I am a firm believer in writing groups.
When I first started writing, I was a lone wolf. I sat at my computer in the kitchen while half my children were at school and the other half were napping. I typed away, creating word pictures on the page and hoped they were good. When my first essay, “Typical,” was published in Segullah, I was assigned an editor to work with to clean it up and make it shine. That was one of the most instructive writing experiences I have ever had. I will never forget it. Each editorial comment was a lesson in writing and I learned so much from the critique.
That’s when I knew I needed #1- more instruction on writing. #2- a writing group.
So I started attending writing classes available at local libraries and eventually began attending conferences. Through the conferences, I found friends who would become my critiquing cohorts!
This is a picture of some of the members of REALITY WRITERS- a creative nonfiction group. I met them two years ago at the Storymakers Conference in Provo. We meet monthly and they offer invaluable help on my personal narrative essays.
Tanya is a friend from my neighborhood (who has since moved but not far so I forgive her). She’s a scientist. For a long time, I had no idea she also enjoyed writing. She and I attended our first writing conference together, Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR). We were so naive and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, jumping right into intensive classes we were not completely prepared for. But it turned out to be a fantastic experience. Now we talk writing all the time and read each other’s stuff. And we trade manuscripts with another friend from our WIFYR group who lives in Colorado. So writing groups can even work over email. It’s great!
And this is my most recent writing group. This one came about in a very unconventional, creepy stalker-ish way. I was at the pool with my kids and saw a woman sitting on a lounging chair on her laptop. Leaning against the chair was a Storymakers bag that they give out at every conference. So, I took a picture of her because I thought it was cool that she was so dedicated to her writing to bring it to the pool. Then I approached her and showed her the picture and told her I’d text it to her to remind herself how awesome she is. We talked for a little bit about writing and her writing group. Before it got too awkward, I left. Well, a week later, she texted and invited me to attend her writing group and see if I was interested in joining and if they were interested back. Like dating. We each brought our first chapters and read and critiqued and then they said they’d give me a call back if they wanted me to join. Luckily they said yes and we meet weekly and its been great motivation for me to keep writing my fiction pieces.
With the help of all these groups, I was able to polish up a great first chapter for the Storymakers first chapter contest and won 2nd place in the Adult Fiction category!
Writing groups are a must-have in my opinion if you really want to improve your writing craft. It’s also such a gift to have a group of people who believe in you and who can commiserate or celebrate with you! I’m lucky to have found such great groups to be part of.