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Creative Writing Clubs!

Updated on March 25, 2011

Why Join a Writers Group?

A humorous look at creative writing.

Creative writing tends to be a solitary occupation. Some writers are at ease working amidst the hubbub of family life, typing away at a laptop on the kitchen table while the kids whine about homework, the dog barks wildly at the postman and the plumber is unbunging the sink. Most writers, however, quickly discover that they can get an awful lot more done if they have P&Q. That's peace and quiet, in case you didn't already know.

Some writers turn the spare bedroom into a home office, and woe betide any rash intruder. Most of us, however, have to be a bit more accommodating.

One author of my acquaintance has been known to hide behind the tomatoes in his greenhouse so he can meet his publisher's deadlines. Another shares his writing space with the household laundry, and has been heard at Riverside Writers meetings mumbling about the problems of creating inspired fiction while rows of his wife's knickers are drying mere inches above his head. One lady squeezes in a half-hour of writing each day during office lunch breaks, while valiantly protecting her laptop from escaping blobs of mayonnaise. Another gets up at 5am in order to put in one hour's writing before hubby and her teenagers' uproar threatens to loosen a few more roof tiles.

While real writers write - and not just talk about writing - they also like to talk about writing. Those who do not share our fascination with imaginary creatures, invisible friends, world domination or post-apocalyptic drama have eyes which tend to glaze over quickly at even the most fleeting mention of an Oxford comma.

And so, tremulously, often in fear of mockery or contempt, the new writer approaches a crossroads in their life: To join or not to join a writers circle.

Writers Circles

The time arrives when an opinion of a new manuscript is sought. Hubby and the sprogs know only too well that they'd better be flattering or they'll be dining on burnt toast and porridge for eternity. If only they'd learned to cook, hmm?

Other relatives, too, will back off from causing inter-family WWlll. They will recall all too clearly the devastating effects of mentioning how Aunt Mable's hand-sewn party frock perfectly matched her new curtains, or how Cousin Jeremy's home-brew caused an outbreak of dysentery. Some opinions are best left unspoken. Alternatively, outright lies in the form of complements are preferred by many, though discovering that the reader didn't make it beyond page two will make even the most polished of silver tongues will lose its shine.

Likewise, seeking literary critiques from work colleagues is too fraught with office politics to even contemplate

The writer is therefore left with the option of seeking out other writers, who will hopefully give a reasonably honest opinion on one's creative endeavours.

The ever-expanding internet offers a huge array of online writing groups. Trying to join them all would rapidly become a full-time job, and that's before each group's forums have been browsed through. Pick one or two lively sites, which are frequently updated and not too cliquey, and which offer quality writing rather than eye-watering drivel - of which there is a universe-sized haystack to sift through, unfortunately.

One real problem of publishing writing online is that a traditional publisher will then consider that First Rights have already been used, and therefore will be highly unlikely to consider that piece for conventional publishing.

Another potential problem is that another writer (or someone who wants to pass themselves off as a writer) might steal your work and claim it as their own, even publishing it on their own site. This could easily happen without your knowledge. And while imitation is supposed to be a form of flattery, and Copyright exists on everything automatically, law suits to prove ownership can be a pain in the wallet.

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Writers Critique

So, the nervous new writer joins a group of other writers. Some might be published already, some might never have written a story since they left school long decades ago. The chances are that they too have quaked in their boots at the prospect of reading aloud their work to a group of relative strangers. Or complete strangers, even. They too have experienced their own voice going squeaky, or knocking knees, or finding that one's mouth has rebelled and refuses to clearly pronounce the simplest of words.

If they seem unsympathetic or snooty, try a different writers group. Or you might start your own. Writers clubs can be invaluable for receiving feedback, and for encouraging each other to keep on writing even when the garden's weeds are eight feet high and the dust over the fireplace lies deep enough to sculpt a copy of Michelangelo's David.

If you don't want honest critique, don't ask for it. If someone queries why your heroine is habitually foul-mouthed and bolshy but is supposed to be irresistible to all, and the navel-gazing and steamy sex leave room for around 15% (or less) of actual plot, don't throw a hissy fit. Instead, consider that they may have made a valid point.

Equally, no-one is obliged to agree with a critic. Look around a library and acknowledge how many of the books there are of interest to you. How many would you pay £20 for, or £10 for, or just £1 for? How many have you read even though they're free? And yet an agent and a publisher both considered all those books worthy of publication and of financial investment. To put it another way, opinions are like noses; we all have one. Beware critics with false noses - or, in other words, those who pick faults just to win attention for a few minutes.

© 2011 Adele Cosgrove-Bray


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    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Adele :)

      Yes, you are right ~ and I have been looking into some possibilities. Maybe a creative writing course, or maybe another writers' group. We'll see :)

    • AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

      Adele Cosgrove-Bray 7 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England.

      Barbergirl28, new members are always welcome. That's some journey you'd have, though...!

      Trish_M, that's an unfortunate experience which you describe, but perhaps you might consider looking around for another writers group?

      At Riverside Writers, we have three elected people who pretty much run things; the Secretary, Treasurer and Chair (which is me.) But we do this in such a subtle way that a person would hardly even notice. Everyone has a say. No-one is made to take part in anything; all the monthly writing projects are voluntary, and no-one gets hassle for doing something else - or for not having had time to do anything at all.

      My point is, really, that writers groups are not all the same. If one doesn't suit you for any reason, try somewhere else or form your own.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 7 years ago from The English Midlands

      I joined a writers group, several years ago, and I really enjoyed it ~ except for one 'small' matter.

      We were all supposed to be equal members, but, of course, there has to be someone who takes the lead and deals with organising things ~ and we had such a lady.

      One evening she brought in some old books and asked us to choose the one we least liked ~ the one that we would never choose to read.

      There were some really violent and depressing ones and I did not wish to read any of them.

      I had a toddler and a baby and would stay up all night, sometimes, feeding the baby with my word processor in front on me.

      There was a lot of housework waiting for attention and a lot of books waiting to be read. I certainly wasn't going to waste time on a book I hated.

      I appreciate that she was trying to get us to widen our horizons, but, once we said no, that should have been it.

      But no; she insisted.

      No-one wanted to say anything. But I did. I refused and gave her my reasons why.The others agreed with me.

      But still she insisted.

      That was the end of writing group for me.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I noticed that you are from England yet you belong to Riverside Writers. That is funny... because I live in Riverside. Irony. Maybe it is a sign to get myself over there to that writer's group!

    • AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

      Adele Cosgrove-Bray 7 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England.

      At Riverside Writers, we're quite used to new people feeling nervous about sharing their work. We deal with this by saying it's ok to just listen to others at their first visit if they feel more comfortable with that. At future meetings, we'll coax them to read by making a point of saying we're not going to pull their writing to pieces - and we don't.

      If a person tries a writing group which turns out to be snarky or cliquey, then I'd advise simply not going back.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I have actually been looking for a writing group recently. I realized that I can not get a good critique from family or friends. So, I have found one. Unfortunately, they only meet twice a month and the last two times, I have had other obligations with my children. Hopefully next week I will be able to go. I am a bit nervous as I have never been to a writer's group before.

      Great hub - you have made several valid points.