Every Habit Needs One
How joining a writing group improves your writing.
Winfield Strock III
Support groups bring like-minded people together for the improvement of all. Whether you’re kicking a bad habit or starting a good one it helps to have help. Sharing with other writers helps define what it means to be a writer. Experiencing others’ fears and failures, triumphs, and growth- these help shorten the journey to success and ease the pain that naturally comes from learning something new. But not all groups are created equal.
If like me, you want to improve and publish your work, you’ll want constructive criticism from your group. In some, they smile, nod, and offer vague and positive feedback. They don’t want to offend any more than they seek to improve. I need to know what sucks, how it sucks, and what you liked so I can remember to keep it.
Groups help fight writers’ block too. When I go and hear what others are doing, you’d think that’d help. Nope. I just feel more of a failure. It’s when another writer suffers as I suffer. It’s so much easier to encourage someone else than it is to encourage yourself. And when your writer friends remind you why you do it or how you inspired them when they lost their desire, that’s what re-ignites my fire and I dive in again.
If you don’t have a group handy you can start one. I found my first through a flyer I found at a local store. Others I found via conventions I attended or online. All it takes at first is two. Two can sharpen each other, feed on each other’s efforts, and grow together.
If you start your own there are some key elements to include.
If you’re going to say ‘what’ remember to say ‘why.’
If something bothers me about someone else’s work I try to explain why it bothers me. My critiques tend to be fairly technical. Stories either work for me or they don’t (and that I typically won’t comment on).
Brace yourself for the pain and understand its value.
Remember the bodybuilder saying, “No pain, no gain.” Better to take the hard news while it’s still easy to fix than write in isolation and have the whole world dismiss you as a serious writer. And remember that not every point made by your peers means you have to agree. Sometimes what I learn from their comments is not so much about matching their expectations but occasionally it points out a misinterpretation of my work. This means I need to alter emphasis or reposition the pieces to get the desired effect.
Enjoy successes, even if they’re not yours.
One of my favorite moments came from a troubled prologue that returned by our next meeting and wowed us all. We helped clarify. We helped exalt. What had been a plodding mess of exposition transformed into an emotionally charged scene.
Author Winfield Strock III writes steampunk sci-fi and horror novels. “After a successful 23 years as a navy submariner I struggled for a new career and identity. A massive brain tumor taught me the importance of love, faith, and hope. With my bride of twenty-five years beside me, I plunge headlong into my second love, writing.” Strock is a contributing columnist for The Savannah Quill Publishing House.
©2019 Winfield Strock III. All Rights Reserved. ©2019 Adam Messer. All Rights Reserved.