There many opinions on what makes a good writing group, but I think that we can agree on a few things.Most of us need the right sized group, one that meets at a convenient time and place and one that helps us to grow as writers and to achieve our aims.So, if you are considering joining a writing group it pays to ask a few questions.
What is the composition of the group?Does it matter to you if it is a mixed or a single-sex group? Both types of groups can have advantages and disadvantages. A mixed group provides a microcosm of the potential readership for your stories or book. However, that can be challenging ii your stories are not mainstream.Crime and fantasy/sci-fi appeal to both genders, while other types of writing typically appeal more to one or the other. For example, romance writing has a mainly female authorship and readership; while war stories mostly appeal to men.
Does Age Matter?The general age in the group may be a factor for you, although it is wise to be flexible about this. Talent is not confined to one age group and both younger and older members can contribute to the dynamic of a mixed age group.3. How friendly do you need the group to be?Many of us complete our best work inspired by a little ‘friendly’ competition. And the operative word is friendly. Many writers have a horror story or two to tell of savage criticism towards their work or even their personality( a real no, no!) which has wounded them and eroded their confidence in their writing abilities. A good facilitator should prevent this, reminding everyone that the focus is solely on the work. Any group that is not welcoming to new members and encouraging of them is not a place that you want or need to be.
4 What do you want?
A good writing group is a community of like-minded people, one that provides that ‘safe space’ in which to discuss your work. There is no need to bore your long-suffering family, instead talk to the people who understand the blow of rejection and the thrill of success. The members of a writing group near you.
As I was writing this post I asked various group members about their experiences with our writing group. The group I attend meets weekly and is a mixed group.Members attend writing events and the group books authors as speakers.
5. What Writing Group Members Say About Their Writing Group
One member said’ I need the inspiration of others work, I am fascinated by the way that other people write and think’.
This is an aspect of a writing group that is so intriguing, that there are so many different approaches to writing about one topic.
Another commented’ each week I struggle and I am amazed when people say that I am improving.’As mentioned earlier, we may be the harshest critics of our own work and a group can provide objectivity.
A third said ‘the group has inspired me to try different styles and ways of writing’
A veteran of other groups noted that ‘some groups tend to be dominated by egos, which can be very stressful’
A member who had not written since junior school commented that it was ‘right place, right time,’ adding cheekily the group picked me!’ She continued more seriously by saying that ‘written has been ( and is) challenging, yet stimulating’
As for me, it is no exaggeration to say that joining a ringgit group changed my life. Writing group members encouraged me to apply for mature age university entrance. I was accepted and had some of the most challenging yet thrilling years of my life. Following on from that I submitted my writing and had some stories and articles published in national magazines. None of which I would have accomplished without the help and support of my writing group.
So pluck up your courage and think about joining your local writing group. Your local library will most likely have the details of local groups
Do you feel the need for feedback on your writing or validation? Or perhaps you are sick of struggling on alone, and fed up with your own company and isolation?
Maybe you have hit the creative wall and need a boost?
Desperate to know more about writing and you sense that you are boring your family with your work?
A writing group could be the answer BUT not all writing groups are the same.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
As I have been a member of each of this type of group at some time, let me be your guide, without fear or favour.
A bad group suits those in it for various reasons. 1. It may be an ego trip for a couple of the members.
2.The group may be a talkfest, and not get any writing done
3.The group may take up too much time with the committee and procedural matters.
4.One strong personality dominates, and only certain genres are permitted to be written.
5, Only approved genres are permitted to be written- no ‘nasty ‘science fiction or fantasy!
Some groups thrive on competitiveness and backbiting!
Petty rivalries and jealousies abound, they are cliquey and only allow certain members.
In a creative writing course.that I attended a group of three poured scorn on everyone else’s efforts. The facilitator- either did not see or ignored it.As the course lasted a semester, this was not the happiest or friendliest of groups. Unfortunately, it was obligatory for me to attend.
There is no need for you to suffer this kind of treatment if you don’t have to.
Nourish your own ego in a healthy way and walk away
Egos can get bruised, by criticism whether tactfully phrased or not. At one group a disgruntled member sent poison pen letter and serious threats were made!
What Makes A Good Writing Group?
1.Leadership is inclusive and encouraging
All members are free to participate in the group’s activities and no one member can dominate.
2.Writing prompts are set which may slightly challenge the group. So, in one meeting the focus may be on metaphor usage, while the next time it could be on dialogue or pacing.
3, Writers are encouraged to write in their own individual way. The unique ‘voice’of each writer is preserved.
4, Feedback is provided on shorter pieces, if requested. This can be content, word choice and usage, with suggestions to make the piece stronger.
5.They have an interest in all aspects of writing and members attend author talks, writing festivals and events.
Editing is not within the scope of most groups Although from time to time a new member will bring in a manuscript which they hope to have edited quickly and for free. Editing is professional skill and is usually charge accordingly.
The next post will focus on how to assess a writing group’s suitability for your needs.
What has been your experience with writing groups?
It is easy to blame others for not having enough time. Easy to cite all the things we need to do, as well as the things that we want to do. I’ve been there, making all the excuses. They work faster, they’re younger, smarter, have more help, a supportive partner, or family, an endless list.
It’s so easy to sit on the sidelines, whining. Last week I faced myself down and decided that I was my own biggest obstacle.
When I assessed it there was loads of time, hours that I frittered away.After years at work, I am now able to be at home. I have no boss to answer to, no time schedule to keep. I had aeons of time, my problem was with me.
Like many people, I am at my most productive early in the day. Instead of writing then, which was what I ‘d declared I most wanted to do. I was reading and replying to emails, clicking on Facebook, checking the news. When I ‘d finished doing all that I hit an energy slump and I’d run out of time.The biggest obstacle in my way was ME. What a sobering thought,
If I never try I can never fail. Was what I was telling myself? It was a moment of self-enlightenment.
Things had to change, so I’ve altered my morning routine and I think for the better.I will not allow myself to go onto the Internet until I have done at least one hour of writing. It’s been surprisingly easy and I still check emails and Facebook. Now though, I feel a sense of accomplishment- because I have kept my promise to myself and have actually been writing.
A long, hot summer- one with plenty of reading time
I read nine books this month, a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Often a serious book will prompt me to choose something lighter to read or I will pick a non-fiction book instead.
Does your own reading follow a pattern or do you choose books at random?
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Three people brought together by chance, in a snowstorm. Richard, a university professor, Evelyn, an undocumented migrant from Guatemala and Lucia, a visiting Chilean academic, she is also Richard’s tenant.
Each has past filled with secrets and heartache. They form an unlikely alliance to help Evelyn who was involved in a minor car accident with Richard. Terrified she can hardly speak as she faces a major problem.Her problem involves them in something far more serious than anticipated. In spite of some bleak events, this is a life-affirming and inspiring book. I won a copy of In the Midst of Winter in a giveaway but there was no obligated to write a review
. 5:2Vegetarian by Celia Brooks
While I am not a vegetarian, I don’t eat a lot of meat, so this book appealed to me. With recipes for easy fast day meals, speedy breakfasts and simple snacks, the book was just what I was looking for. There is a section on convenience foods and packed lunches, with suggestions for how the recipes in the book can be used as packed lunches. All in all a practical and useful book. I borrowed this book from the library
The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell.
This is a book that is quite hard to categorise, in fact, it’s a bit of a genre-busting book. The cover although brilliant is slightly misleading as it conveys the promise of a romance.The story concerns, ghosts, history, domestic violence, entrepreneurship, the relationships between siblings, a murder and a pirate tale. There is a parallel storyline between the supposedly real-life events involving the two sisters and the romance storyline. In a sense, I felt that the title was deceptive in its promise of “romance”. The romance was certainly there, but the author delivered another and more complex and darker version of what life and romance might be. I would certainly be interested in reading another of her book.This book was one that I bought.
Jenna’s Truth by Nadia L King
The book was written in response to the tragic suicide of Amanda Todd a US teenager who was bullied to death.Jenna’s Truth is a powerful story, which is very relevant for today’s’ teens and their concerned parents.
Written in the first person it feels very authentic. When Jenna is befriended by the popular girl at school she doesn’t question why, as this is her dream come true. Tina’s aim is to lull Jenna into a false sense of security and then to betray her trust.The casual cruelty of the situation is well depicted. Driven by desperation Jenna feels that she has nowhere to turn.
This is a book that should be widely read and its message shared, to speak out against bullying and that there are things that can be done to stop the spread of bullying.In addition to the story itself, the book has pages of resources against bullying and cyberbullying, discussion questions and activities. For international readers, there is a glossary of Australian terms.
The Hairy Dieters Eat for Life by Si King and Dave Myers
One look at the cover photo will show how well the boys have succeeded in losing weight. The recipes are colourful and tasty and they should appeal to the man in your life.Unless you are eating one meal a day they may be mostly too high in calories for using with 5;2 or the Fast diet. Eat for Life would be good to use to on non-fasting days to keep your calorie count in check.
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
Although the book tackles potentially depressing topics –such as young age Alzheimer’s disease and the aftermath of fraud and suicide, it is not a depressing read. In parts, the story felt reminiscent of Lisa Genova’s Still Alice as Anna, writes herself journal entries to try and retain a sense of who she is.
Anna Forster is only thirty-eight and worked as a paramedic so she knows the outcome of her disease only too well. Now, she is a resident of RosalindHouse, an assisted living facility. Jack, her twin chose it because there is another young resident.
Eve, Bennett has come to Rosalind House as the cook, a far cry from her easy life of wealth and privileged, as a pampered wife. Her circumstances have changed and she has an important motive for being there.
The story has a parallel structure with Eve and Anna telling their own stories, I found it was easy to read and it kept me turning the pages.
But, the author left Anna and Luke, (the two young age Alzheimer sufferers,) still functioning and maintaining a sense of their own personalities. So while their final outcome was spelt out, the book did not go there. A thought-provoking book.
Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews
After a marriage breakup and a blow to her self-esteem, Ruby Brown wants to start a new life. Forget love and commitment, it’s time for Ruby to let her hair down and have some fun.
Although her friend Charlie warns Ruby about Mason Sloan ( aka Shagger Sloan) and their boss. Ruby enjoys flirting with him. He’s a charmer and an outrageous flirt and his bad boy reputation doesn’t hurt either.
Then there is Joe, her diving instructor who is good looking, caring, friendly but with serious baggage, An ex-wife, who he is technically still married to and two teenage children,
Having the two such different men in her life Ruby is spoilt for choice.Can she tame bad boy Mason? Does she want to? Will Joe see her as more than a casual friend? Is she ready to take on his surly children?
Charlie her best friend and huge Take That! fan swoons over Gary Barlow, it’s far safer than getting involved with a real-life man, one who could hurt you. Ruby’s emotions sway in favour of one and then the other. Her love life has never been busier or her heart so torn.
Nevermoor; The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
While I am not the intended readership of this book, it’ss for primary school aged children ) I enjoyed it very much. I feel it is probably more advanced than most primary aged readers and at 448 pages it is quite a long read. I suggest its more for a mid-grade readership, perhaps 11+
Who could resist reading about Morrigan Crow who is cursed? She is an unusual but relatable character and the concept and ideas of the story worked well. Although it’s a longish book I never felt that the story dragged
Transported to an unfamiliar world Morrigan has the protection of Jupiter North, who proves to be an erratic and eccentric guardian.But without him, she knows that she would be dead.
She learns that in order to remain in Nevermoor she has to face four trials. She feels ill-equipped to handle even one and the mysterious Jupiter isn’t exactly helping.
For an older reader, there are plenty of oblique references to our world, which are likely to amuse you. I particularly liked the reference to the Gobleian library. A second book in the series planned for release in 2018 and I am sure many fans will be looking out for it.
Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun by Victoria Laurie.
This is part of a series of books written by real-life psychic Victoria Laurie.It’s not the first book in this series, but it is the first one that I picked up and it can easily be read as a stand-alone.
Its a fast and easy read, with a mixture of humour and suspense. M.J Holliday is talked into appearing on a TV show by Gilly her business partner The show is being promoted as a cross between The Antiques Roadshow and Ghostbusters. MJ and other psychics will sense what the objects handed to them have to say.
They are staying in ‘the most haunted hotel in San Francisco’. It is obvious that more than a TV show has to happen. So a murder and an apparent suicide, a portal, and a demon are all in the days work for MJ. and Heath the fellow psychic that she is working with.
The first two-thirds of the book engaged me, the last third less so. It felt a bit rushed and my suspicions about certain characters proved to be correct.
Do any of my choices appeal to you? What have you been reading this month? I’d love to know!
Over the last few weeks, I have been watching The International SkatingUnion Ice Dance Competitions. In the midst of an Australian Summer, it has been a delightful cool change., relaxing to mind and body.
In the last couple of days, I have been watching the crème de la crème of the skating world as they competed in the Olympics. Beyond the costumes and the glamour, these skaters are dedicated athletes practising hundreds of hours to achieve perfection.
At first, what fascinated me was how much emotion can be conveyed by body movements and facial expressions. The skaters told a story without using words.
For a writer, one who values words it created a paradox, how could this be? The more I watched the more I understood that they and I could convey a mood through body language.
As writers we are always being told to ‘show not tell’, and here it was in action, the skaters were conveying emotion,
Skaters cannot glide gracefully across the ice unless they are willing to accept the possibility of falling.
Writers cannot improve, unless they are willing to push past failure and go on to succeed.
Grace on the ice comes after gruelling hours of practice. Why do we expect writing to be any different? We too have to learn our craft, to be brave and to risk failure.
After watching a few less than dignified falls I also realised that skaters are prepared to fail in public, in the pursuit of their dream. Falls can be an issue for skaters potentiality causing serious injuries. Even if not injured, a fall can upset the flow of a good performance.But skaters have resilience, If they fall, they mentally shrug it off and get back up and keep skating. It’s a blip and not a disaster.
Writers hit a bit of stumbling block in the privacy of their own minds and so many of us just stop. Just as skaters cannot glide gracefully across the ice unless they are willing to accept the possibility of falling. Writers cannot improve, unless they are willing to push past failure and go on to succeed.
Grace on the ice comes after gruelling hours of practice. Why do we expect writing to be any different? We too have to learn our craft, to be brave and to risk failure.
I read nine boosk this month but I only reviewed eight.
February already! January flew by in a flash, and it was a busy month, as I expect it was for many people. I started a diet ( the 5:2 or Fast diet). I also prepared a submission for an Arts festival and also did a short online writing course.
Our TV schedule provided me with plenty of opportunities to read, I managed to read nine books this month. I am only reviewing eight of them because I gave myself permission to abandon one book., so I don’t feel it is fair to comment on that.
Vasilisa The Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women by Kate Forsyth illustrated by Lorena Carrington
A beautifully presented book and one with an uplifting message- that girls can do just about anything, Having read and loved all of the Andrew Lang Coloured Fairy Books, I suppose that I was a natural fit for this book. It did not disappoint me.The tales are all little-known folk-tales, which are retold sympathetically by Kate Forsyth.Adding to the charm of the book are the delightful and almost magical illustrations by Lorena Carrington.You will probably want to keep a copy for yourself, but this book would make a wonderful gift for most teenage girls.
The Other Woman by Laura Wilson
A domestic noir that left me virtually on the edge of my seat.The Other Woman completely subverts a reader’s expectations, at the same time providing shocks and surprises in plenty. It kept up the pacing and the growing tension. Best of all, it did feel completely plausible. It was easy to project yourself into Sophie’s enviable life and then its gradual disintegration. Surprises up to the very last page. An author I will look out for.
The 5.2 Diet By Kate Harrison.
Easy to read and very practical, this book is based on Michael Mosley’s The Fast Diet. In it, Kate Harrison explains how the diet changed her way of eating and how it worked for her.Part one also contains the scientific information that underpins the diet. Part two tells personal experiences and shares recipes and food ideas. Easy to follow and encouraging. Brands listed are UK ones.
A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan
A big book of 484 pages which spans the times from 1821 to 1937 and follows the lineage of one family the Orchieres. When they are forced to flee from France the family settled in Cornwall. Their secret is of course that one of them is a witch. The craft is passed from generation to generation, with each daughter facing her own challenges, needs and desires.Equally not all mother-daughter relationships are shown to be perfect.
For me personally, its pacing felt a little slow, until I got to 1886, midway through the book. Then I raced through the rest of the story, feeling a deepening connection with each of the women. There were some surprising developments in 1937 onward, which added to the veracity of the book. The author has chosen to use pseudonym and dedicated the book to her mother, which could add to the intrigue, If you have the patience this is an enjoyable read,
The Other Side of the Season by Jenn J. McLeod.
I find dual timeline stories intriguing and in reading this one I felt as though I had hit the jackpot. Both the times that were chosen were interesting, the 1970s and the present day.For me, the characters were real., flawed and complex. Some were instantly relatable while others were harder to appreciate. This book played with my emotions( in a good way) as I cared about the characters. It was one of those books that I both wanted to finish and equally one that I didn’t want to end. The landscape is a part the appeal but the book is never bogged down by description. Its Jenn J McLeod’s best book yet.
River Road by Carol Goodman
An almost literary thriller. I enjoyed it but anyone who expects a fast-paced read will find it too slow for their taste. Professor Nan Lewis is a college creative writing lecturer who might have hit and killed a student as she returned from a year-end party. Nan’s private life has been a mess since the tragic death of her young daughter six years earlier. She turns up for class and teaches and grades student’s papers but increasingly is drinking more and more. Could she have done it and not remember? And if she didn’t, then who did?
Gifts for Our Time by Anna Jacobs.
The final book in the Rivenshaw series. Although you could read it as a stand-alone novel as all the major plot points are covered.Set in post-war Britain with its privations and shortages, Gifts for Our Time is an enjoyable read. Jacobs skilfully draws the many threads of the previous books together, and also adds new characters, this book is a worthy conclusion to the series
Disclaimer . I won a copy of the book in a giveaway, but was not required to write a review.