Monday, July 28, 2014



Writing can be very lonely. Downright reclusive. There’s really no way to avoid that. Finishing a novel requires hours and hours and hours of work -  all by yourself. One way to introduce a little bit of company into your writing world is to join a writing group.

A writing group can really be anything. Just you and a writing friend talking over a cup of tea. Maybe three or four of you, meeting informally to exchange ideas and offer moral support. Or it can be more formal and structured with regular meeting times and a commitment to attend and participate.

I’ve been meeting with three other kids authors for ten years. We’ve grown together as authors. We’ve celebrated each others successes and commiserated over disappointments. We can’t meet regularly as we all live in remote areas miles apart but we keep in touch with emails and we get together for wonderful three day retreats. I’ve been thinking about why this group works so well.

We’re passionate about writing for kids. We respect each other and honour the differences in our writing. We offer honest critique ( a writing group that pats you on the back and says that everything you write is awesome is useless.) We stay positive. We offer specific advice. We’re sensitive to each other’s feelings but we’re also tough critics. Above all, we laugh. A lot. And when we go home, we feel energized, motivated and enthusiastic. Our batteries are recharged.

It might take a while to find a writing group that suits you. Stay away from negativity and the poor us syndrome (publishers are evil etc.) Find people who feel the same way about writing that you do. Find people who inspire you, not bring you down. Find people who will be honest.

When is the right time to share your work at a writing group? That’s an individual decision. I like to keep my first drafts private. Too much critique at an early stage of your novel or picture book might just discourage you or send you in the wrong direction.  You’ll know when you’re ready.

By the way, I was terrified the first time I read from a manuscript to a group of other writers. They were kind to me but I was literally shaking. It’s easier for me now but it’s always a little scary. After all, you’re sharing part of yourself. 

Elizabeth George in Write Away offers some advice about joining a writing group:

“If there’s someone in there with an axe to grind, don’t become a member. If the group isn’t solution oriented, just pass them by. If you don’t feel good about the group dynamic, trust yourself and don’t join up.”

Nigel Watts in Write a Novel and Get it Published offers a word of caution:

“Writing a novel, however, is rarely a collaborative process, so beware of too much feedback. It is your novel, after all,  and for you to write in your way.”

I’m off this week to meet my writing friends and I’m looking forward to stimulating chat, great food and lots of laughs!

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