Sunday, April 10, 2011

Writing Group--If You Don't Have One, Get One

Today's guest blog comes to us from Jo Ann Yhard, @JoAnnYhard. Enjoy!

Do you have trouble fitting in writing time? Don’t feel alone, we all do. But it can be done. After all, this is our passion, right? We need to do it.

How does a writing group help?

I’ve found it to be the key to completing writing projects. I can be the world’s worst procrastinator – even though I love to write. Our group meets weekly and commits to bringing fresh writing. That weekly deadline is a powerful motivator. No one wants to get ribbed for continually not bringing anything. Most of us write YA and middle readers and try to bring a chapter a week. It adds up!

How do I form a writing group?

Our group evolved from a series of children’s writing workshops. We didn’t want to stop when the workshops ended, so naturally formed into a writing group. I know it’s not always that easy. But through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and your local writing community, you can find others who write in similar genres and have common goals. Names are probably coming to you as you read this. If you aren’t able to meet in person, consider forming an online group. Our group shares through email for feedback when we can’t meet.

What is the format of meetings?

A lot will depend at what stage you are in your writing and what the group’s goals are. In our group, we provide hard copies to everyone, read our chapter out loud, then listen to feedback. Many write notes and edit on the hard copy. It can be scary, I know, sharing your work. And reading…OUT LOUD??? But having a regular group builds a trusting and supportive environment. One member used to break out in hives when she read. Not anymore. Hearing your work out loud, you become aware of issues in your stories that were not evident before. And if you can’t meet, read your writing out loud to yourself. You’ll be amazed at what you notice.

But negative feedback will hurt my feelings…

It does sting a little at first. But it’s not negative, it’s constructive. In the beginning, our meetings focused on positive feedback and encouragement. But while praise is a wonderful thing, it alone doesn’t help to improve our craft. So, as we got more comfortable, we still encouraged each other, but used more of the time to concentrate on trouble spots – things like point of view, pacing, plot, dialogue, voice, even brainstorming to stimulate ideas. So toughen up your skin – feedback improves your work! Include guidelines for the group to ensure respectful feedback. And keep in mind that in the end, you’re the boss and feedback is opinion. Be true to your work and try to balance incorporating only the feedback that strengthens your piece.

How is spending time on others’ writing useful to me?

While we share the meeting time, I’ve found that giving feedback has strengthened my own writing skills. Noticing trouble spots in others’ writing helps you to watch for those same pitfalls in your own. Also, I’ve learned things about writing in general by listening to discussions in the group. You benefit from everyone else’s knowledge.

Are there other benefits to me?

Definitely! And it’s not always when things are going great. Don’t get me wrong, the champagne corks fly for the happy times! But we’re also there to help each other through the disappointment of rejection letters. And there have been plenty of those. It can be heartbreaking and easy to give up. But the support and understanding of your group, the ones who have been in the trenches and experienced it, helps you to survive those tough times and keep writing.

Will it help me get published?

If publication is your goal…

None of us were published when we started approximately seven years ago. Now, various members have three published novels, with three more coming out in 2011/2012, along with assorted writing contest wins and placements. And we’ve all grown as writers, both in our skills and self-confidence. So, if you haven’t been in a writing group, think about it. It’s one of the best things you can do for your writing journey.

About me:

My first middle grade mystery, The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines, was released by Nimbus Publishing in April 2010, and is a Canadian bestseller. My new book, Lost on Brier Island, is coming out in May 2011.


Facebook Page!/pages/Jo-Ann-Yhard-Author/161198207246873



The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines

Lost on Brier Island

Thanks, Jo Ann, for that very informative post.  If any
of you writers out there are interested in having a guest
post on Carolyn's blog, please feel free to submit your
ideas to writingnodrama (at) aol (dot) com.


  1. Great post. I love writing groups. Even with criticism they are worth their weight in gold. Being able to connect with like-minded people is great. When I see other writers struggling with certain things that I do, it encourages me to face the challenge straight on. I don't feel so alone. Thanks for sharing

  2. What a timely post, Jo Ann! Just last week a new writer friend I met through a local class and I finally managed to put together a group. We had an "orientation" meeting, determined our goals and set up a schedule and how we'd share/critique. It will clearly evolve over time, but I'm quite excited, and blogged my excitement Monday. It's so helpful to learn of your success with your group!


  3. Kelli and Patrick,
    I'm so glad you found the post useful. Thanks for sharing comments about your own writing group experiences. I hope you have lots of success with your group and writing projects!
    Jo Ann Yhard