What are the benefits to belonging in a good writing group?
You may be considering joining one, if you haven’t already. Or, you may be re-evaluating if the one you belong to isn’t providing you with the core things that you need. After all, you have been using your creativity, creating new worlds, people, and scenarios. You’ve got words on the page, slugging through the easy times and the challenging times. You might be lucky enough to share your work with a handful of enthusiastic people. Or you might, like many of us, notice a certain phenomenon happen while we travel along the authoring path…. the moment the eyes of your friends and family glaze over during one of your geek-out session on something you’ve learned with the craft of writing, or worse, something you’ve created. Maybe you’ve heard that dreaded kiss of death feedback, aka “that’s nice.”
Things like that can make you feel alone. And yes, we certainly need time to be alone to get some of our juicy words on the page, but feeling insignificant is never fun. So what about joining up with other writers? Read along for the six of the biggest reasons behind why it may be right for you.
1. Constructive Feedback and Critique:
This might be the first thing that many writers think of when they hear the term ‘writers (or writing) group. Certainly, having good feedback is invaluable. But why should it be other writers giving you that feedback?
Readers definitely can give you good feedback, but writers know more of the nuts and bolts behind the why’s and why-not’s.
First, it’s difficult to see some of the bad habits we have. For example, one of mine when I first started writing was repeating the same thing in different ways in the same scene. I’d explain whatever it was with exposition and then show it with action and dialogue. I might even throw the same thing in there with internal dialogue just to be sure it was crystal clear. My critique partners, more experienced than I was, helped me to recognize this, and I learned to edit it out until that habit went away. In fact, if I read my earlier work now and I cringe. I’ll give you another one I used to do… too much stage direction and bobble-heads.
Bobble-head? Characters smiling and nodding all over the place with no real reason other than background happenings. Yes, my characters were in a good mood, but did the reader really need to see the same character smile twenty times in the same scene? No. It distracted from more important things unfolding in the scene.
My first critique group from the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (GLVWG) helped get my feet under me, writing-wise, and helped me learn more about the craft of writing. I learned other and different cool things with another critique group which I was assigned to while going through one of CS Lakin’s classes. In fact, some of these people are still critique partners of mine despite the class being ended.
And then there’s Apex-writers. This group opened the door wide for me and I have found incredible colleagues who will give me complete beta reads, and their input has been invaluable.
I could write a small book about the advantage of feedback, but the most important boil-downs are:
- Constructive feedback helps you develop as a writer. Feedback should be given kindly but not in a saccharine, candy-coated, ‘that’s nice’ fashion.
- It should identify areas where you, the writer, have opportunity to improve and refine.
- It should objectively highlight a piece’s strengths and weaknesses, such as plot holes, inconsistent characterization and unclear ideas, along with things such as excellent metaphors and snappy dialogue, etc.
- If you’re the one giving the critiques, focus on providing feedback that helps the writer improve their work. Use of specific suggestions or examples to illustrate your points can be helpful. Feedback to you should be in the same vein.
- Remember to frame your feedback in a positive and encouraging manner. Critiques, while richly desired, can be difficult to hear. Being honest AND kind is key.
- Share what sort of feedback you are looking for and also, don’t be afraid to ask if you are the one giving the critique. For example, when I’m working on my earlier drafts, I want developmental feedback. I will ask questions like: Does this work, do you see any plot holes, and does something not make sense. Or, when I’m polishing, I may ask for anything that sounds awkward and where the reader would get pulled out of the story.
In all, being able to get quality feedback is one of the benefits to belonging a writing group.
2. Motivation and Accountability:
It is so easy to show up for writing when the muse is whispering in your ear and nothing else is demanding your attention. And that happens incredibly often, yes? Like what… 1% of the time?
Writing requires discipline and motivation. Sometimes it’s hard to get in that chair. We might not be feeling it, or maybe life feels like it’s not being conducive to giving us a three- hour block of time.
So what can a good writers’ group give you in this area?
Well, it can help you with:
- Sustaining momentum
- Overcoming writer’s block
- Setting and achieving goals
- Meeting deadlines
- Avoiding procrastination
- Fostering discipline
- Gaining personal fulfillment.
Like-minded individuals who understand the challenges and triumphs of the writing process can be, in my opinion, soul-quenching. It’s heartening to get validation with those who ‘get’ it. It’s reaffirming to get that push to keep going. After all, writing can be hard.
The Midweekers zoom call, a misnomer with the meeting being on Sunday, is one of the things I enjoy with the Apex-writers group. This weekly zoom accountability group helps me and others get our upcoming week mapped out. The group meets to share what we got accomplished for the week. No shaming allowed, and yes, there are weeks any of us might say ‘I didn’t get a lot done.’ It isn’t uncommon to hear brainstorming on how to get around obstacles or applauds when someone has knocked their goals out of the park for the week. Plus, we share resources.
And then there’s Wednesday’s Accelerator class with NLP coach Forrest Wolverton where the focus is on how to achieve our goals, how to get out of our own ways, how to grow into our potentials, and how to stay motivated and inspired.
I also enjoy sprinting with my Magic Weaver group. Two 25-minutes sprints where the three of us use for writing, drafting, plotting, editing, etc. We get an incredible amount of work done. I think knowing someone else is paying attention has the potential to bring out the best in us. And the socializing in between the sprints is something I very much enjoy.
Check-in buddies are also wonderful. You reach out at the end of day to give your buddy your report on what your word count is or maybe it’s the hours in the chair. It works, particularly if you take turns with having the periodic de-motivated day.
3. Inspiration and Creative Sparks:
Interaction with fellow writers often-times is a wellspring of inspiration, another benefit to belonging to a good writing group, or at least, that’s been my experience. Since we all come to the page from diverse backgrounds and with varied writing styles, genres, and perspectives, there’s so much we can share.
Plus, having a time and place to brainstorm, or having other writers be a sounding board, or geeking out about writing in general can ignite new ideas, spark creativity, and push you to explore uncharted territories.
You just have to find an opportunity for these kind of engagements.
To share some of my writing journey, my first writing group was GLVWG, which I’m still a member of. There’s a particular author there who I nicknamed ‘idea woman’. She is an absolute font of creatively innovative and sometimes freaky (in a good way) ideas. She helped me throw everything on the brainstorming table. Not everything is used, but it’s amazing how much of the far-fetched become a stepping stone to something fresh and exciting.
And then there was Jonathan Maberry’s Writers Coffeehouse in Willow Grove, PA. Some of its attendees, particularly the Liars’ Club members whose motto is “We make stuff up for a living” helped me to consider ways around obstacles. Plus, the meeting had me returning home with story ideas and my fingers itching for the keyboard.
My current favorite source of inspiration comes from my brainstorming groups, particularly Saturday’s Epic zoom. This group formed around David Farland’s Epic class and while the class has ended, we still meet almost weekly. Our discussions range from everything from our stories, what we’re researching, what we’re learning, to brainstorming and building on ideas. If there is ever time when my motivation is low, all I need to do is hang out with my favorite writing friends. I am ready to not only write but to push the limits on what I can do.
All in all, feeding your author/writer soul is profoundly important. If you consider story having the potential to make enormous impacts on people, culture, and our world, then the people writing the stories are not only important but influential. Meaning – you are important. And having the benefit of belonging to a good writing group will certainly take you far.
4. Networking and Professional Connections:
Networking has to be one of the best aspects of a good writers’ group. In a good writers’ group you can:
- Learn about writing opportunities, contests, publishing avenues, and industry insights.
- Discover opportunity for collaborations with fellow writers for anthologies and joint projects.
- Critique partnerships may arise.
- Writers groups often invite industry professionals, such as editors, agents, or published authors, to speak or conduct workshops, which offers additional and valuable networking possibilities.
- Build a strong network which can increase the likelihood of receiving referrals and recommendations.
- Engage in professional developmental activities, like attending conferences, workshops, and literary events.
- Increase your visibility and exposure within the industry, which can lead to publishing contracts, writing opportunities, speaking engagements, and a broader readership.
I have had the opportunity to network within several writers’ group. In GLVWG, I was on the board of directors, served as president and also as conference chair. Being able to book Donald Maass, CEO of the Donald Maass Literary Agency and being able to bundle expenses allowed me and my team to have a record sold-out three-day event with many other speakers and a panel of agents. We had presentations, interactive meetings and a book fair. Yes, this was an incredible amount of work and an equal amount of networking!
If you’ve never thought about volunteering in writers’ groups, I’d encourage you to give it thought. It not only gives back to the group, but it gets you in the center of things where you get to meet others in the industry. And, in my humble opinion, it’s fun.
For Apex-writers and networking… on the weekly Strategy and twice weekly Mastermind, you get to ask questions of the presenters, which include knowledgeable industry leaders. Plus, if you show up to the zoom early, you might have the opportunity to chit-chat before the presentation.
And how about conference buddies? In the fall of 2022, about a dozen Apexers went to the World Fantasy Convention in New Orleans, including myself. We, of course, met other authors there and networked but it was amazing to have writer friends there to go out to dinner with and to have a wingman for bar con.
The highlight of my networking opportunities to date probably would be Apex’s very missed mentor, David Farland. The opportunities I had with interacting with him on Apex’s weekly instructional meetings, and for his 318R class (twice) and Epic (once) was instrumental to me leveling up — in the craft in writing, with knowledge on marketing, and the belief that I had what it took to be an author.
5. Emotional Support and Camaraderie:
Writing can be a solitary and emotionally demanding endeavor. It’s easy to feel isolated or doubt your abilities. In fact, I’ve touched on this a little in the earlier benefits. In a writers’ group, you should find a supportive community of individuals who understand the joys and struggles of the writing journey.
A good writers’ group should:
- Alleviate feelings of isolation and provide a sense of belonging.
- Help you boost your confidence, help you overcome obstacles, and remind you that you’re not alone in your creative pursuits.
- Provide emotional support and camaraderie and that often extends to the exchange of feedback and collaboration. And, collaboration among writers can lead to shared learning, which leads to the creation of stronger, more impactful writing.
- Help you break through creative barriers.
- Celebrate your small victories and significant milestones.
Personally, I have found my writing groups, particularly Apex-writers, to be invaluable, particularly in this area. It is indeed life-affirming to feel the support of your creative tribe.
6. Skill Development & Learning Opportunities:
Last and certainly not least, good writers’ group often organize workshops, seminars, and guest speaker events to enhance members’ writing skills. Sessions like these cover various aspects of writing, such as plot development, character creation, dialogue, world-building, and editing.
There are always things to learn in the craft of writing and taking part in such learning opportunities can broaden your knowledge, expose you to different writing techniques, and help you stay updated with industry trends.
I recently attended the Poconos Liars Club Writers Conference, a free event with incredible presenters, including Maria Lamba, senior agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, who not only held an informative presentation on “How to Revise Your Novel for Submission” but also did a five-page critique and an AME (Ask Me Anything) with a small group of 10, including myself.
Additionally, Hildy Silverman, author and editor, presented “What Editors Look For” during this event and as a sneak preview, Apex-writers has invited Hildy to come give this talk and she’s accepted!
Learning and researching are two of my favorite things. And there is a ton of information out there. But what do you do when you don’t know what you don’t know. Suggestion? Join a good writers’ group that has learning opportunities because:
- Skill development allows writers to refine their writing techniques, expand their knowledge and perspective, and improve their craft, which results in producing higher-quality and more engaging writing.
- Being able to adapt to the constantly evolving industry with its emerging trends, new technologies, and shifting reader preferences means being able to stay competitive in the industry.
- Exploration of new genres and styles allows one to step out of comfort zones and to push past boundaries contributing to greater growth.
- It often involves connecting with other writers, instructors, industry professionals, and peers, which fosters even more learning through shared experiences, peer feedback, and knowledge exchange, plus having access to valuable resources, support, and collaboration opportunities.
- The mindset of lifelong learning helps to better equip writers to achieve long-term success.
I’ve had the opportunity to learn from a variety of writers’ groups and knowledgeable writing teachers. However, I do have to say that the amount of craft and marketing knowledge. I have received through Apex-writers has been mind blowing. With weekly replays going back to 2020, all of David Farland’s recorded classes and lectures, the ongoing Strategy and Mastermind zoom meetings, and the interaction with other authors across the globe, it’s like a never-ending online writers conference that just keeps getting better.
In short, belonging to a writers’ group can be immensely beneficial for writers at any stage of their journey. The supportive environment, constructive feedback, motivation, networking opportunities, and learning experiences offered by writers’ groups can help you grow as a writer, refine your craft, and connect with a community of fellow wordsmiths. There are many writers’ group out there. If you are interested in learning more about Apex, visit apex-writers.com .