Why You Need a Writing Group

I started writing this in August or September of 2013. Then I came back to it in July of 2014 with a new perspective, and now it’s February 2015 and I’m finally going to finish it. Man I’m bad at this blogging stuff.

Initially, if I recall correctly, I started this as a sort of self-satisfying mini-rant about how agents don’t give authors enough feedback during the query process, and how they should spend more time giving authors real feedback instead of the form letters most send out. I mean, how can they expect us to get better if they don’t help us, right?

In the time between beginning this post and finishing it, I’ve been part of a truly stellar writing group. Those people have read my work, given me incredible feedback, and helped me grow as a writer by more than leaps and bounds, more like short jetpack trips. Somewhere in there, I realized that I was approaching things all wrong. I was looking at the industry as this thing that would take me, an aspiring author, and teach me what I needed to know.

It’s not like that, sport. Those folks are way-the-hell too busy to deal with writers who don’t know what they’re doing. Hell, sometimes those folks are way-the-hell too busy to deal with writers who do know what they’re doing. If I want to be a writer, I have to take the initiative to make myself better. It’s not some agent’s or even editor’s job to make me a better writer, it’s their job to find something they can sell, and sell it.

So, what I am going to say to every aspiring writer-type out there who reads this- all one or two of you, based on my general traffic trends- is:

Get involved in your writing community. The only people who are going to make your writing any better are other writers who have read lots of really good stuff, and really bad stuff, and can tell you why what you’re making is bad. Because it’s probably pretty bad. That’s not a judgment of you as a person, or as a writer, that’s just how things usually go. I’ve written some real stinkers in my short time as a writer. I mean I’ve only been writing seriously for a little over four years now, and it wasn’t until this last year that I actually think I’ve gotten to be any good. The only reason that’s happened is because I’ve had a group of three other writers telling me what’s good and what sucks.

They don’t actually tell me it sucks, thankfully, even if the stuff I’ve written really deserves it.

That’s the hallmark of a good writing group: they are supportive, but honest.

A good writing group will pull you out of the piece and help you see it from the outside. They will show you where it’s falling short of the mark and where it’s going so far past the mark that you need to use international minutes to get it on the phone.

A good writing group will show you the plot holes you can’t see with your nose buried in the pages.

A good writing group will show you glaring character inconsistencies that you explained away as simple quirks or that you cleverly ignored to help advance the plot.

A good writing group will challenge you to move past your first idea and your second and your third and your fourth until you finally come up with something original enough that it transforms the entire work into something you never imagined it would be. And you’ll love the new one more than the old one.

A good writing group will force you to grow as a writer, as a reader, and as a creative being.

A good writing group will introduce you to books and authors you had never heard of, and you’ll find some great stuff to expand your mind and creative sphere.

A good writing group will frustrate you when you don’t want to write but you have to have something to submit to them next week.

I could keep going, I suppose and fill up a hefty three-ring binder with all the things that a good writing group will gain you as an author, but here’s the number one thing that I love about my writing group, and why I think everyone should have one:

A good writing group will make you a better writer, and that will make you love writing again.