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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Value of A Good Writer Support Group

Tonight was our twice-monthly meeting of the "West Side Gang," the local writer support group. I can't say enough good things about this experience.

I'm not a joiner. Generally, I hate organized group activities and don't feel as if I fit in well. Yet, despite a huge diversity in backgrounds, worldviews, and genres, this group really "works."

There are generally about ten of us, and usually most everyone brings something to read. We take turns at this, and then offer suggestions... what we like, what we think could be improved, technical writing tips, etc. Sometimes, the facilitator begins with some tips from an expert on mechanics or style.

Tonight, four people brought poems, two people had essays, and I took the first two chapters of Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp. I'd already trashed most of chapter 1 once, but even so, there were lots of suggestions to make it better. The spirit of "criticism" is always so important, and this group does that well. There is lots of encouragement.

Even I can accept critique if my work is characterized as having value (even if it's entertainment value). And believe me, the suggestions are good ones. I'm well through the period of an author's evolution when she/he thinks that what they wrote captures perfectly their every thought. Knowing how others "hear" what I am thinking is important, and helps me make my ideas more clear.

The group is diverse in experiences, so they often have comments about how to correctly describe things I may not be familiar enough with.

And best of all, they seem to just plain like my story, always seeming eager for the next chapter. They've done this long enough now that they can't possibly be faking the enthusiasm.

If you are a writer with dreams of real publication, I urge you to search out a group that will help you polish your work and provide encouragement.

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