Saturday, May 1, 2021

Why A Writing Group Is Important


by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

One of the best things I did when I decided to become a writer was to look for a tribe. A group of writers where I felt I fit in. I didn’t know of any writers in my family, or among my friends. I’ve always read a lot, including the 1964 World Book Encyclopedia. (My Mom was so proud of it. And it was near the heat register.) And when I taught I enjoyed writing my own Bible studies or course work.

To me, writing for income or for the public was merely a dream. Most of the writers I’d heard of were either dead, preachers or professors, or lived in New York City. (Cue the Pace Picante Sauce commercial.) It sure was something anyone from my community could hope to have any success at.

Then I went to a writers’ group. Cross N Pens to be specific, which is now a part of Word Weavers. There I met people who lived around me and wrote articles that spread God’s message.

And they had found places to send them so people outside their family would read them. Now, that may not sound like a big deal to you, but it was eye-opening to me. I’d accepting that God’s plans were not for me to lead a big church or be a professor. And here I was learning magazines, publishers, and blogs that were looking for the articles I felt led to write.

And when I submitted some pieces to the group for criticism, they didn’t laugh. (Don’t look at me. Isn’t that one of our biggest fears before we’ve shown our work to anyone?)

Here are some general principles we all learn from joining a writing group.

1. Everyone has their own reasons for writing.
One of the things I like most about being a writer is that I don’t have limit myself to one medium. You can write devotions, screenplays, novels, how-to books, TV series, all at once. We even see very successful novelists at the tops of their careers write a book in another genre or decide to write for TV.

I met a writer whose goal was to give his grandkids stories to show them biblical lessons in a way they can comprehend. I met writers who wanted to help other women, other moms, go though the struggles they had been led to. Just because they were writing for reasons that didn’t fit me didn’t mean we couldn’t learn from each other.

2. Writing is not a destination, it’s a journey.
This is especially true when you feel this is God’s calling to you. There are always new methods to learn and new stories to tell. There are new formats coming out all the time. And as you become efficient in one step, God often uses that to introduce you to someone or something different.

But you have to put yourself out there.

3. Even though writing is a gift, that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to learn.
One of the biggest surprises to me about the meetings were how everyone, even the writers we looked up to, were attending the meetings not only to get better, but to help others grow in the profession and craft of writing. I was often the only guy in the group, but I didn’t care. I was with writers. People who understood the desire to express a thought in a way that others would understand and accept. And writers who understood the frustration of not finding the proper word to make a point.

4. There is a writing community waiting for you.
Whether you are still seeking how to express your thoughts, already been published in several glossy magazines, or have a couple of novels you’ve had published already sitting on the shelf, there is a group who has a place for you.

I used to love watching the TV show Castle. Here was Castle who was a world-famous mystery author, with thousands of fans everywhere he went. And one of the neatest recurring scenes they did was when he played poker with other famous, household-names, writers. And he didn’t miss it because he needed a place to share his ideas and be challenged to always take that next step.

As a new writer, I was surprised at not only how much I learned form others, but how much I could help them. We all have unique experiences, skill sets, and mindsets. It is by sharing with each other we can more fully look at a situation and find the words that best reaches our reader.

I first challenge you to find a local group that you can attend in person. One of the benefits in attending Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference is when you meet other writers from your town or state.

But if finding a local group is impossible where you are or in your circumstances, there are several online groups you can join. ACFW, Word Weavers, and Sisters in Crime have virtual groups you can join where you can have people look at and critique your work. 

I know I am missing several. If you are member of a writing group who is still accepting members, please mention it and share the link in the comments.

I want to wish you the best wherever you are in your writing journey. Thank you for stopping by.

TWEETABLE

Tim Suddeth is a stay-at-home dad and butler for his wonderful, adult son with autism. He has written numerous blogs posts, short stories, and three novels waiting for publication. He is a frequent attendee at writers’ conferences, including the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and a member of Word Weavers and ACFW. He lives near Greenville, SC where he shares a house with a bossy Shorky and three too-curious Persians. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at timingreenville.com.

11 comments:

  1. Great post, Tim! I’ve also learned so much from my writing groups just by listening to critiques made of others’ work. I’m grateful to have met you at a Cross N Pens and Word Weavers! Hoping you’ll be joining us at ACFW soon!

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    1. Thanks, Tammy. And thank you for being such an encourager.

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  2. Diane T. HolmesMay 1, 2021 at 9:45 AM

    Great words this morning, Tim! I joined Word Weavers, IA Chapter, several years ago, and I have learned so much from the members. Their critiques of my writing are so valuable - both positive and negative. When I incorporate their critiques into my narrative, my story reads so much better. Thank God for these people! Thanks for sharing your useful message.

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    1. Thank you for reading. And I hope the best for you and your writing adventure.

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  3. Tim, Thanks for sharing. I learned so much from our writing group. Let me give a plug for our newly formed group. ACFW Upstate SC is meeting on the second Saturday of each month at 10:00. If anyone would like details, I have a contact link on my website -- www.KathleenNeely.com

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  4. I love my writing groups! Word Weavers Charleston and ACFW South Carolina Lowcountry chapter are great groups. I learn valuable insight from each person. I am thankful God has given writers a place to gather, whether online or in person. :-)

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  5. Great post, Tim. Several years ago, I joined a Christian writer’s group in my home town(Winnipeg). Like you, most of the time I was the only guy in attendance. But they took me in and helped me with my writing, encouraging me to post short stories to different platforms. I’m glad I joined when I did. So, when it’s time for our monthly meeting, my wife jokes: “ I guess you’re off to see your girlfriends”, even though it’s now on Zoom.

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  6. Great post, Tim. Our guild - the Foothills Writers Guild in Anderson, SC - is about to celebrate our 50th Anniversary as a guild. We've grown from a group of 4 poets (neighbors) to now we have members in the Midlands, Upstate, 2 in TN, & one in NC. We have been meeting by zoom for a year, but we plan to continue that going forward. We have authors of novels, poetry collections, children's books, ghost stories, mystery writers, etc. Many of us meet once weekly in small groups to share and work on similar things. Our monthly guild meeting features a speaker - like you did for us once. Best $20 deal around; come or zoom - we learn together. Contact me & check us out.
    Jay Wright; Anderson, SC jaystrings2@aol.com

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  7. I belong to a few writes FB groups but by far my favorite one is The SWFH Tribe that is for conference and bootcamp finishers. Having fellow writers to fellowship with is so important.

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