Seven Benefits of Joining a Writers’ Group

An essay explaining why I continue to benefit from joining a local writers’ group, and how you could too.

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© 2016 Thanet Writers

If you are a writer and wondering if a writers’ group is for you, then I hope this list of what I found rewarding will convince you to take the plunge.

You realise you are not alone

Before I joined a writers’ group I barely knew anyone who read, let alone wrote. I found it difficult explaining to friends that I’d rather stay home and work on my novel than go for a drink or shopping in my free time. I had to get my first draft finished, but they couldn’t quite get their heads around the fact I had willingly created work for myself, and a deadline. Most thought I was crazy and maybe a little bit rude, so I lied. I became ‘ill’ a lot and I felt like an anomaly. Then I joined Thanet Writers and met others who felt the same need to write. I could talk openly to them about writing in ways I rarely could with my existing friends.

It drives you to work harder

A writers’ group is a lot like a slimming group. You have a goal to achieve, and getting there is tough. Alone, you can be distracted, tempted away from your goal, but weighing in in-front of others helps keep you driven, determined, and pushes you to succeed.

Being your own proofreader is not enough

If only you read your work, it will likely never be ready. You are too close to it, you know it too well. If you miss out a word, when you read back through you will keep missing it out. If you use incorrect words, you will never notice. A common mistake I make is referring to a character by their name before they have been introduced. No-one yet knows their name, but I do, and I put it in too early. You need fresh eyes on your work. You need opinions from a range of people with varied preferences and ideas, and when you get writers to read your work, they not only find mistakes, but offer solutions. You don’t have to change your work in reaction to all or any of them, but take their suggestions on board and understand their points of view. There are six to eight regular members on the night I attend and each one of them will find a different mistake. Some will completely understand something that others don’t. It’s wonderful, I get feedback from such a diverse group of people who all love writing.

You learn

© 2016 Thanet Writers

© 2016 Thanet Writers

Unless you are simply writing for yourself, you will want to understand how to get published, and talking with others in a writers’ group will help. They will share their experiences, successes and failures. They will give you a heads up on writing competitions and possibly even share contacts.

You learn to endure critique

Learning to separate yourself from your work can be beneficial. You have poured hours of time into a piece that’s about to get constructively scrutinised, maybe even pulled apart and forged back together in ways that seem unfathomable to you. I have thin skin and I sometimes pretend to myself that what I bring to the group is not my own. If you are sensitive then I recommend this coping strategy. It helps me manage in a group that I know is instrumental for my writing and that I value being a part of.

You learn to critique others

What goes around comes around. You can’t just attend, reap the benefits and give nothing back. Help other writers as much as you can and don’t be afraid to give your opinion, even if you don’t think it’s relevant to the work. Every point of view matters and and yours might matter more than you think. Learning to critique others is a massive confidence booster.

Find a group that fits you

You might not find a group that suits you straight away. There have been writers attend our group for a week or two and not find it to be for them. Some of our regulars have attended other groups in the past and found ours to be the one that benefits them the most. If you find a group that doesn’t fit your needs or make you feel comfortable, then find another. If you explain your reasons for leaving a group, and they are understandable and writing related, I’m sure the members will give you ideas of other local groups you might find more suitable.

 

So, to sum it all up, if you are a writer you really will benefit from joining a writers’ group. You don’t always have to bring work; you can be there for others and gain knowledge of different writing techniques and genres. I didn’t join until I had finally finished the first draft of my novel, mainly because I had very few friends and family willing to read it, but also because I would have been too easily influenced at building the plot if I had joined while piecing everything together. Now the scaffolding is in place I am slowly working on the dreaded second draft, with the much appreciated help of my fellow group members.

Rebecca Delphine is an aspiring Young Adult author from Thanet.

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