Writing, like boxing, is an individual sport. Unless they’re co-authoring a research paper or in the rare case of attempting to collaborate on a novel (many of us like the idea of this, but fear the execution), writers generally spend countless hours working solo, locked away in self-induced solitary confinement. True, there may be other people around at times, (if they’re writing at a coffee shop or local drinking establishment) but the writer won’t know these people personally. There’s no pressure to keep up conversation with them, nor match them shot for shot while trying to forget someone. To the writer blistering their laptop’s keyboard or feverishly draining their pen’s ink onto notebooks, those other people may as well not even be there. The only company a writer keeps whilst writing is that of their characters. Hemingway probably said something like that once, but nobody really knows for sure.
But every once in awhile (like every third Wednesday or second Saturday of the month) we writers like to seek out the fellowship of other like-minded souls, which often comes in the form of a writing group. If you’re considering joining a local writing group, keep in mind that just like any other club, there are both pros and cons to the association. And above all else, there are rules. Unspoken as they may be, there are definitely rules that govern writing groups. Especially if the group is to be successful. And if you don’t want it to be successful, then why bother?
Ergo, the rules of write club are as follows…
- The first rule of write club is you DO talk about your writing group. Especially to other writers. There is no need for secrecy here, and gaining new members occasionally is actually beneficial. There is the potential of a group becoming too large, but if kept to a manageable size, the broader and more diverse the group’s members in terms of experience and level of knowledge the better. Like with any good business, you want your group to thrive and grow. New blood is seldom a bad thing.
- The second rule of write club is that continued attendance, while not mandatory, is strongly encouraged. While life dictates that one must miss a meeting from time to time, a group can only function with purpose if those within it show up and participate on a regular basis. If members aren’t showing up, the integrity of the group is hampered and the work being done within it suffers. (Then Rule #1 comes back into play)
- The third rule of write club is you must demonstrate goodwill at all times. When requesting a critique from others, you must be willing to accept said feedback graciously, regardless of your level of agreement. Most often, the critique you receive will be legitimate and useful, if not favorable. But this won’t always be the case. Just keep in mind that while you may not agree with the feedback, it shouldn’t be taken as an offense or an all-encompassing indictment of your writing ability. It’s one person’s opinion, and you know what? You even asked for it. Learn what you can from it and move on.
- The fourth rule of write club is, if you are continually asking for feedback, you must be prepared to offer it as well. Reciprocation is paramount, and with more substantial feedback than simply ‘I liked it.’ Feedback like this wouldn’t help you, and it won’t help anyone else, either. Take the time. Do the work. They did it for you.
- The fifth and final rule of write club is that everyone must do their part in making all group members feel secure enough to speak openly within its confines. If any member doesn’t feel comfortable speaking up, either at the fear of being ridiculed, their thoughts brushed off or otherwise, they won’t get their questions answered. Not only won’t they get the benefits of being in a writing group, but they won’t grow as a writer, either. And honestly, isn’t that why most of us join a writing group in the first place?
So there you have it. Now spread the love.