Back in 2015, I decided it was time. Time to get more serious about writing. Time to get published. Time to BE a writer. My first step? Join a writing group. I’ve been out of one for about six months now, and here’s what I miss.
Writers tend to be solitary animals. I’ve never met a person who enjoys writing, who also loves spending hours upon hours of time around others. That’s not to say they don’t exist, this is just from personal experience.
That being said, I also believe that having a group of people you can share your experience with is a relief. Knowing that other writers are having the same struggles, are climbing the same uphill battles, and who can relate to long nights with lots of coffee makes you realize you’re not so alone. You can also make long lasting friendships that reach across states. Even if you’re pretty solitary in your writing life, it’s nice to have people who know what you’re going through.
You can also make connections and network. I met everyone from editors, published authors, and even a past agents who could give tips on how to get published. I learned more from them in two years than I could’ve learned on my own.
2. Build a Habit
You see it a lot in the “up and coming” writing crowd. People who say they would be writers if only they had the time, or if only they had the inspiration. What’s really missing is habit. It’s the sitting down and actually writing, on good days and bad. A writing group, at least a good writing group, will help you build a routine . The first group I joined had two very strict rules. Submit ten pages a week, and submit in the correct format. Not only did this force me to have ten pages done, it also taught me the importance of a submission format.
If I didn’t have my group expecting pages week after week, I would’ve just given excuses for why I couldn’t plug out one or two pages let alone ten. Even if I had days when the work wasn’t good, at least there was something there. As bad as some of it was, I was still writing. That drive pushed me through my first book, and is getting me along in my second, as well.
3. Learn writing rules, and how to break them.
My writing was sloppy when I first joined the “Harker Heights Writing Knights”. There were only five of us who showed up regularly, but the four other people in my group kicked my butt to get my work presentable for the public. Grammar problems were brought to light, story structure was built rock solid, and sloppy dialogue was whipped into shape. Now, I know my writing isn’t award winning, but I learned the rules and why they were important.
And I learned how to break those rules. I realized sometimes style is more important, and that if done right, style and the rules to writing can learn how to coexist. Sometimes it takes experienced writers to show you this.
4. Get out of creative ruts
This was my favorite part of the writing groups I took part in. The sessions that ended in us comparing notes on how we could get over the mythological “writer’s block” were often the ones that brought us closer together. We could borrow techniques on how to get through a tough writing day and hopefully learn something about our own processes, as well.
5. Read outside your genre
I’m a fantasy and science fiction fan, to my core. Give me dragons, urban werewolves, and aliens over realistic fiction any day. I can enjoy a good suspense novel, or action adventure, but try to get me to sit still long enough to read something about realistic people and realistic problems, and I run the other way.
Being in a writer’s group forced me to open up to this genre and a few others that I’m not well read in. When you read with unbiased eyes, you begin to see genres you previously disliked in a new light. I realized that while I might not buy that type of novel on my next trip to the bookstore, I could appreciate them.
Still on the fence about joining a writing group, and want to ask some questions? Maybe you were in a writing group and you want to share a positive experience? Comment below and let me know!
(Please save your worse experiences for my “reasons not to join a writer’s group” post, coming soon!)
Looking for a writing group near you? Try meetup.com or checking on facebook. Writing groups also like to frequent coffee shops, cafes, and libraries, so check your local online or on location bulletin board to see if there’s anything posted. If you’re still a student, check with the English department and ask if they know of any open groups looking for members.
Disclaimer :: Please exercise caution when jumping into new groups. Always meet in a public places with people you don’t know.