Is there a novel inside of you that’s been waiting for years to be written? Or have you started writing your first novel, but you’re struggling to make it makes sense? Or maybe you’ve finished writing your manuscript, but don’t know what to do next. Well, if either of these scenarios ring true for you, then I’ve got great news! One of the best things you can do regardless of where you are with your writing project is to join a writers’ group.
I joined the Dallas Area Writers Group (DAWG) in March 2013 shortly after I finished my first manuscript. I was as green as one of those granny apples and my manuscript was as purple as an egg-plant (excessively using adjectives and adverbs). I had no clue what it took to write fiction, and I had no idea what to do next. So, I did what came natural, I googled “what to do after you’ve finished a manuscript.” Among the top responses was to join a writers’ group. When I searched for writers’ groups in the Dallas area, several came up. But I chose DAWG because it was open to writers of all genres, it was close to my home, and I loved the whimsical dog icon on the website which suggested to me that the meetings would have a relaxed environment. I joined after my second visit, and I’m so glad I did.
Shortly after joining DAWG, I decided to visit a second writers’ group, Dallas Mystery Writers, because it catered specifically to mystery writers, which is the genre that I write. I joined it as well. It’s also open to writers of all genres, but the guest speakers are generally published authors who write in the mystery/thriller genre or individuals who work in the law enforcement community. I’m certainly not advocating that you join two groups, but for me my knowledge in the craft of writing has grown exponentially because of joining both writers’ groups and benefiting from the variety of speakers and topics that are shared. So, based upon my experience of faithfully attending a writers’ group and being an active participant, here are my top 5 reasons for joining:
1. Gain Knowledge
When I joined my first writers’ group I was amazed, almost overwhelmed by the vast about of learning I needed to do to transition from business writing to creative writing. But by attending the meetings, I was able to hear published authors and literary agents give excellent guidance on writing dialogue, scene-building, creating believable 3-dimensional characters, plot development, creating conflict, and so much more. I’ve received recommendation on the top writing books to read. I’ve also learned about writing conferences to attend which have provided additional insight on such things as how to get a literary agent and how to get published.
2. Make Connections/Network
One of the most valuable things I’ve gained from attending a writers’ group is the opportunity to meet talented writers and published authors who are happy to share their knowledge. I asked the advice of one of the long-standing well-published members of DAWG, Win Shields, whether I should be wary of having my manuscript edited by one of those online services or not. He said that I should be, and recommended LaRee Bryant, a successful published author and editor, and coincidentally one of the coordinators of Dallas Mystery Writers. LaRee has taught me more about writing than any single person on this planet. At both groups there’s an opportunity to chat with other writers during lunch or before the meeting starts.
3. Get Evaluation
Another highly valuable service some writers’ groups offer is holding critique sessions. Both groups I attend offer critiques two to three times a year. Their formats are slightly different, but both allow writers an opportunity to read a portion your work and they provide constructive feedback within a positive framework. I find this highly valuable, and as a result, I’ve been able to improve my writing and gain an understanding why certain techniques didn’t work. I’ve also learned almost as much from listening to other writers being critiqued as being critiqued myself. Both DAWG and Mystery Writers focus on the writing and not on the writer, which is good!
4. Find Inspiration
I’ve found that hearing positive feedback from the critique panel can be a source of inspiration. Their golden nuggets of praise can lift your writing spirits and carry you right on into the next week. Positive comments from fellow writers is also inspirational. And, you’d be surprised how listening to the stories and ideas of fellow writers can inspire and challenge you to get on with the business of finishing your writing project if you’ve hit a wall.
5. Develop Friendships/Collaboration
In a writers’ group you’re able to share your work with like-minded individuals who can provide creative ideas, encouragement, and support. I’ve met individuals in my writers’groups I attend who have become life-long friends.
The only advice I’d offer to you before joining a writers’ group is to choose wisely. I would recommend that you visit two or three times before you join to determine if the atmosphere is right, i.e., positive, and non-judgmental. Also, you’d want to know whether the level of learning is where it needs to be for your growth. And finally, it would be beneficial if the group offers critique sessions to allow feedback on your writing to help you improve. Now, go forth and find that writers’ group! Drop me a line and let me know about your experience with writers’ groups. Thanks!