Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Why Every Writer Should Join a Writing Group

(Sorry for the Twilight pic, it just made me laugh, and is vaguely related to groups...)

Three weeks ago, I joined my university's Creative Writing group. Most people went to the Fresher's fair for the free pizza, Lucozade, and of course, the free pens (as in the ones that work for two days and then die just when you need them). I went to the Fresher's fair with my eye on the prize - to find a writers' group.

At home, the only writers' group met at my local library and consisted of two retired ladies, a man who went off on long science-fiction rants, and one of said ladies' bored husbands.
I was the only one under 55, and I only lasted one meeting. Now here, at university, everyone's my age - and it's awesome!

But aside from that, I think every writer should join a writing group because of...well, a lot of reasons. Here are a few brief ones:

1) We are a solitary bunch.

Writing means that when I'm not at lectures, discussing WHO PUT THE SIX-WEEK-OLD-BACON IN OUR FRIDGE (we haven't even been here six weeks!), or occasionally going clubbing, I'm spending the other 90% of my time alone with imaginary people.
Therefore it is always good to get out and talk to real people, or the characters you talk to will become your only friends.

2) Non-writers find your book boring.

It might just be me, but most writers I've spoken to agree that if someone makes the grave mistake of asking "What's it about, then?" , they spend the next ten minutes in glazed-eyes silence, their only words "I'll read it when it's published" before they escape.

In your writers' group, you can talk animatedly about your book where everyone murders everyone, and someone goes insane and someone kills a dog (no, I haven't written that, but whatevs). They won't edge away like you are clearly a psychopath who likes killing vicariously, and best of all, they might actually be interested. Either that or they can feign it until they get to talk about their book.

3) You get really helpful advice!

Nothing beats for advice, but there is something to be said for in-group critique and encouragement. That tricky scene you've all but given up on, that scene you LOVE but is actually a darling-you-must-kill - all will be seen and mentioned/improved by your fellow group members.

4) You get to hear snippets of great books from great writers

In my writing group, everyone's writing something different, has a different style, genre, etc. And there's not a single weak link (unless it's me!) - everyone has an interesting story to tell. We have a comedy writer, a couple of fantasy writers, two literary writers and a poetry writer, and that's just half of them.

5) And at the end of it, you get food...

There is an ice-cream parlour that does amazing cookie sundaes, and is now our official unofficial after-meeting place. I therefore have an excuse to stuff my face - nuff said.

So there you have it - why writers' groups are indeed made of awesome. Are any of you in a writing group? Good or bad experiences you'd like to share? And just for fun, what's your favourite flavour of icecream sundae?


  1. Well said! I agree with all your points :)

    Writing is a very solitary thing, and groups are a way of combating that...I find ours helpful because I'm still learning (as is everyone in some ways I suppose) and it gives me motivation to write and to try new things. On my own I tend to stick to my comfort zones and not do things that I'm not good at. Also, being at uni means I have less time to write for myself (i spend most of the time writing essays) and meetings are structured times when I'm allowed to take time off and write for me.
    Glad your enjoying the CW society!

    Helen x

    1. Thanks Helen! And I'm dreading the lack of writing time when I'm in your year - fresher year is a piece of cake compared to 2nd and 3rd apparently...

  2. I'm jealous! The only option I have for writing groups is online. We just don't have a big reading/writing group here. I hope they help you lots :)

  3. I just joined a writing group that a classmate of mine from Advanced Creative Writing started. We had our first meeting a while back and it was actually a lot of fun despite only having five people total. :)

  4. Writing groups help keep me sane! I love Absolute Write and some on-line critique friends that I had. If it weren't for them, I'd have a hard time finding the motivation to write every day!

  5. Congrats on finding a writers group that you're happy with. Yay!
    I was in a local group that met weekly for about six years. It was awesome and we became good friends as well. Sadly, it slowly started falling apart when the bookstore where we met went out of business. We tried to keep it going, meeting in each others homes, but after desperately trying to hold on after two more years, we finally all decided it was time to move on. Now I'm in an online group. It took a little getting used to, but I'm now quite happy with it.
    Oh, and sundaes - I like the original vanilla ice cream with hot fudge. Mmmmm.