Become a better writer with a little help from your friends

Eighteen months ago I established a writing group, in the hope of gaining motivation and inspiration while writing my PhD thesis – the challenge of writing 100,000 words is surely a good reason to seek out all the support and encouragement you can get!

I got the idea from Rowena Murray’s book aimed at academic writers, but am convinced that anyone keen to become a better writer – including creative writers, novelists, bloggers and songwriters – can gain lots from participating in a writing group.

Here are the some of the benefits our writing group have enjoyed:

Getting over writer’s shyness: I will admit to being terrified of letting anyone reading my work in the past. I still don’t enjoy handing over my drafts to my supervisor or to my writing group – but it has got a lot easier the more I do it

Useful feedback:  As a group we’ve developed trust – essential for giving and receiving useful feedback.  Because we take turns to share our work with the others, we all understand that honest – and sensitive – comments are the best gift you can give to someone who genuinely wants to improve as a writer.

Seeing the re-drafting process:  One challenge to any writer’s confidence is reading the work of their writing hero – and feeling inadequate in comparison.  But we usually only get to see the final, published novels, articles and songs of the people that we admire.  Sharing and reading early drafts within the writing group is an unusual privilege that reassures us that it is normal for early drafts to be mediocre and to see the ‘behind-the-scenes’ work of writers as they draft and re-draft.

Original art by Josephine Scales

A sense of urgency:  there’s nothing better than a deadline – and the promised draft your group is waiting to read – to help you overcome writers block and start producing some text.

Stretching your comfort zone: the support of your writing group can help you to challenge yourself, try new things, or experiment with techniques and ideas that might scare you.  Our group participated in AcBoWriMo (the academic version of the annual novel-writing challenge, NaNoWriMo) last year, and amazed ourselves with the amount of writing we got done together during that month.

Good company: Writing group sessions are always immediately followed by coffee and cake sessions.  While the caffeine and sugar help, the most important thing is avoiding the lonely life of a writer.  Having people to chat to who understand the emotional roller-coaster of writing, and who will celebrate your achievements and milestones (another chapter finished, a new idea brought to fruition, your first publication) is the best part of all.


Original art by Josephine Scales

Share your thoughts by hitting the ‘reply’ button – for example, have you tried a writing group?  What techniques have you used to improve your writing or overcome writer’s block?  How easy do you find it to share your early drafts with others?


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