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Starting a Writers Group 
 
by David Bareford May 31, 2005

Writing groups are beneficial to new and experienced authors alike. Find out how to start a group, how to critique the work of others, and how to receive outside feedback. Get that crucial analysis of your work before the editor sees it!

Writing groups can provide constructive criticism and empathetic support for writers at all levels. Whether your interests steer you to poetry, magazine articles, nonfiction subjects, or the Great American Novel, the experience of setting words on the page can be daunting, humbling, challenging, and rewarding all at the same time. Non-writers may not understand your agonies over seemingly miniscule word choices, and if they read your work they may not have the literary tools to analyze the piece beyond the superficial “I liked it,” or “It was good.”

Enter the writers group.

What Writers Groups Do

At their core, writers groups are simply coteries of people who share their work to receive feedback, constructive criticism, and encouragement from one another. Authors in a group receive working manuscripts from the other members and submit their own pieces. Each member then reads the other texts and critiques them on their literary merits. The entire group meets at regular intervals and discusses each submission, offering reactions to the piece and suggestions on how to make the work even better.

Some groups are narrowly focused, such as a group of science fiction novelists. Others are more general, accepting writing submissions of all genres and styles. Most will try to limit the size of a submission: a chapter or two of a book is a digestible length. Presenting a group with a 700-page epic novel is far too much!

Members must trust one another to keep their work private. After all, authors are submitting pieces in this forum precisely because they feel the work is not yet ready for public release.

Belonging to a group will remind you to keep writing. It’s easy to rest on past successes or become frustrated in the face of rejection slips. A group that expects regular contributions may be the catalyst you need to keep working.

Writers groups can also be great places to network and get tips on the business of writing. Another author may know just the publication your article is perfect for, or may have a great relationship with a literary agent that might be interested in your work. Since all the other members are writers as well, they will likely identify strongly with the emotional ups and downs you will experience during your writing career.

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