What Do You Do With Your Writing Group?

Earlier this month we discussed how to find a writing group, how to make sure that you have selected the right people to be in a writing group with, and now I would like to attack the essential question of what you should do with your writing group once you have done all of that hard work!

What Should You Do With Your Writing Group?

Even if you find the right people, if you do not use your time wisely, the group will not help you grow. This was the missing piece for the first couple of writing groups I found. The group I am in now (and ended up becoming the organizer for) had the perfect balance of activities, and the right schedule, to fit my needs. Here’s what we do and why why do it:

Weekly Write-Ins

write in

Shut up and write. Write-ins are nothing more than a time and place to write. For us, that’s a local library every Tuesday from 5pm – 7:45pm (closing). Not everyone needs this, but it is nice to get out of the house and know that the only thing expected of you in that time and space is to work on your current writing project.

Monthly Writing Prompt Meetings

prompt books

A bunch of our group’s prompt books.

I find these activities essential to my growth as a writer. Each month we pick a prompt, write for 15-20minutes, and then read what we wrote aloud. It’s scary at first, but it is awesome. The prompts constantly force me to think differently about how and what I write. I may not do anything with the pieces I write, but the skills I learn there always come back to my WIPs.

Monthly Critique Meetings

Using the meetup.com’s group page, members attending this meeting upload something they wish to be critiqued. All members scheduled to come are committed to reading and having a critique ready for the meeting time. At the meeting we discuss each work in turn, giving each member an opportunity to discuss what they liked, what didn’t work for them, what may have confused them as a reader, and what suggestions they have for the piece. This is the single most essential part of writing group for those who are ready to delve seriously into improving their current WIPs.

For now, this is all that we are doing within our “serious writing time” (when we branch out, I’ll let you know!). We do, however, have social outings as well. This became an important addition to our group once a core group of us felt a friendship grow between us. Before we broke down and admitted that we had become more than just writing buddies, we found that too much of our writing time was spent catching up, chit chatting and having a good time. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing — it is, in fact, wonderful — but if you want to be a serious writer then you have to make sure you set aside a time and place for it!

Don’t leave without leaving a comment!

What activities do you find to be most helpful to your growth as a writer?

If you have met with a writing group in the past, or if you are a member of one now, what things have been done at your meetings?

 

Finding Members for Your Writing Group

Last week we started the discussion about finding your own writing group by tackling where you might find the people who will help you grow as an artist. What we didn’t discuss, however, was how you know when you’ve found the right people to help you do this.

Who Are the People In Your Right Writing Group?

Believe it or not, even if you’ve found a writing group that is local, active, and meeting at a time and place that is convenient for you, it might not be the right group for you. In my experience there have been three essential criteria in the productive members of a writing group.

Not My Genre

Don’t try to force someone to read your genre.

1. People who are are willing to read and critique the type of work you want to write.

A common mistake many new writers make is believing that the only people who can help them are those who write the same genre as they do. This is not the case. All you need is a person willing to read your genre or type of writing with a critical eye, respecting that your genre choice is as worthy of their time as any other.

2. People who understand how to give and receive constructive criticism.

Constructive Criticism

Critique is CONSTRUCTIVE

I alluded to this in criteria #1, but it is absolutely imperative to your growth as a writer that you receive and give constructive criticism on the writing you are working with. Critique is more than saying simple things like, “I loved this story, please keep working on it!” or, “I am confused by your writing, can you fix it?” When you give a critique, you must challenge yourself to read closely and discover why a certain piece of writing appeals to you, or what about it confuses you. This is not to say you need to become a personal editor for the members of your writing group, but you should be an intelligent reader, and you should expect the same of the members of your group.

3. People who are serious about the reason for the writing group meetings.

There's a time and place for being social!

There’s a time and place for being social!

I’m not going to lie, not every minute of my writing group is devoted to distraction-free writing and study of the craft (as I write this in one of our write-ins, one of my writing group members is entertaining my one year old as we wait for Daddy’s pick up!). It is only natural that you will become friendly and more than comfortable with the people with whom you share your most vulnerable words. However, the moments of unstructured dalliance are minor and quickly dispelled. If you find that your group is becoming too social, then make sure to schedule more social outings with this group where writing is not the focus in order to keep precious the meetings intended to help you grow as a writer. If you get the impression that someone is only a part of the group so that they can meet people — or if you find that is the only reason you truly want to be a part of a particular writing group — then it is time you reevaluate what you are doing with your writing group time.

Next week I will lay out the details of what you can do with your writing group to ensure you are making the most of the time you have with them.

But, before you go…. leave a comment!

Have you ever found yourself in an unproductive writing group?

What types of critique do you find most valuable when someone is reading your work?

Is there a particular genre or type of writing that you do not feel comfortable critiquing? What is it, and why are you resistant to working with it?

Finding the Right Writing Group

While writing is a solitary activity, there are many aspects of the process that can be enhanced by finding the right writing group. I’m not telling you anything new here, but maybe you aren’t sure where to begin. That’s where I hope to help.

There are three things you must figure out before you find your right writing group:

  1. Where are the writing groups?
  2. Who are the right people to be in my writing group?
  3. What am I going to do with my writing group?

Today I will address the first question (come back next week for question 2).

Where Are The Writing Groups?

Before you think you have to start your own writing group (I will write a later post on what this entails) and do all the leg work to get it up and running, stop for a moment to see if that job has already been done for you. Lots of writers are already gathering, and many groups are open to new members. The trick is finding out where they are hiding. Here are some prime locations to check:

Schools 

If you are a student, this is the first place you should check. Go see the head of the English department  to see if your school has a writing group that meets regularly. If they don’t know, check with the person in charge of Student Activities. Even if you are not a student, the local college may have a student writing group that is open to the community. Check the school’s website to see if there are any postings.

Barnes & Noble

Libraries/Bookstores

Writers are booklovers, so if you see books, chances are there is a writer lurking about. I know I am in my local Barnes & Noble on a near-daily basis, and my writing group meets in my local branch of library every single week. Talk to the manager of your local bookstore to see if there are regular meetings, and pick the brain of your librarian about the same. In the case of NYPL (New York Public Library), any events I hold in a library must be open to the public, so our write-ins are also posted on the library’s website.

Online

While I want you to reap the benefits of some in-person, face-to-face writer-to-writer time, I know that is not always realistic. I began my own writing journey with online groups, so please, search the web if nothing else appeals to you right now. Twitter is a gold mine of writer comraderie. Just a couple of hashtags to follow to find writers are #amwriting #amediting #wordmongering. Two of my current favorite writing groups online can be found chatting around #StoryDam (lots more about them soon!) and, my latest group of cool peeps #10MinNovelists. And in November, be ready for #NaNoWriMo to flood your feed with writing inspiration.

meetup logo

meetup.com

Meetup.com is where I found – and continue to host – my writing group. I joined meetup.com to find a local book club (see above, re: writers are booklovers), I had no idea it would lead me to one of the most important groups of my life. Meetup.com is a website for groups to organize their members and events. When you join you enter your location and your interests, and meetup will let you know what groups match up with you.

Your assignment begins – go find your people! Or… at least find some writing people that are gathering that you can meet with. Next week we’ll figure out how to determine if the people you found are the right people for your writing group. It’s ok to be picky here, beacuse finding the right people is that wonderful!

Before you go… leave a comment!

Have you already found a writing group?

If so, tell us where you found them!

If not, what is the thing that’s been holding you back?

Photo Writing Prompt #1

Writing prompts are an invaluable tool for writers. They force us to write about unexpected things and in unexpected ways. It is for this reason that I want to share and work on writing prompts here on nvrivera.wordpress.com. I will be sharing a number of different types of prompts on this blog, but I wanted to start with a photo prompt. Here is my first flash photo writing prompt for you.

The Prompt:

writing prompt

Things to think about:

  • choose your words wisely (100 words is super short!)
  • work toward getting a complete scene/story within the 100 words
  • if this picture inspires a longer tale in your mind go ahead and run with it, but not for this assignment (being strict this time can teach you about the power of editing and rewriting)
  • don’t forget that the POV (point of view) is up to you — be creative and have fun with it
  • if you wish to write more than one flash fiction story based on this picture go right ahead
  • HAVE FUN

Would You Like Me To Critique Your Story?

As an added twist, I will be selecting one short to critique on this blog next Wednesday, so if you are interested in getting a critique of your story this week, please enter this Rafflecopter giveaway before the end of this Sunday!

Welcome to NV Rivera

NV Rivera

NV Rivera

Once upon a time there was a woman who had to admit she was no longer a girl. She was a mother. She had lived through one career and the death of both parents. Her life was filled with many joys, sorrows and laughs. It should have been enough, but it wasn’t, because, after years living at the mercy of her uncooperative and unhealthy body, she remembered she still had something left to give – stories. This woman – mother, wife, sister, teacher, and friend – almost forgot that, first and foremost, she was a writer.

Meet NV Rivera, this is her blog. Continue reading