Sunday, 29 March 2015

How a writing group can speed up the process of moving from hobby to publication


At the Newcastle Writers Festival last weekend, four of us from our small writers group presented a session called: 
Take your writing to the next level
As I mentioned in my previous  post I present here a summary of my section of that presentation which spoke of -
How a writing group can help speed up the process of improving and expanding your writing and then begin to take  your writing from hobby to publication

1.       Building confidence in your writing.
2.       Helpful critiques.
3.       Moving towards publication.
4.       How to form a good group.
5.       The joy of sharing successes.

Let’s start with:
1.       Building confidence in your writing.
One of the hardest things to do when you first start out is to share your work with others. A good compatible writers group can provide a safe place to take those first tentative steps and put your writing out there. It’s often a very scary thing to share your writing in the early days. But as you share your own work and hear others work  you begin to build confidence in your writing.  One of the most important elements that made our group successful was that we have always been respectful of each others writing right from the start.  

Helpful critiques – for when we can’t recognize the good bits in our own writing and advice on how to fix the bits not working or even pick up things that we’ve missed..
It’s a great relief when you get a good critique that not only gives you that recognition but also gives good suggestions on how to improve what’s not working.

One incredibly helpful discovery that came out of being part of a group was the recognition that we all write in different styles or use a different writing process. Some people think about what they are going to write and let it percolate then sit down and write it.  Others think on their keyboard or pen and paper.  Some write in short bursts. Others are slower with their writing and refine as they go.   Some like to have large blocks of time.

In a good group each member will have some valuable writing skill they do well.  Gradually as you get used to each other you come to recognise each others strengths. For example If you have someone in your group who is a whizz at grammar and punctuation, tie them to a chair or buy them chocolates and flowers.  The person who is good at the details is as valuable as the one who sees the big picture.  Someone may be good at critiquing plots. Ask yourself what are your particular strengths and own them.

Moving  towards publication
Nothing encourages us more than seeing a fellow member’s success. In our group Sally was the first to have an ABC Open 500 word story published on line. We were all so impressed and this encouraged the rest of us to begin to look at the possibility of publication.  So we all set out to get something published on the ABC site.  For most of us it was the first thing we had published and we began to really feel like writers. 

We encouraged each other to enter competitions or seek publication in anthologies, sharing lists of competitions and calls for submissions. However some of us were working on novels rather than short stories. Some were working on both.  We also shared articles and books that were helpful.

Some members were pursuing publication in various ways, and shared parts of that journey with the rest of us.  We have learned that the modern writer is responsible for much of his or her own promotion and the need for an online profile. 

How to  form a good group.
We are a closed group and from the beginning entry was by invitation.  If you can’t find a suitable group then think of starting your own group.
Attending some creative writing courses will introduce the emerging writer to the group process.  Having a good tutor is invaluable.  For those of us in our small group that Tutor was Karen Whitelaw who teaches through the Hunter WEA.

In these courses I was interacting with other writers which was enormously helpful  I liked the group process so much that when the courses were finished I wanted to keep that going.  Being a bit of an organising type I took up a suggestion to start a writers group. Gradually I asked a few other writers I’d met and clicked with by then, to join this small group and waited with baited breath for their reply. To my amazement those I asked agreed to join.
Finally we had a good number which for us is about 7 or 8. That’s manageable.  Not everyone can come each time.  It also meant we had a good variety of styles, strength, genres and  gender.

The joy of sharing successes with others who really understand.
Many of you may have had the experience of sharing a writing success with a family member or friend who doesn’t really understand how amazing that small success is.  That ‘ho-hum’ response can be a bit soul shattering.  But your writing group members DO understand it  and celebrate every success

When you get that first article or ABC Open submission published or get an honourable mention or  ‘OH JOY”  a prize for a short story You’re fellow writers will share that joy and it will encourage them to continue on too. This keeps us writing and aiming higher.

I hope you all find this of interest.  I welcome any comments or questions.

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