Writing is a contradictory pursuit.
On the one hand writing is something you usually do alone, but the whole point is for the result to be enjoyed by other people.
Many writers love nothing more than to squirrel themselves away in their broom closet, or whatever other space they’ve managed to protect for themselves away from the demands of family and work, but an isolated writer is like a plant without water.
In my experience, most new writers are very reluctant to join a writing critique group, which I believe is borne of fear.
Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of exposure. But I believe it’s really important for writers to overcome this fear if they are ever going to grow into professional, saleable authors.
So, here are my five reasons you absolutely have to join a writing group
The number one reason I go to a writers’ group is for critique. It’s impossible to see the flaws in your own writing, so you need others to point them out to you. Friends and family are notoriously rubbish at this, whereas other writers will have the skills that can identify weaknesses and areas for improvement that can take your writing to the next level.
Going to a group means that you will get a range of opinions, which will often be conflicting, which in itsellf is extra useful for assessing what in the critiquers comments if their personal peeve and what is a definite issue with your writing.
For example, if half the group tell you to cut the last line and the other half tell you it’s their favourite part, then you need to use your own judgement. However, if they unanimously tell you your punctuation sucks, it’s time to buy a grammar book.
Learn from other writers
There’s a hallowed old saying: If you want to be a writer, read.
By joining a writing group you will read the work of other aspiring writers, and by analysing their work you will learn more about what works and what doesn’t.
Get a motivation boost
It’s a common outcome of spending a few hours in the company of other writers that you’ll come out raring to rush home and back to the keyboard.
Being with other writers, talking about writing, sharing writing experiences, it all serves to bring up feelings of excitement and enthusiasm and get the blood flowing.
Also, another writer's ideas may send you off on a tangent you didn't expect, or you may read someone's piece and think: "I could do better than that..." and be spurred on to writing for competitive ends.
Move out of your comfort zone
I mentioned above that the main reason people avoid writing critique groups is fear.
While writing feels like a fairly safe pursuit for shy, sensitive people, if you’re serious about getting anywhere, it’s anything but.
When you’re just starting out it takes a pretty thick skin to bounce back from all the inevitable rejection letters. The more impersonal they are, the more personal it feels.
And if you persevere long enough to actually become published, then the negative reviews will start coming through – and don’t think you’ll be exempt - from Rowling to King to Shakespeare, there will always be someone who hates what you do.
So it’s wise to start building up that resilience nice and early, as well as learning that sometimes the negative comments are the most valuable ones for learning.
Soak up the support and encouragement
Despite the point above, good writers’ critique groups are not snake pits at all. They are filled with kind, sensitive people (and a handful of loonies... you know who you are) who will give you support and encouragement – essential when you’re dealing with all those rejection letters I mentioned earlier.
I have made some of my best friends in my writing group and have been boosted into believing in myself again when the doubts started to gather on the horizon.
So, if you’re not already going to a writing critique group, get out there!