Writing is a deeply personal thing. Our words, regardless of our genre, are the outpouring of our hearts. For me personally, writing is the deepest form of personal expression I can muster.
I live and breathe through my characters. I explore deep-seated themes and emotional dilemmas. I work through my own hurts and heartaches and magnify my philosophies of the world. All through the skin of fantasy-clad adventures.
So the last thing I want to do is show my WIP to strangers for them to tear apart. Hey, that’s my heart you’re editing!
That would be all well and good, except that I want to be a published author. If there is one thing I have learned over the last three years, it’s that effective writing happens in community.
No matter how introverted you are, no matter how much you hate people (seriously, why is that mantra so in vogue right now?) you were made for community. On some level, big or small, your soul craves community.
The same is true for our stories. That’s why, despite my fears, the very first thing I did the day I decided to pursue this dream seriously was join a writer’s group.
Writing in Community
When I picked writing back up after a five-year hiatus, I did so with a co-author. Now, I’d never written with another person before. At least, not an actual story. (Gaia Online RPGs definitely don’t count.)
Suddenly, it wasn’t just my characters I had to worry about. It was my characters and his. It was my world and his. It was my magic system and his. I couldn’t just have my way in everything, because the story wasn’t mine alone.
And honestly, I never want to write alone again.
Something incredible happened when I opened up my writing world to just one other person. For the first time, my story made it past chapter 1. Instead of ignoring my plot holes because I didn’t know how to fill them in, I had another mind analyzing the problem and working through them with me.
Even now, three years later and working on a solo piece again, I share the document with a select few trusted friends to read and leave me feedback. And boy does my ego thrive off of feedback!
But ego-boosters aside, writing in community provides me with much-needed motivation to actually finish my work. And if there is one thing I know about us writers, it’s that we need motivation.
Why a Writers Group?
Even though I have a few trusted friends who write alongside me, I still sought a writer’s group when it came time to do more with my writing than just amuse myself. There are several reasons I made this choice, so let’s take a look at them.
I have no idea what I am doing. If that wasn’t clear by my first blog post, it will definitely become clear soon enough. Yes, I want to be a published author, but I don’t know how to get there yet. Writer’s groups tend to attract writers of various skill levels and accomplishments.
Sure, I can watch YouTube videos and read blog posts all day long about how to write and get published. But YouTube and blogs are one-way conversations. In a writing group, I can learn from those who have walked before me and know the ins and outs. Authors join writer’s groups because they want to share their craft, passion, and knowledge. I’m ready and eager to learn all they have to offer.
I need motivation. I know I sort of touched on this before, but seriously. Motivation is the number one killer of prose. You can’t publish what you never get around to writing. A writer’s group can provide you with like-minded readers who will motivate you to finish your goals.
It’s easy to get stuck in your own head when writing alone. You start to think that what you’ve written isn’t good enough. It’s not original; it’s not well-written; your characters are two-dimensional. You might as well give up and do something worthwhile with your life.
We all suffer from these thoughts. Believe me when I say, these thoughts aren’t true. No one lies to you more than you do. So instead of listening to the critique of your own self-doubt, get someone else to look at your work. Let them get excited about your characters and gush all over your plotline. When someone else falls in love with your story, it becomes a joy to write the next chapter for them.
Whether your writer’s group comes together and critiques work or just schedules special presentations for the purposes of learning, a writer’s group will keep you motivated to see your project through the end.
I need help. This sort of goes along with what’s been said before, but as a fledgling writer I need help. I need someone to tell me I use too many commas or my semi-colon is unnecessary. But more than grammar, I need someone to read my story and say, “That metaphor is ridiculous. Try again.”
I love my friends who read my writing. Seriously, I could not do this without them. But though they may be avid readers, they are not avid writers. They have not studied the craft of storytelling. They can’t recite to you all the steps of the Hero’s Journey. They can tell me if they love my characters or get sucked into my plot, but they can’t fine-tune for me.
A writer’s group is made up of individuals who are just as passionate as you are to see the very best in writing. They, like you, commit time (and sometimes money) to get together with other writers and get hyped about writing.
They want to tell the best stories and they want you to tell the best stories. From the novice writer to the ten-times-best-seller, everyone in your writer’s group will have something to contribute to helping you grow as a writer.
I need connections. The fact that I needed to join a writer’s group hit me when I attended my very first writer’s conference last fall. It was a small thing, put on by the local library, but it had a profound impact on me.
One of the biggest takeaways I got from it was my need to connect with other writers.
Now, I’m terribly introverted. I don’t think I said more than two words to anyone at the conference that day. When we got to the networking opportunity block in the schedule, I sat in the auditorium and texted my husband about how much fun I’d been having learning about verbs for the entire half-hour.
But just being there, surrounded by a hundred other humans from my community who love writing, made me realize this was what I needed. I needed to get out of my house, to be surrounded by people who share my dreams and passions.
And, practically, I need connections. It’s fun to write about the whimsical reasons I need community and friendship with other writers. But if I ever want to be more than an amateur writer no one has ever heard of, I need to meet people. Then I need to meet the people those people know.
Almost every job I have ever gotten has been because I know someone who worked there who had an in with the hiring manager. In this extremely competitive day and age we live in, networking is essential to get noticed and published. The more people you know who can vouch for you, the better your chances are of getting published.
I wish it didn’t have to be that way, that talent, passion, and grit alone could get you there. And sometimes, it does. But the truth is networking matters. A writer’s group is your first step into the network.
How do you find a writers group?
Finding a writer’s group is as easy as getting on the internet. Finding the right writer’s group for you may take some time.
Not all writer’s groups are organized the same way. Some groups are strictly critique groups. Some hold seminars or invite speakers to teach the craft. So when you get to googling your local writer’s group, keep in mind what you’re looking for.
For me, I simply googled “[my area] writer’s club” and then opened the first five links Google offered me. I also searched the calendar on my library’s website because they host a number of writing events.
After spending some time in research on my options, I printed off the application for a group that meets monthly, wrote out a check for the membership fee, and mailed it off into the wild world of hopes-and-dreams. A few weeks later, I received an email from the president of the club introducing himself and informing me my application had been accepted.
Squee! I’m a real writer now!
(Okay, I was already a real writer. But something about joining a club really makes it feel, well, real.)
If you live in a small community that doesn’t already have a group, consider starting your own. Advertise at local libraries and coffee shops. I guarantee you that you are not the only person hoping to find a writer’s group in your community and being disappointed that there isn’t one already.
If starting your own writer’s group sounds overwhelming, not to worry! There are several virtual communities as well. Facebook is a great place to start looking for them, although you may sacrifice a level of professionalism for the sake of ease.
Whatever it takes, whoever you are, find yourself a writing community. Your writing will never be the same, and your journey to becoming published will benefit greatly from the experience.