#08 - Writing Groups - do we need them?
Yes we do! Writers groups provide the lonely writer with the ability to mix with like-minded people; learn from experienced individuals and gather ideas for writing projects. They can also be 'fun' nights out and serve to be that little 'lift' required when slightly 'out of ideas'. Yes it really is true that being a writer is a lonely business especially in amongst a household of disinterested others. Social media, (the scourge of the writing profession) may be good for 'hooking up' with a million people (sorry ... I meant a million names), some genuine ... and many not. However, nothing beats sitting with other writers who are all real human beings and all 'chewing the fat' together. Many groups, who meet regularly once or twice a month, provide the opportunity to work together on writing exercises and offer suitable critique afterward. Others are able to bring guest speakers to meetings, many of whom are successful writers with a story to tell. Quite a few groups are formed through links with local libraries and universities and able to claim financial support for some activities. These supported groups are also kept up to date with all the various 'happenings' in the writing world such as competitions, workshops, training courses and many other opportunities not normally publicized in much wider circles.
Oldies and church halls.
No, it really is a myth. Not all writing groups consist of half a dozen old women or old men for that matter, meeting in drafty village halls. People who get together in a group with an interest in writing come from all walks of life, young and old, male and female. They meet in cafes, pubs, libraries, people's houses, schools and even scout huts. Subjects up for discussion are normally set by someone who will be leading the group and a typical meeting will last two or three hours. Whether you write novels, poetry or anything in between, you will certainly not be subject to examination by a collection of 'old women' (or 'old men') and will not need to take a hot-water bottle with you as an essential part of your writing 'gear'.
Giving away your ideas.
Once again, the thought that by attending a writing group, you will somehow give away your writing ideas, or that they may be stolen from you, is quite ridiculous. As is the possibility that discussing your work at a writers group may somehow invalidate your copyright to any particular piece. Your work is your work and when you first publish it you set the copyright. You do not have to go to some registry-or-other and pay a fee for your copyright to be listed on some nebulous website. However, sneaking paragraphs from your friends and other writers is frowned upon within groups. If you like something someone has written, tell them you like it and ask if you can use it. In most cases, most people will say ... yes!
How many is too many?
Groups meeting on a regular basis without any formal structure or association rules can sometimes become a little cumbersome. So, how many makes up a productive group of writers and budding authors? In many ways this depends upon the space and facilities available at the meeting venue. A comfortable attendance at regular meetings would probably be around ten to twenty although most meetings will be in the realms of eight to ten. The number of registered members however will generally be much more than that and anywhere up to thirty or forty. A good writing group will generally consist of a mix of people young and old and often looking to get a different result from their regular meetings. Some will tell you they are just about to begin their blockbuster novel and will be telling you the very same thing several years down the road. There will also be those addicted to writing and admit to just publishing their thirtieth or fortieth ninety thousand word murder mystery. Just the company of other writers makes most happy but some also look forward to being challenged with writing exercises and critical reviews of their work.
Getting on board.
The answer to the question is yes ... we do need writers groups and if you haven't tried one out yet, you really should make the effort. But how do you go about it? Well you can start by inquiring at your local library. There is a wealth of information there and if an active group exists in your area, they will know about it. Then there is your local newspaper. Some groups post notices and some pubs with function rooms advertise what is going on in their social calendar. Finally, there is the tried and tested 'word of mouth'. Finally, if you love writing in any shape or form, get down to your local writing group ... and simply have a damn good time!