My previous experience with my first novel showed me the importance and benefits of getting early critiques of my second novel. So last year I joined a writing group.
Last time, the first eyeballs on my manuscript (other than my own) were those of a structural editor. Needless to say, the amount of red pen required made it look like she’d bled all over it. Poor thing. This time round, with my current work-in-progress, I have found that joining a writing group has been a more helpful, supportive and just plain fun way to get early input.
The group meets once a month, face-to-face. It is designed primarily for writers working on a novel. We begin with a round-up of everyone’s progress on their current project, discuss any challenges and offer suggestions, followed by two selected writers reading their work aloud for a group critique. I have read out different sections of my work-in-progress on several occasions. Not every comment I received was a glowing appraisal but each one offered some useful take-away to help me refine my writing.
Writing Benefits of the Group
- Provides a discipline and a deadline to produce regular work
- Prompts me to hone the work I am reading aloud so it’s the best it can be
- Allows others to critically engage with my story and characters early on
- Provides honest and insightful feedback
- Hones my own ability to give and receive constructive criticism
- Gives encouragement and support to improve my work
- Points out glaring errors (e.g. chronology; consistency; continuity)
- Inspires me to keep writing
Social Benefits of the Group
- Gets me out of my lonely writer’s garret
- Encourages me to engage with other writers in person: to laugh; to celebrate; to commiserate; to be inspired by real people (not ones I’ve made up!)
- Lets me join with a group of people who understand what it is to be a writer
- Reminds me I am human.
I am very lucky to be part of such a writing group. Thank you, fellow scribes. You know who you are.