I’ve benefitted so much by joining a local writers’ group in my new town. The group uses a format I’ve never experienced. It has given me an opportunity to share some things I know as a published author. And it has energized me to write, rewrite, and set aggressive deadlines for myself as the year-end approaches.
The group’s format emphasizes writing. Meetings run two hours, with half an hour dedicated to group business and a round-the-table check-in to share what’s new in each person’s writing life. The remainder of the time, fully three-fourths of the monthly meeting time, is given over to short readings with critique. Members signal their intention a month ahead and prepare a five-minute reading of work in progress. Each read-aloud (we may fit in five or six at a single meeting) is followed by a short, constructive give-and-take about the piece.
Members care about language– correct, effective use of language. While feedback may address grammar and usage, normally those details have been cleaned up before meeting time. Emphasis during the critique is on effective phrasing, plotting, pacing, characterization, flow, voice, and other elements of good storytelling. Even with non-fiction pieces, whether sermons or true crime, group members speak to effective use of storytelling and the impact of style and voice on the listener or reader.
Brought together by a love of words, members come from many backgrounds. Literature majors, homemakers, scientists, pastors, literacy specialists, engineers, sales persons, builders, administrators, we represent most age groups and many levels of experience. We write novels, short stories, poems, inspirational, memoir. That range of input makes for lively discussion, and it results in growth over time of each writer, as well as improvement of the work in progress.
As a newcomer to the group and to the town, I feel more connected after every meeting. I was thrilled that a few members came to a signing I did with other authors. They were full of questions or advice or both. And, gosh, maybe they’ll read my book! Maybe they’ll like it! 🙂 Part of belonging is having something to offer, and I do, now that I’ve published some. I can share information about groups in nearby cities; knowledge of a few publishers and organizations; suggestions for pitching, querying, or attending a conference; experience with technology; recommendations for craft books and helpful websites; and words of support and encouragement that come out of my own publishing journey.
What else? As a newcomer to town, the belonging I experience in the group is a gift I cherish this holiday season. As if that weren’t enough, my new affiliation with people who love words has added to my motivation to write, to edit, and to make and meet deadlines. That’s one more gift I hadn’t expected so soon.
I hope you’ll share with us your experience as a member of a writers group, especially, how it has benefited your writing and your sense of yourself as an author. Blessings to you for a joyful holiday. –katie o’boyle