Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Writing Groups

I have had many fans email asking how they can become a author. This is such a loaded question. What makes it so tough to answer is...everyone can write, but do they write well enough to craft a story? Do they understand character motivation, plot twists, how to hook a reader and etc.

In an attempt to help those who want to someday become published, I thought I would devote Wednesdays to sharing what I have learned. Not that I know all there is to know about the subject, but what I don't know I have friends who do. Not all of them are published, but they know how to write and they write very well. Every writer whether published or not has their strengths and weaknesses and it's important to know yours. So from time to time I'm going to have some guest writers post on Wednesdays.

To kick this off my topic today is: Writing groups--to join or not to join that is the question.

What does this have to do with helping you become an author? Plenty. As mentioned above every writer has his/her strengths and weaknesses. In a writers group you can work together to build each other up. You may wonder how do you become a member in a writers group? Let me tell you how I did it.

Many years ago I saw an ad in the community newspaper about a class being offered on writing novels. I decided to check it out. Going to this class changed my writing life and it wasn't just because I was learning the nuts and bolts of writing. My life changed because I found other writers who also had dreams of becoming authors and having their books published. The class was wonderful. After the semester was over, we didn't want to give up meetings and so we formed our own writers group.

We've been meeting most every Friday for years. At first our group really had no discipline when it came to critiquing. As we tried to help each other many times we would stop the writer reading her work to debate the use of a word. Not very professional, but we were learning not only how to be writers, but how to give good critiques as well.

We progressed and decided to start critiquing in a very structured format which was--the writer reads her pages without interruption. Then we take turns critiquing. We always try to say something positive and make suggestions that will strengthen the work. If we're confused we ask the author what she was trying to achieve with the scene. Many times suggestions are made which help the writer build a better scene or sometimes the writer decides to go a different route. Critiquing with this structure has helped our group immensely.

Sometimes our group will turn a Friday meeting into a "plot" party. If a number of us are stuck with our plots we meet to talk about plot lines, how to enhance them, where the story needs to go, what kind of subplots we need and so forth. These have been very helpful and fun.

We've had wonderful members who have come and gone over the years. Some have moved away. We still stay in touch with many of them. Some members didn't stay because our group wasn't the right fit for them, which is fine. It's very important to find a group that you feel comfortable with.

Some of the writers in our group have been fortunate enough to have had their work published. Others are still working on their craft. We've been through a lot over the years.

I believe any success I have had I owe a great deal to my writers group. So if I'm asked whether to join or not to join a writers group, I would say find one that fits your needs, has like-minded people, and who can be trusted to help nurture your work...and then YES join.

Writing groups can be hard to find, but once you do they can be valuable in helping you on your path to publication.

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