Writers’ groups can be small informal groups that meet periodically at one of the author’s homes, or larger more formalized organizations that meet in public places such as the local library or a restaurant. The group may just sit around a coffee table and read each other’s work, or the group may have guest speakers and a formal agenda. In either case, the goal is to provide information and encouragement to advance writers’ careers, whether you are working on your first project or are an established author with a number of publishing credits. Quite a few bestselling authors even participate in writers’ groups, often with their bestselling peers.
Whatever stage you have reached with your career, participation in a writers’ group can be beneficial. In smaller, informal groups, many times the writers share their work and invite the group members to make comments or suggestions. It can be very helpful to get this type of feedback, especially from individuals whose opinions you trust. With a large project such as writing a novel, it is easy to lose objectivity. Having a second or third pair of eyes read your work can help you determine whether it is ready to take to the marketplace. Many writers have a fear, even a dread, of having another person read their work and make negative comments. Having your work read in a group session can help you overcome that fear, and you will learn that criticism is just part of the process of improving your writing and getting published.
Reading other writers’ work can be helpful to you as well. The best writers are always striving to improve their skill and learn new techniques. You can learn a lot by reading other writers’ work and comparing it to your own. You may gain additional confidence that your skills are approaching the professional level.
As you critique the other group members’ work, you get the satisfaction of helping them move closer to realizing their literary goals. You may be surprised how knowledgeable you are about the craft of writing, when you get the opportunity to share this knowledge with others.
Companionship with Other Writers
Writing is a solitary, sometimes even lonely, activity. Writers’ groups can be a supportive environment to share stories about the difficulties you may be having with your book, and to receive some badly needed praise and encouragement. Many times friends or family members don’t relate to the struggles an author endures to complete a project and find an agent or publisher. Your fellow writers do understand these difficulties because they face them right along with you.
One of the problems beginning writers encounter is keeping on track and finishing the project. It is easy to let the time demands of everyday life keep you from your writing desk. Participation in a group can help you maintain your dedication, because many times the group members discuss the progress they have made since the last meeting.
Support During the Search for an Agent or Publisher
It can be incredibly frustrating to try to find an agent or publisher for your work. You may reach the point where you feel like it is hopeless. The reality is that nearly every other aspiring writer encounters this same “brick wall” when they try to get their work noticed in the extremely competitive literary marketplace. By sharing your frustrating experiences with other writers, you will see that you aren’t alone. Lack of progress in finding an agent does not mean your work is not worthy of publication. There is definitely an element of luck involved in launching a writing career. And it takes an incredible amount of perseverance.
Your fellow group members will undoubtedly have insights about the business aspects of publishing that you can benefit from. Maybe you are unsure how to write a query letter to an agent. You can ask your group members for advice on this or any other topic about the business of marketing your work. Perhaps one of the group members has had great success with their query letter; they can share tips or secrets about what worked for them.
You may have all sorts of questions running through your mind: Do publishers accept query letters, or do I have to use an agent? How do I look for an agent? Can I send queries via e-mail? A writers’ group is a great place to look for answers.
A successful writers’ group is one that provides practical advice and encouragement to its members, so that when the meeting is over and you return home, you are ready to pursue your writing dreams with even more vigor and greater confidence.