To Writing Group or Not to Writing Group?

It’s true that everyone has a different process that works best for them for ensuring their optimal productivity—writing flow and otherwise. Most frequently I write from home, laptop on a hard, flat surface, myself sitting in a comfortable position, cat curled up nearby. Almost always I have my headphones in, tuned to a coffeehouse-style playlist or a self-made playlist specifically made in-theme with the current novel or specific characters I am writing.

I’m not always a great multi-tasker, and I get distracted easily. In my academic days, I was usually one to study on my own to avoid those distractions. However, as my progress on my novel has been slow-going since the close of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) at the end of November, I decided to try something different. I have been attending a monthly writing group meet-up. While I wouldn’t have guessed this would be a setting that encouraged my productivity, surprisingly, it has been.

These meet-ups usually happen on a Saturday and fellow writers drop in and dip out, as they’re available. This makes it especially convenient so that I can’t just talk myself out of it with lame excuses about being too busy to stay for long. Occasionally I have only stayed an hour or so and, still yet, I am able to get at least a solid 1,000 words in. I certainly count that as progress! And I’ll take progress wherever I can get it these days.

I have found that I enjoy writing groups not just because they have turned out to be a fount of productivity, but because it is a great way to connect with new people who have a similar passion for writing. I moved to my current city about a year ago, and I only had a few friends in the area at the time, but, through my writing group, I’ve met several other ladies I really enjoy hanging out with and not just during our monthly writing session.

All writing groups probably have a different vibe, but our particular group is very informal, with no particular structure, allowing us time to chat about writing and other topics we share an interest in. Sometimes we chat, sometimes we just sit quietly typing and editing. It’s also a good opportunity to run edits by and brainstorm ideas with the other writers, especially as I am about to approach those stages where it will be helpful to finally have eyes other than my own on my manuscript. (My palms sweat just thinking about this prospect—yikes.)

My limited understanding, not having made it to this writing stage before, is that it can be good to choose different types of readers to peruse your novel and provide feedback. At the very least, it’s probably a good idea to select a reader who has some background in writing themselves because their feedback will be indispensable to readability, story, and really almost every element of your novel. It’s also probably a good idea to select a reader/readers who enjoy a good story and have read multiple novels in your particular genre. A writing group can certainly be a good start for providing some of these “beta readers”.

Because the writing group I attend was borne out of our joint participation in NaNoWriMo, plans are in the works to increase the frequency of our meet-ups to weekly once Camp NaNoWriMo (a springtime/summertime version of November’s NaNoWriMo) begins in April. As yet, I’m still undecided on whether I will choose to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo this year. Still, it is likely I’ll continue to go to as many writing group meet-ups as possible. I will keep you all updated on how productive this is for me, as I increase how frequently I attend.

After all, some of the greatest writers have participated in writing/critique groups. Including famous Inklings members J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I’ve visited the (now) Eagle and Child Pub, by the way, and it was much smaller than expected. Almost too small to hold such incredible literary talent, but I suppose very few places exist big enough for the talents of Tolkien and Lewis. While my writing group may never produce any such literary figures, I can say I may feel comfortable that I shall never suffer any of my kind writing mates shouting, “Not another f*cking elf!” Then again, I don’t think any of us are actually writing about elves currently…

-AW

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