I spent quite a few years writing before I plucked up the courage to join a writing group – but as soon as I did, I became an extreme convert and enthusiast.
My only regret is that I didn’t join one sooner.
Here are the main reasons you should join a writing group if you’re serious about becoming a professional writer:
The reason most people put off joining a writing group is because they’re frightened of sharing their work – and worried about criticism and rejection. The easy way to get over this is to attend a writing group once or twice without submitting any work. That way you get the lay of the land and get to meet the people before baring your soul.
However, the vast majority of writing groups are extremely supportive places. Very few people get off on telling you your work is bad, and most people will find something good to say about even the most amateur of pieces.
So, far from feeling it might knock your confidence, a writing group should be a place to make you feel more confident and positive about your work.
This is the most important reason to go to a writing group in my opinion, though that’s not necessarily everyone’s view. By getting the opinions and comments of other people who are passionate about writing, you can learn everything from better punctuation and grammar to how to use tense more effectively to where there are plot holes or inconsistencies in your story.
Other group members can give you an honest, fresh opinion about what works and doesn’t work, and people who are more experienced can even act as mentors and give you invaluable advice. The first writing group I went to had a professional author attending who gave me one of the most useful pointers I’ve ever had – which was: “Stop obsessing over the first chapter and get the first draft finished”. I am forever in her debt for that.
Even the most dedicated, self-motivated people can do with a bit of external encouragement occasionally, and most of us can do with a lot of it a lot more often. Having a regular deadline for submission of a short story, extract or poem can do wonders in helping you get it finished. And knowing that other people will actually be reading it focuses your mind on getting it fine-tuned properly.
Also, having real life people saying that they can’t wait to read the next section is a very positive way to feel like you’re really achieving something tangible.
Writing is mostly a lonely business and meeting other writers and sharing stories can help remind you that you’re not alone. You will discover that they go through the same frustrations and heartaches and find out ways of dealing with them. You could also meet useful contacts and get advice on good resources for improving your skills.
So, if you haven’t joined a writing group then stop putting it off – it could be one of the best decisions you make for your writing career.