The other day a friend of mine asked if I wanted to join his writing group. The idea is, a few people get together and share a copy of some sort of story they have been working on with the writing group, and then once someone has read your work, they provide some insight and critiques so that you can improve it. He also said that his writing group likes to meet at a bar, which pretty much sold me on the idea. (Reading, writing and beer? You don’t have to ask me twice!) But the invitation got me thinking — just how helpful can a writing group actually be?
Image via Couldhavetakenitsolo
First off, are these critique sessions at a bar actually productive? Second, just how harsh are these other people in the writing group when they critique your work? Having a thick skin is definitely a plus when you’re a writer, but not everyone is born with such indifference. Developing a thicker skin is possible though, and the best way to go about it is practice. The more you have other people critique your work, the better you’ll get at not taking their suggestions personally and your writing can only benefit from that.
Nowadays there are so many online writing communities, which can be very helpful if you want your work edited, but it’s also a lot easier for people to be as nasty as they want because you’re never meeting someone face-to-face when you’re editing someone’s work via the internet. With a writing group you’re meeting in person— hopefully with people you trust — and there’s just this spirit of camaraderie and the idea that you’re all in this together. Now, if you don’t have access to a real-life writing group, joining one online might be your next best option (I’ve heard Project Team Beta is a pretty good site for that). But it’s also important to remember that not everything that someone says about your work is right. If someone suggests a change that you don’t agree with, sometimes you just have to go with your gut instinct and ignore them. (I’ve found that if three different people suggest the same change be made to your work, then they’re probably right). Like I said before, the more often you have your work critiqued, the easier it becomes. This process differs for everyone — some people only want to go through one edit and their work is done in a matter of weeks and some people can take a whole year to have their work edited to their satisfaction. Just try to be patient and whatever you do, don’t give up!
There’s just one thing I’d like to address up before I jump on my bike and enjoy this beautiful day — the embarrassment factor. Everyone gets a little antsy thinking about other people reading their work. Will they like it? Is my writing terrible? What if they laugh in my face, or worse, they secretly snicker behind my back at how horrendous my writing is! Well, no worries, you’re not alone if any of those thoughts have ever raced through your mind before (If they haven’t, then you’re not human). Honestly, no one is going to care as much about what you wrote or give it as much thought as you have. They will simply read it, make their comments (if there’s a particularly bad part they may think twice about it), but that’s it. In fact, they’re probably just as worried about you reading their work as you are about yours. This is where that spirit of camaraderie can come in handy again, so once more, I urge you to find real people to share your work with if you can!