Some Thoughts on Writing Groups

Why be in a Writing Group? The answer differs from person to person; some like the general social aspect, others want to immerse themselves in bookish conversations. I fall into the latter type – I go to get feedback so I can improve as a writer. The downside to groups is that you end up with tons of unfinished stories. These are the bane of my life. Where do they come from? If you attend a writing group you will get lots of suggestions for story ideas. This is where I developed my first writing rule:
Never, ever begin a piece that doesn’t interest you. This is a hairshirt activity and will drain your enthusiasm. You need to develop your own ideas. To go with the flow will habituate you to using a literary crutch. Better one story start that you’re keen to finish off than ten make-do pieces of clutter. Of course you may prefer the easy life.

Running a writing group requires a time commitment. It isn’t easy which is why it’s common to rely on books or other resources to structure these sessions. These are often run by ex-teachers who, quite logically, do organise them as ‘class’. The process frequently degenerates to a point where meetings don’t deal with anything but what’s written ‘in class’. When it’s this inflexible how do you get feedback on writing done outside class? My second writing rule comes from this:
Negotiate common sense into the situation. You ought to get to read out stuff written away from class. If your class can’t do this, find one that does. Feedback is that valuable. Even without it, reading out loud in front of others makes you focus which in turn helps identify problems in your work.

Writing group members have real lives which limits their ability to commit and often, the meeting may be their only opportunity to write. They don’t bring in a universe, populated by lovingly created characters who’s story is only part done. It’s sufficient for them to recap on ‘last class’, engage in a concentrated flurry of writing, and then switch off to the whole thing until next time.
You want to develop your own stories and characters – and you have.
You want to get sensible feedback – and you have.
But you want more input from others. It’s the time to think about the next step.

If you’re the finished product, and your new novel is ready to be unleashed, go get an agent, or self-publish. Your feedback will be your readers. If you want to give it a professional touch, save up and go get your masterpiece finish off by having it edited and proofread.

Update on Unfinished Tales —I’ve not done as much as I’d like to finish them off and more have been added to the canon. Looking back over the last year, since June 2014, I’ve worked on the following:

Original Idea Title Type Words done
15/05/11 Aeschia edit
17/05/11 One last Adventure edit
28/11/11 Writing Day dystopia 378
20/12/12 The Glass Slipper expanded & adapted as a script 1250
15/11/12 Pax Imperii Sci Fi edit
25/08/12 Earthfall Sci Fi 17893
25/11/12 Brant fantasy edit
27/03/13 Lucky Sci Fi edit
14/05/13 After School dystopia 6300
17/09/13 Erisse of the Illyany fantasy 2710
08/03/14 The P’Nong Sci Fi 30000
23/04/14 Sky High dystopia 314
30/06/14 Beuley Brook horror 681
01/07/14 Hilver fantasy 276
02/09/14 Home by the Sea adventure 309
16/09/14 The Secret Room horror 401
01/10/14 The Bareqqua fantasy 1234
05/11/14 The Photo script 267
18/11/14 Brocley adventure 413
12/02/15 Oasis of the White Lily adventure 302
05/05/15 Orphans script 442

Total: 63,170. And there’s my History of Burnley Grammar School which comes to another 12,000 (most of it was editing, formatting  and testing layouts).

[updated 05/07/15]

About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
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