Writers groups, or critique circles, are pivotal in becoming a professional writer. Thriller writer Nicole Wilson shares her thoughts on the importance of these groups, what makes a good group, and how to get the most out of the experience.
One of the most important steps a writer can take to help their craft is to join a writers’ group. It’s literally a collection of people who are experiencing the same struggle you are, and it can be incredibly encouraging.
How They Work
A small group of people meet at a predefined location, usually a bookstore or someone’s house. Everyone is a writer, so it’s a safe zone to express your successes, frustrations, and everything in between. Also, each person is at a different stage in their writing. Some are already published, others are agenting, and others are working on their first manuscript. Normally, there’s a set page limit, so all of you bring, say, ten pages a week every Thursday night at 7 PM. Each person either reads their piece aloud or has it read aloud by someone else in the group. Then the group takes a few minutes (some are stricter and time it) to discuss any big-ticket items.
I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of two great writers’ groups in my writing career. A friend – who later became my husband – invited me to tag along to his group. The first time I went, I had no clue what to expect. We were meeting at a Barnes & Noble, and, when I walked in, there was this small table toward the back where eight or nine people were sitting. I found Michael and was immediately welcomed with open arms in the group. I made several friends that, three years later, I still keep in touch with. As for the structure, each person picked someone else to read their five pages. We went around the circle and gave short feedback. The author was not aloud to speak until the feedback was complete.
The second writers’ group I’ve loved (which I’m currently in now) is also amazing. We meet at one woman’s house and sit around her dining room table. Everyone reads their own ten pages out loud, then whoever has a comment speaks and the group discusses. The author is allowed to comment with the group. It’s a loving community of 8-13 people (depending on the week), and we share food and life as well.
There are many benefits to joining a writers’ group.
1) Simply put, you have access to a support group. These people either know what it’s like to go through what you are now or they want to know, so they encourage sharing stories, both successes and failures.
Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com