, be sure to include a list of questions you’d like to know while they read your story. These questions should be open ended (avoid yes or no questions), to help you get more specific responses.
If you’re having a hard time knowing what to ask, here are a few questions to get you started:
- Which section/sentences hooked them to your story.
- What questions do they have at the end?
- Where did they get lost while reading your story?
- Which sections did they feel like there was too much info dumping?
Identify why something doesn’t seem to be working. Telling someone you ‘love their story’ or ‘that the story sucks’ is not useful, nor makes you a good critique partner. Instead, try to identify what it is about that section that doesn’t work for you.
Is the writer head hoping too much that it’s pulled you out of the story? Does the scene not flow? Are the characters unrealistic or too one-dimensional? The more you can identify the problem areas and let the writer know, the better your critique and the more helpful you’ll be.
- Critique groups can help writers a lot—especially when you’re specific and know what you want out of the group. Every writer is unique and has a particular way they like to work with critique groups or beta reader.
- By reviewing other writer’s work, you’ll actually improve your own.
- Be specific in what you’re looking for from your critique or writing group to help meet your objectives. Remember, when people are reviewing your work, you need to set your ego aside.
- People are going to interpret your story in different ways and you can learn from their views. Another good thing to keep in mind, just because someone suggests something, it doesn’t mean you have to make those changes—though it wouldn’t hurt to seriously consider their suggestions.