Where would I be without my Writer’s Group? Alone in my office in my pajamas, probably, which is where I spend most of my work days. This an occupational hazard of being a novelist. The antidote to this professional solitude is the Writer’s Group.
I have been meeting with my own Literary Consortium (read that: my beloved writer pals) for close to twenty years now, and the group dynamic is essential to what I do. In fact, EW cofounder and author Barbara Mariconda and I have been “Ode Friends” in this group, growing as writers together. Our model is as follows: We read one another’s work in advance, then have a conversation about it. Deceptively simple. But the fact is that writing-whether it’s fiction, poetry, an essay, or a letter to one’s congressman-is a conversation between writer and reader. So the group dynamic makes perfect sense.
In college, all of my writing classes were roundtable workshops, which meant that not only did I have the benefit of hearing feedback from a Professor, I also got to hear from my peers as well-and they got to hear from me. Everyone brought to the critique their own personal tastes and experiences. What was even cooler was that these were people I didn’t necessarily know or socialize with outside the classroom, but at that table, we were all united in a common goal-to improve our craft, and to help our classmates do the same.
Here’s what I’ve learned. In a Writer’s Group
The questions (Why did you choose this word as opposed to that one? Why this image; why that punctuation?) are as important as the comments. Sometimes a reader will pose a query that you never considered, and this causes you to look at your writing from an entirely different angle.
Hearing “I love this”, from someone you trust and respect can make your day. Conversely, hearing, “I’m not sure this is working”, from that same trusted individual will inspire you to go back and make it better.
All writers have doubts. Nobody just sits down and does it. Sharing the struggle helps to take the sting out of it.
As in everything else, you can learn as much or more from someone else’s mistakes as you can from your own.
When someone else writes something beautiful, profound, hilarious, heartbreaking or just plain solid, it is joyful for every other writer in the room.
A Writer’s Group is not just an exercise in employing better sentence structure or creating snappy dialogue. It is a lesson in the sharing of ideas. It teaches a young writer to both give and receive compliments as well as to provide and accept constructive criticism and to do both graciously. A Writer’s Group, at the core of it, is reading together… and what could possibly be better than that? Download the pdf to see how Empowering Writers translates this authors’ group model into the classroom, building writing communities, and maximizing instructional time!
LISA FIEDLER is the author of The Mouseheart Trilogy from Simon & Schuster.