by Marc Cullison (mcullison.com)
I’ve heard stories and read comments about writer’s groups. Some good, some bad. But nothing that would prevent me from joining one. The first group I joined was about thirty minutes from my home and was quite a help to me as a fledgling writer. But, then, like most things, folks quit coming for one reason or another. So, I quit for a while. A year or so later I got wind of a local group in Sallisaw, OK. I jumped right on that wagon. These folks were a ton of help. They got me through my first published novel. I owe them a lot. But I like to think that I helped them, as well.
The idea of a writer’s group is that each member offers support to fellow members. This comes in many flavors, most important of which is an honest critique of their work. It’s always nice to hear someone say how much they like what you have written, but if it stinks, what good has that done you as a writer except to feed your vanity? Only an honest opinion about your work is going to make you better. And that’s the point of being a writer, isn’t it? To get better?
I have attended some groups whose members tend to offer praise for just bringing something to read to the group. The fact that the work is amateurish and unpolished doesn’t seem important. In fact, some of the “writers”seem to show up just to get this little bit of praise, not necessarily an honest critique. I imagine that person ever did receive an honest critique, the “writer” would never be seen there again.
The folks in my group, “Just Wright”, pull no punches and lay bare the essence of your writing. I have been hurt many times, emotionally, because what I thought was good writing was some of the worst crap I ever turned out. But I sucked it up and took it like a man, or I like to think I did. I’m thankful for their honesty. If you’re going to be a writer, you have to take criticism. It has made me a better writer.
The way we go about our tasks is to offer praise (or approval) for what is right with the writing, if there is any, and there usually is. Then we get down to the nuts and bolts of what we take exception to. This can be anything, as long as we use good judgement and taste. It never gets personal and we never attack anyone for something we don’t agree with. We offer only suggestions and our own perspectives on their work. We do the same for each member of the group. The reader can choose whether or not to accept our suggestions. We normally don’t impose limits on the length of the material we bring, because we each try to honor the time of the other members. None of us wants to stay at the meeting all night. Consideration. And neither do we censor writing. We’re all adults and we read our work just as it’s written. If you are easily offended by vulgarity, profanity, sex, or philosophies with which you don’t agree, then you aren’t cut out to be a writer.
All in all, my time with the group has been rewarding for me, and from what I garner from the others in the group, for them as well. It has been time well spent. We also encourage each other to write. And to read. Since there are only four of us at present, it makes for a thight-knit group and we can also enjoy some social time while at the meeting. It is a win-win for everyone.
If you enjoy writing, or want to try it, look around for a writer’s group. They are not heavily advertised, but they are around. If you wish, reply to this post and I’ll see what I can do to help you find one.
Happy writing and reading.