Writing Groups and Why They Rock My Socks

If you’re serious about writing, find yourself a writing group.

My favorite creative writing professor, Carol Lynch Williams, assigned the class to work in writing groups, and I am hooked.

As a part-time housewife/part-time writer, I’ve been able to meet the demands of two separate groups at once. Both groups are based several states away, and I participate via skype, thanks to modern technology and my friends’ willingness to deal with me as a talking head. ( 😀 Thanks, guys!) From any given 1000 words of my manuscript, the two groups often come up with different pointers. I have had so much fun, and I’ve gained a crazy amount of help from my wonderful groups.

From my experience, here are five good reasons to be in at least one writing group:

1) A group will keep you accountable. There will be someone you have to say “sorry” to when you don’t submit anything. If, like me, you don’t have deadlines from editors or publishers (yet), making a commitment to a group of friends can help keep you writing and revising.

2) A group can be a great regular ego boost. My sister taught me that you can’t be an artist unless you think you’re better than everyone else and you deserve attention. Strong confidence is important for being a writer as well. Having a group who can tell you what they like about your manuscript and what points of craft you’re good at is a blessing. (That pile of a heck-of-a-lot-of other points of craft I’m not a star at yet can be pretty intimidating.)

3) You get to critique more manuscripts. When you come across a hole in a friend’s work and help her come up with ways to fix it, you hone problem-solving skills that you can then apply to your own plot holes.

4) Inside jokes. (Collar bones O.o) Enough said.

5) You get regular feedback. No matter how awesome your story is in your head or how amazing you believe your manuscript is, your work is not done until every scene is clearly communicated in the text. While ego and confidence are important, it’s way better for your ego to take a blow than for your manuscript to sit unpolished and unread.

So find a writing group. Or start one. You already know writers among your friends and family. Pick two or three that are close to your level of talent and motivation (doesn’t matter what genres they write), and start swapping segments of your manuscripts. Once a week, once a month, however often you can.

I’m probably preaching to the choir here anyway.

Happy Yarning!

The Ten Commandments of Taking Criticism

Ten commandments of taking criticism

Does this sight make you jump up and down with joy? It should, but it doesn’t, right?

As feedback from my lovely beta readers trickles in, I realize I’m not as good at taking criticism as I want to be. So I wrote up some rules for myself. Enjoy.

#1 Thou shalt not take any critique personally; receiving feedback is a sign that others do indeed think thee and thy manuscript are worth the effort.

#2 Thou shalt not get defensive (thy readers may actually know what they are talking about).

#3 Thou shalt break critiques into manageable chunks.

#4 Thou shalt consider EVERY SINGLE SUGGESTION.

#5 Thou shalt ask thy reader(s) for clarification.

#6 Thou shalt thank thy reader(s).

#7 Thou shalt revise.

#8 Thou shalt solicit more feedback.

#9 Thou shalt not give up even though thou art clearly a horrible, horrible writer who shall never accomplish anything with thy life.

#10 Thou shalt reward thy diligence with breaks and treats (within reason).

Now I’d better get off the internet and work on #3 and #7.