Last night I had the good fortune to attend two different writer's groups. At first, I did not know what to expect, a dozen bad scenarios crossed my mind as I drove to the first meeting. Would the writing community spit my idea out or laugh at my grasp of the English language? Nothing of the sort occurred and I left fired up to get into the editing process for my novel.
Turns out, writing groups are composed of authors that are in love with the craft. They lean on each other for advice and motivation. The groups I attended encouraged while criticizing, and took the time to be delicate while truthful.
So for those who have not attended a writer's group, stop working alone! If you really value your writing don't cut yourself off from people who can help, and want to help you out of the goodness of their hearts. Your novel deserves honest criticism, something your family and friends may unfortunately be too biased to provide.
Writer's groups are based on give and take, but both aspects will assist aspiring authors in honing their craft. Each week the group will critique pages from each others work (provided in advance of the meeting.) By critiquing another author's work you will be sharpening your own editing skills. By being critiqued you are saving yourself future SASE postage from agent rejection letters for flaws that you did not catch on your own.
The best part about a diverse group of writers coming together is that they are all looking for different things. My group is strictly children's work, so they already are on the lookout for talking over our shared audience, but in addition to this, we have a grammar guru, a voice critic, and gentleman that is a pro at finding plot gaps, and lastly, a guy who not only catches confusing sentences, but also suggests a better way of wording them. Go find a group like this for yourself if you have not already.
Lastly, groups can provide advice on locating agents and the publishing process. At most, the group may devote a few moments to query letters and then get back on track, but if you befriend some of the members they may meet you offline to discuss how they enticed agents, became published, won awards, ect. Finding someone who has done what you want to do is invaluable, take that person for coffee!
I cannot wait unit the next meeting. A final word of caution before you run out and join a group. The most legitimate groups will be the ones that stem from a writing association, so google them to find your local chapters. The last thing you want at this point is a dead end that will slow you down, bad advice from people that know less about this than you, or to walk into an unsafe situation. Be smart and look out for things that don't seem right.
In short, I was really nervous about attending a group but now I am so glad I did. This is just what my novel and I needed. I cannot wait unit the next meeting.