Originally I had this saved as a draft for a post about writing groups and what happened last Wednesday made me think about the importance of a good writers’ group. Groups are abundant and range from those that meet in church halls to those that are funded by universities and publishers, but I believe the two fundamental things a group needs is leadership and trust.
Going back several years I joined a writing group, Renegade Writers. We met in a front room of a pub and shared our stories with each other and listened, gave advice and supported each other. This wasn’t (and still isn’t) a happy-clappy group where we slap each other on the back and heap praise on what we hear. There’s been many people come along who couldn’t accept that we, tell it as it is – we give honest appraisals – and they’ve never returned. I advise anyone looking to join a writing group to seek out one giving constructive criticism rather than just a pat on the back for your contribution.
Since the pandemic our Wednesday evening meetings have been conducted via video with each of us logging in to discuss whatever members’ have uploaded in advance. And it’s about our interaction as a group that I’m writing about today. I’m working on a new novel and so there’s all the initial excitement and note-taking that goes with it and the need to let people hear the initial chapters I’ve written.
My first foray elicited feedback from a trusted member about my main character’s name, which I had chosen specifically because of a shot of humour I wanted to inject. I then went away and thought about it and decided that for the sake of one joke it wasn’t worth having a name people might question, so it was changed – in fact four characters had name ch ch changes that week.
Another reading of a chapter brought me feedback from PC (our illustrious leader) about a whole section that although written well said very little and added nothing to the story – chc ch changes.
Last week it was pointed out to me that a female character might react differently to a situation I’d put her in and so that needs to be looked at as does her relationship with her husband. – ch ch changes.
Finally it was pointed out to me that my setting was wrong, that the properties I had created would have to be older as they don’t build them now commercially as they’re not commercially viable in the 2020’s. Ch ch changes again.
So it goes to show that you must be prepared to listen to advice and make any necessary changes as you go along and for this you need a good writers’ group. Thankfully I have an excellent one.