Monday, July 12, 2010

Five reasons to find a writers' group: Joan, Julie, Kim, Susan and Elizabeth

By Pamela

During the school year, we at What Women Write regularly meet for lunch to recharge, reconnect and reestablish our writing goals. No one brings a spreadsheet of word count calculations or an outline of a project, but we talk for hours about writing, books, movies and whatever else six women find to chat about.

Over the summer, it’s a bit more difficult. Last year we met one afternoon at the botanical garden, kids in tow, for a picnic. This year has proved to be more sporadic. Susan and I managed a lunch last month. Joan and I met for tea last week. We email constantly and are in the early stages of planning our second annual fall writing retreat.

As a writer I find it imperative to have a support group outside my family. My mother, my sister, my spouse and especially my children see me in a role best suited to their needs. To my family I provide a listening ear, a sympathetic shoulder—emotional support and physical care. If I were to solely depend on those closest to me to provide enthusiastic feedback on my writing or encouragement when I receive yet another rejection letter, my writing would suffer. Family members can tell me how wonderful they think I am, or silently nod while inwardly thinking, Don’t get so worked up over a ‘hobby.’

But Joan, Julie, Kim, Susan and Elizabeth offer me a unique perspective. They know me in a way others do not. They’ve read early, early drafts and offered much-needed feedback. They aren’t afraid to tell me something I’ve written is horrible because they understand they’re doing me no favors by encouraging a project that has no market potential. When I get a rejection letter, at least one has probably queried the same agent with a similar response. Stuck for a way to phrase a sentence, I can email it out and within the hour have two or three unique twists on it. Without the support of these five women, I would not be the writer I am today. I doubt I would have ever attended a writing conference—let alone four. And I’m fairly certain I would have stopped writing fiction after my first manuscript had been rejected by dozens of agents.

Much of this is speculation, but one thing is certain: I am the writer I’ve become because of them. Thanks, all of you!

If you are a writer without a support system, I encourage you to find one soon. I met Joan and Kim at a local writers’ group, Elizabeth at a critique group and Susan at a conference. Check your local library or book store for writing groups or critique groups. Join a book discussion group to get a feel for what readers want. Do an online search. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. But one caveat: Make sure the environment is healthy, positive and honest. The last thing a fragile writer needs is negativity; we provide enough of that to ourselves.


  1. And to this, I'll add: It is often hard and time consuming to find the right group! I had an online group for several years that was wonderful, but it is really nice to have one with "skin on." Close enough to see in person occasionally, in other words. Stick with it.

    And ...

    I was the random person who emailed Pamela out of the blue because I liked her blog and needed a crit partner. :) So glad I did!

    Thanks, Pamela. And all you other crezzzzy women.

  2. Thanks, Pamela, that made my day. I can't tell you how much the comments both you and Joan make have helped my current WIP.

  3. Thanks again so much for your encouraging and helpful words. I do not have a support group, having found that my family and closest friends find it too difficult to read about Sean and his illness, even though through it all we had the most incredible adventure. In the midst of moving to the mainland, but when I get settled, will seek out a writing group. Until then, I'm grateful to this blog for all of your input.

  4. You're welcome, Kim and Julie.

    And, Lindsey, I wish you well on your move and your search for writing support. In the mean time, as well as in the future, keep dropping by our blog for inspiration. And if you ever need anything, we're all just a click away.


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