A strong writers’ group or creative writing coach can be a godsend — provided it meets your specific needs.
Most cities now have writers’ groups, some of which are long-standing and established, and some of which are informal, but still potentially helpful.
We writing types tend to flock together for warmth and encouragement, heck, even an occasional beer or glass of wine. Here’s how to find fellow writing obsessives:
- Pick up your community newspaper that has the best list of upcoming events and meetings. This time, skip the notices for motorcycle clubs and dinner groups and get serious. Many times writers’ groups are listed.
- Google “writers group” and the name of your town to see if there is one with a website.
- Contact your local university or college offering courses in creative writing. many offer both undergraduate and adult education non-credit programs.
- Many universities offer an “Olli” (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) program. Sometimes a good writer is teaching a series of classes. Sometimes a program on good books is being offered (Remember you have to keep reading!)
- Attend local authors’ meetings and ask which writers’ group is the strongest or which creative writing teacher is actually the most creative. Ask if any of them has helped a writer who has become the “A-word” (Author).
- Some cities have outstanding professional writers’ groups that are renowned for hatching successful authors. If you have one nearby, grab it and learn everything you can! Google the Iowa Writers Workshop, a master’s degree program at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, that has produced numerous Pulitzer Prize winners, and Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver to get an idea of the best that is available. They offer courses, workshops, writing space and time, feedback groups, discussions with published authors… Oh, joy! Some workshops foster talent from the black, Asian and other more narrowly defined communities.
- Check out meetup.com for informal local groups. Maybe they will be good, or maybe not so good, but they do offer support for flagging egos, confidence boosts for those whose hands are frozen on the keyboard, or just a few friends when you and your keyboard are alone in the universe. Nationally, MeetUp has groups in most major cities and several countries.
But beware! Thoughtfully identify your specific needs and check out your intended writers’ group or workshop carefully with a number of questions in mind to match your needs. Do you need help with pacing your story, a sagging middle, repetition, bogged-down story line, writer’s block, more factual research….? If you don’t know what you need, a strong group will help you figure it out. If the group is not strong, you should know fairly quickly that it is not the group for you, and you should look elsewhere.
Especially important is whether work actually occurs at their meetings (or just a lot of jawboning), whether they have ground rules about how participants treat each other, and the stated purpose of their program.
For more information on avoiding Writers Group Hell, see www.hollylisle.com/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-or-how-to-choose-a-writers’-group.
What good stuff can you get from a writers’ group or creative writing coach?
- Immersion in the art, craft and discipline of writing.
- Emotional support.
- Ideas about how to jazz up a sluggish plot.
- Beta readers for manuscripts that are bogged down.
- Access to professional authors and teachers.
- A place to retreat – to write, to research, or simply to recharge.
- Feedback, and sometimes competition, that gives you an idea of what you have to learn on this never-ending journey. And, an idea, sometimes, about how good you are.
- Other writers who help a questioning spouse or significant other begin to understand the obsession that has overtaken their mate. Good luck on that one!
At Simenauer & Green Literary Agency, we try to help our authors who struggle with story lines that fizzle, questions that detract from credibility, inconsistencies and general content or writing problems. For a book, either fiction or non-fiction, to be GOOD, no, REALLY GOOD, it needs two basic things: (1) a strong story line that keeps the reader engaged throughout the book and (2) to be well-written.
One is hard enough, but to do both sometimes requires help.
— Carol H. Green