Flashback: Writers’ Groups

When you see “Flashback” in front of an article, it means it is an article that originally appeared on Word Museum in the beginning before it was sold and then regained by Lori. We have reposted these articles, because we feel they add great value to the site. Where possible we include the date of the original article.

Written by: Deanna Hessedal Tiddle
Date: 08/05/2001


Many differences exist among Writers’ Groups. Some groups meet monthly, others meet biweekly or even weekly. Some groups are single genre, while many are multi-genre. Some take turns meeting at members’ homes, while others meet in libraries, community centers or other public places.

This article is intended, though, to address things that should apply to all writers’ groups.

PURPOSE: The number one purpose of participating in a writers’ group is to help each other in our writing. To that end we must be able to both give and take constructive criticism.

In giving criticism, our goal should be to help in a kindly manner. We should not seek to change another person’s story into our story–that is, the story as it would have been if we’d written it. We should be aware that other genres may have requirements that are different from those of the one in which we write. We need to remember we are offering our suggestions for the other person’s consideration, and that no one is obligated to follow our suggestions.

In taking criticism, our goal should be to learn how we can make our writing better. Of course, we all like to have our egos stroked, but if that is our main reason for attending the meetings, we’d be better off reading our work to our favorite aunt who will tell us how wonderful it is with nary a word about its faults. We should thank our fellow writers for their suggestions and decide later which we will follow. We must avoid becoming defensive or we will discourage people from helping us in the future. Why should they bother if we’re just going to argue or pout?

LOYALTY: In a writers’ group we make ourselves extremely vulnerable as we share our literary “babies” and bare our souls in our words, thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Therefore, we must be able to trust that we will keep each other’s “sharings” confidential and that we certainly won’t ridicule such. We must also be careful not to “borrow” another member’s words or ideas. If we are in doubt as to whether or not what we want to write is too similar to what someone else in our group has written and shared, we should ask that person’s opinion. Perhaps we could make enough changes to keep it from being too similar, or we could wait a few years so it wouldn’t compete with the other person’s work. Thankfully, this is not often a problem, as writers in writers’ groups are an honorable people.

SUPPORT Besides offering each other valuable critiquing and loyalty, members of writers’ groups give our fellow members support, encouragement, prodding when necessary, companionship (with people who understand that writing IS work), sympathy with each rejection slip and hearty congratulations over each success!

No matter the different formats of writers’ groups, we members must learn together, cry together and celebrate together. BIO: Four writers’ groups count Deanna Tiddle as a member. She’s had about a dozen short stories published, most of which were for children, her first love in writing. Recently she completed her first middle-grade novel, “Hold On, Jessica, Don’t Let Go.”

Lori Soard started Word Museum in 1997. She’s a published author and has written thousands of articles over the years for newspapers, magazines and online. She has a PhD in Journalism and lives in Southern Indiana with her husband. They have two grown daughters, both animal lovers their house is always filled with pets.

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