You might stumble across them in libraries and coffee shops across the country: a circle of writers surrounding a paper-covered table. Armed with their notebooks and a desire to master the use of language, these writers have committed to their writing groups, and you may want to as well.
At its core, writing groups (or writing circles) are places for you and other writers to come together, share ideas, and get feedback on your work. They might be a peer critique in your living room over a glass of wine, a workshop or class with an instructor, or even a Facebook discussion group with people you haven’t met in person.
Even for experienced writers, writing groups can be a boon for creativity and productivity. Getting feedback on your writing from others can give you inspiration, and hearing their praise can give you motivation. And the accountability can keep you productive—you don’t want to be the one showing up empty-handed!
When you’re in the final stretches of writing that 80,000-word manuscript, spending time with other writers can give you some much-needed human connection. It’s easy to underestimate the power of talking to someone who understands what it takes to write a book, even if it’s just knowing you’re not alone in scrutinizing your screen over a fifth cup of coffee.
Of course, writing groups aren’t for everyone. If you’re a seasoned writer, you may be making out just fine on your own. Writing groups can also take time to pay off—if you’re on a short deadline, it may be better to hire a good editor or writing coach.
If you are interested in boosting your writing skills, there are a few ways to join a group:
Creating your own writing groups
If there are people in your circle who are serious about writing, the solution may be as simple as a monthly meeting between friends. When starting your own writing group, make sure you set a few rules to keep people on track. This may mean reading each other’s work beforehand so you can give more targeted feedback. However you choose to run your group, remind everyone that you’re there to focus and get creative—not just share a bottle of wine.
Meetups and other apps
If you don’t know any other writers, you can always turn to a social app like Meetups to make the introduction for you. Meetups alone has thousands of different gatherings all over the world, and can be a quick, easy, and commitment-free way of getting in a room with other writers. You might also try experimenting with online writing groups such as Scribophile. Check out a few groups out and see what works best for you.
Not all writing groups happen over coffee. Sometimes the most effective way to go deeper into the art of writing is to simply sign up for a class. Not only will you get to meet other writers, you’ll have a bona fide instructor who (hopefully) knows what they’re talking about and can give you professional advice.
Once you’ve joined a writing group, focus on getting the most out of your sessions. Ask for specific feedback when you hand your writing in for review, and when you do get that feedback, act on it! Remember that it’s not just about grammar and punctuation; there are as many reasons to join a writing group as there are people who join. Whether that’s developing technical skills, becoming more comfortable with receiving feedback, freeing yourself to try new ideas, or finding inspiration for creativity and productivity, your writing will grow leaps and bounds from when you first put pen to paper—and it’ll give you a few people to thank in your book’s acknowledgments.
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