I Love My Writers' Group

A bit of history first: When I moved to Springville I looked in the paper to see if they had any kind of writing group. Almost immediately I found an announcement about a group in Porterville. Of course I joined them. First they met in authors' homes in the day time which meant most of the writers were people who didn't work and teachers off for the summer.

As time moved on, so did the group, meeting at night and in a public building. From there it was back to people's homes, then a senior center, and finally a small group who really were intent on writing began meeting.

Over the years (about 30 for me, though the group began even earlier)many have dropped out and new folks have joined. Some were not serious about writing and were merely looking for a social time. Others couldn't take being critiqued. And there were always those who never got around to writing anything new. And once in awhile, someone who wrote wonderfully well, sent their work off and after a couple of rejections quit writing all together. (Never could understand that. I was rejected nearly 30 times before my first book found a home and many rejections for other books after that, but I never gave up.)

Now our group consists of five people. I'm the most published though others have been published too.

Our leader, and the woman who started the group way back in the beginning, is a retired English teacher--and believe me, I've learned a lot from her. She is also an excellent editor. She's published a non-fiction book on ways to help your child with their school work--excellent book, and a memoir of her early childhood. She's now working on a sequel that brings back memories of my own. She's also published poetry.

Our one and only man has a great and varied background. A rancher, former teacher, broadcaster, volunteer fireman, and much, much more, has added a great deal to our group. He helps a lot with things that I don't know enough about. He's writing several things: a YA story, a children's book, and historical and funny articles for the newspaper.

Our youngest member is currently a grade school teacher and writing a wonderful fantasy for children. She has the ability to transport me back to when I was a kid and loved reading these kind of stories. She has published other children's books and writes a column for the local newspaper.

Probably the best writer among us, far more literary than I'll ever be, is also writing a memoir about a difficult time in her life. This woman's work is poignant, beautiful, heart-rending, and achingly beautiful. She's been a great asset to the group.

How we operate.

Everyone brings 5 copies of a chapter or whatever it is they are working on. The author of the piece reads it and the others makes notes on their copies. Then we go around and give our critique one by one--no interrupting. (That's the rule, but sometimes we forget--but not often.)

This is not a group where writers are brutally criticized nor unduly flattered. We're a working group. Lapses are pointed out, overuse of words and phrases. Inconsistencies are found. Suggestions are made. Questions are asked.

I consider what I learn from the group my first edit.

I take home the chapter they've written on and the next day I rework the chapter. It's interesting to see what else they've marked that they didn't mention during the group. One person catches things none of the rest noticed. I love it.

I realize not all writers' groups are the same and this one has evolved over time and probably will again, but right now, this critique group is invaluable to me.



BillieJohn said…
This reminds me of the writers' group where I started! Even the process is similar, and I learned things that still invaluable as I read manuscripts and choose material for OTP. Of all the comments our leader would make, my favorite was always "Reality is no excuse!" This invariably followed a writer's long rationale for a piece that just wasn't working which ended with "...and it really happened that way!"

Another golden nugget was "You gotta tell 'em what your gonna tell 'em, then you gotta tell 'em, then you gotta tell 'em what you told 'em."

As I read through submissions, I am convinced I can detect which authors worked in a critique group and which did not...

Billie Johnson
Oak Tree Press
Helen Ginger said…
Different critique groups operate in different ways. The important thing is to find one that works for you. It sounds like you have. That, I think, is wonderful!

Straight From Hel
I recently gave an presentation on virtual book tours at at writer's group. The group learned a lot.
Monti said…
Your writer's group is similar to one that Jane Deringer (who helped Roger Fulton start the Police Writers group) began years ago in our area. We were spread out miles a part, and Jane lived in the most remote part of Mathews County. That group is still going with smaller critique groups functioning in several parts of the 60-plus-mile area.

We all adored Jane and what she brought to us as writers. I suspect that you, Marilyn, have been an inspiration for your group just as Jane was for ours!

Billie, I honestly think a good writers' group can be invaluable. That's where I learned all the basics of writing.

Helen, I agree, the group needs to be the right fit. I've heard horrendous stories about some other groups.

Rebecca, if anyone could instruct people about blog tours, you can.

Monti, I had no idea you had a connection with Roger Fulton way back then. I belonged to the group when it was the Police Writer Club and Roger was in charge.
Monti said…
Yes, when Roger left our area, he had a lovely party at an historic old restaurant. Jane and Doug Deringer and Olen and I were among the guests. Roger won the contest to name the writer's group that Jane started--Chesapeake Bay Writers! What a small world we have after all.


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