Writers’ Groups? What’s the Point?

Writing essentials

I’ll cut to the chase here and tell you I attend four different writers’ groups. I also turn up at workshops, seminars, lectures, readings, any event with writing as the theme.

Some are fun, some aren’t, but I invariably learn something – or more pertinently, I write something I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

You might wonder how I have time, but two of the groups are fortnightly, and only one of the others meets weekly.

For me, this is all about mixing with ‘my people’, the ones who get it, the ones I don’t have to explain the writing compulsion to. I love to talk the talk and share writing-related news and information with people as keen as I am to write.

Here’s me looking a bit worried at response to my new poetry book during a reading at Books Upstairs, Dublin

I’ve recently dipped my toe into the business of getting my work critiqued by fellow writers’ group members.

Deep breath, thick skin activated, biro at the ready.

It wasn’t quite as painful as I expected – a 250-word piece of flash fiction I intend entering into a competition, deadline months away. Flash fiction? The week I had a poetry book published? Yes, I know.

I will often re-draft stories or poems dozens of times and this little tale had been tweaked, re-written, reimagined countless times before I sent it off for scrutiny. But in the latest version I have taken into consideration some (but not all) of my readers’ comments.

After all, the point of most writing is to share (with the exception of private, vitriolic journal entries of course) with other people, ideas, opinions and stories isn’t it? So it’s a useful exercise to get out an early draft to people who will (hopefully) give an honest opinion, let you know if you are going in the right direction, point out the bits that don’t work. Sometimes, the writer is just too close to their words to see mistakes, so Beta readers are invaluable.

I’m probably not going to get sick of this image 🙂

I help to run two writing groups in County Mayo (Ireland) . But they are creative writing groups rather than writers’ groups. And there’s a whole can of semantic worms opened. Writing? Writers?

In my groups, I try to encourage new writers, people who may not have written anything more than a shopping list or message in a greetings card since they left school. Everyone has a story to tell, their own or someone else’s, and it is usually a revelation that almost anyone who can read can write. Good or bad, the results are subjective. And it often turns out amongst these beginners are some very talented scribes. Then we’ve got a writers’ group, not just a writing group.

Our meetings include prompts (pictures, words, phrases, objects) to start us off, with writing time to get our ideas down on paper, and we drink lots of tea and coffee, discuss publication opportunities and competition deadlines. Sometimes we will share these first drafts, read out loud, but there’s no obligation. My first attempts are usually rubbish, so I often pass.

If you are near the Mayo/Sligo/Roscommon border (we’re not far from Knock Airport) consider joining us. No booking required, just come if you can. Meetings are held fortnightly Monday morning 10.30am to 12.30pm – February 4th and 18th and March 4th . Or in the same week on Wednesday evenings, 7pm to 9pm. The venue is Charlestown Arts Centre above the town library in Barrack Street.

Or if you’d rather just read the book, here it is: ‘Soft Touch’