The Wonder of the Writing Group

I’m a pretty lucky writer. My city has its own writing group. It’s an amazing organization of about 70 writers (both published and unpublished) who meet on a regular basis to talk about all things writing. I first joined several years ago- shortly after I began writing my second novel for kids. I was at the point in my writing career where I was marginally better than a beginner but not by much! I knew I needed help to improve my writing.

I signed up for a one day writing conference which focused on basic skills. It was run by SCWBI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.) If you haven’t heard of them, I encourage you to check them out! I learned so much that day, but not just about skills that would help me improve my writing craft. I learned a bit about the publishing industry and gained useful tips to help me navigate a career in writing. I met amazing people (some of whom have become my closest writing friends), and left the conference inspired and motivated to keep working towards my dream of becoming a published writer!

By far, the most important thing I took away from that conference though was information about a local writing group…a chapter of SCBWI right in my own city! I joined the next day and began attending monthly meetings with other writers who were just like me- sponges soaking up any and all information about writing children’s books.

I realize now that was the turning point for me. Those meetings helped me to stay motivated month after month. I loved commiserating with other writers who understood what I was going through. I loved celebrating the successes of writers who were much further along in the process than I was. I loved being in the environment of so many creative people! Throughout the years now, I’ve met writers who’ve published several books. One of them even won the prestigious Newberry Award! I have also met fantastic writers who are as of yet unpublished, but write with such flair and beauty I know it’s only a matter of time before an editor or agent changes all that!

At my very first meeting though, I was encouraged to join a critique group. And so I did. I joined two in fact- one group of four writers who had been reading and offering each other feedback on their chapters for several months, and a second group which consisted of three other writers, all brand new to critique groups. I learned much from the first group as they had all been writing much longer than me. I owe so much to each of those talented writers for taking me under their wings! The second group provided an entirely different experience. We fumbled our way through the process in the beginning but eventually developed a system that worked for us. And it really did work for us. We each developed as writers as the months and years went on. To this day I call those crit partners, not only great writers but great friends too.

So here’s the thing… writing groups are wonderful because they help you become part of a writing community. Yes, being a part of one will help you improve your writing. Yes, being a part of one can foster amazing friendships. But most importantly, becoming a part of a writing group can keep you involved in the creative, magical, special world of people who write and teach and encourage other writers to become the best they can possibly be at the art of telling a story, in whatever form that may be.

And so if there’s one writing tip I can pass along to new or not so new writers, it’s this…Find a group of people, two or three or ten who share your passion for writing. You may find them in your town or on line or at school. Connecting with them will do wonders for your writing. Try it and you’ll see!

And just in case I haven’t convinced you, I have a story to tell you that might…

Six years ago, when my daughter was ten and my son was eight, they formed their own writing group-with their eleven year- old twin cousins. The four kids came to me one day as I was working on the draft of my second middle grade novel. They asked me what exactly a critique group was. I explained that my critique group was a group of writers who met once a month to read each other’s chapters and offer each other suggestions about how they could make their writing and their story better. Clearly excited, the kids told me they wanted to write a book all together. They didn’t know how a critique group could work for them. We talked it over for quite awhile and finally they can up with an idea. They would think up one story. Then they would divide the story into chapters. Each one of the kids could pick which chapters they would write. They would write the chapters at home on their own and then meet a few days or weeks later to read their chapters to each other!
I was amazed at the thought that went into their plan, and so inspired my their motivation! I encourage them to keep their writing meetings positive using the sandwich method:

1. After the writer reads their chapter, say one good thing about it.
2. Then, give them an idea for how they can make it even better.
3. Finally, tell the writer at least one more thing you liked about the chapter.

The kids worked for months and months and months on their book. They met whenever they felt like working on it. They even created a special writing nook in my sister’s attic for their meetings, complete with pillows and mattresses!

I noticed something that year that my kids and nieces learned to write creatively and share their ideas with each other. We are never to young (or old) to share our passions and encourage each other along the way! To this day I am so proud to have been a part of their young writing group. It is, in fact what has inspired me to write this blog and try to reach as many new writers (both young and not as young) to write and share their stories!

My first writing group was the key to my growth as a writer. Today I know how lucky I am to have had that opportunity. I hope you can be as lucky in finding your own wonderful group of writers! Maybe you’ve already found that wonder. If you have, I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to hear about it. 🙂 Tell us all about your group. What method works for you? Has it helped you to improve your skill as a writer? How did you meet up? How often do you get together? I could keep going but you get the idea!

Until next time, I hope this week brings out the wonder in your writing and in your summer days too! 

4 thoughts on “The Wonder of the Writing Group

  1. Riley says:

    Oh my gosh, I remember that! Time flies… We’ve grown up so much since then and our stories come out better with every rewrite… But it really was you that helped me decide not that I wanted to be a writer, but that it was possible for me to be one. So I just wanted to say thank you so much for everything of mine that you’ve read and have me feedback on. I still get so excited thinking about that book…
    But anyway, thank you again. I love you!

  2. swirlandspark says:

    Riley!!! My amazing niece!! That was so very sweet! Thanks, Honey. 🙂 What was the title of that book anyway? I have loved reading your work. Your talent is obvious. I have a feeling you have some incredible stories in your future and that I won’t be the only one reading them! Love you too!

  3. Jordan says:

    Was it Flashback? I think it might have been when we started the rewrite. Originally, it was Sandbox Together, Ashes Apart. You were such a motivation to me when you started writing your book. It was so nice to have someone I actually knew writing one! That was such an inspiration to me and it still is. Thank you so much for everything! I love you!

  4. swirlandspark says:

    And Jordan, my other incredible niece!! Yes, it was… Sandbox Together, Ashes Apart. Now I remember! I remember thinking it was such a grown up title for such little kids. 🙂 I’m glad I could inspire you in some small way. I have wonderful memories of those days and now I’m lucky enough to read YOUR amazing work. Keep it up. You have a gift. I can’t wait to see what you can do with it! Love you too!

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