I joined a writer’s group a few years ago. I was serious about writing and I wanted to get some sound critiques and grow in my writing. I picked a pretty hard-core group that subbed once a week and critiqued everyone’s submissions. With about five people in the group that could get a little time consuming, but I found it very helpful in editing. Picking out the speck in my neighbor’s eye helped me see the log in mine, that’s for sure. I learned. My writing improved and I even got published a few times online. Short stories that wouldn’t pay for lunch, but still a real publication.
Unfortunately life happened and I had to get another job and focus more on novel writing as opposed to those short pieces, so I dropped the group. And I found after a year of no deadline or critiquing my writing skills weren’t improving. So a few weeks ago I joined back up again and already in two weeks I’ve had five story ideas and one critiqued and ready to submit.
You see, it’s not just about having a deadline, though that’s important for procrastinator me. It’s about reading others’ work, brainstorming, and seeing mistakes in writing and being able to say, no I’m not going to do that. And then catching yourself when you do make those mistakes. What an amazing difference my writing has shown lately. It’s like exercising for the first time after a long break. The muscles are still there. Maybe a little sluggish and slow, but still working. For a while there I thought I’d lost all ability to write.
As excited as I am to be a part of another writing group I am still a little hesitant to put my best work out there. Every member can read your work, like your idea, and basically steal it. It’s happened, will probably always happen. Maybe it’s honest inspiration, but sometimes people just wait on these boards to rip off an idea. It’s happened to me before. Someone read a short short story I wrote and then wrote one just like it and sold it before I had the chance to edit it. Maybe it’s my fault, not editing fast enough. I’m sure some people would argue differently, but that experience has definitely left me a little suspicious of people. Especially if it’s online. But at some point you have to get your work out there or it’ll always stay in that drawer. So, I’m taking that next step, joining a group and submitting my work. Am I putting everything out there? No. I’m editing before subbing. I’m careful about what I sub to certain people. It’s the only way to have some piece of mind.
But so far my experience has been great with online writing groups. I’d recommend them to everyone, especially if you can’t find a good writing group in your area. It’s very convenient exchanging crits through emails. Some would say it’s impersonal because you never meet face to face, but I’m so busy I don’t have time to meet with anyone. So why not?
It’s all about getting the writing done and out there. No matter what it takes.