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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Do Writers need Writers Groups?

I got to wondering how other writers see writers’ groups. Are they beneficial? Or are they just social gatherings?
Well, there are all types of writers’ groups and whether or not you are involved is, of course a matter of choice. I am involved in several of these groups, physical ones and virtual ones. Let’s look at the physical ones first.
Members of Angus Writers' Circle

The first group I became involved with was Angus Writers’ Circle I was one of the founder members over 20 years ago. At that time I was a novice writer and much of my writing really wasn’t worth publishing. I’ve progressed since then, my writing has improved, and I’ve become a professional writer. Now I don’t know whether I would have had the same outcome if I’d never belonged to Angus Writers’ Circle, but I can say that the crits and encouragement I experienced along the way did help me develop as a writer.
I have to say, though, that there are writers’ groups in existence which simply give praise irrespective of the quality of writing. These groups do nothing to help a writer develop. The groups that are of the most benefit are the ones which are honest with their crits, even if the truth hurts.
One of the benefits of belonging to a writers’ group is acceptance to professional bodies like the Scottish Association of Writers. I have attended their weekend conferences on a regular basis over the past 20 odd years, and have been awarded many prizes from their annual writing competitions. The most prized of these was when I won the Pitlochry Award on two different occasions, once for Night Watcher, and again for Dead Wood before it went on to win the Dundee International Book Prize.
Margaret Thomson Davies presenting me with the Pitlochry Award for Night Watcher

But crits, encouragement and awards are not the only benefits from belonging to these groups, there is also the social aspect, the networking, and the acceptance from other writers. I met many of my now more famous friends through these groups, at a time before they became famous. People like Ian Rankin and Alex Gray. I could name many more, but enough of the name dropping and let’s get on with the blog.
It’s time to have a look at virtual groups. There are many of these around, particularly on Facebook. I’ve sampled a few of these and when they become overloaded with ‘buy my book’ posts to the exclusion of most of the other posts, I usually back out the door and only look in occasionally.
The exception to these is the three main groups I’m heavily involved with. I’ll take them one at a time.
First there’s the group which is an invitation only group for authors, although they also have readers, editors and publishers as members. This group started a year ago and as of this morning there have been over a million visits to the website. When I was invited to join, I think my first response was ‘You do know what kind of books I write?’ You see I never thought of my books as being anything to do with happy endings. The response when it came was that they wanted a mix of authors and anyway, in my crime books, the fact that the crime was resolved equated to a happy ending. So I agreed to join and actually felt quite honoured to be one of their thirty authors, because that was the maximum amount they take on as members at any one time. If you want to have a look here is the link

Then there is the Famous Five Plus group, FFP for short I saw this coming to prominence on Twitter and became curious, so that was why I joined it. I’ve had no regrets about joining, although members are expected to promote the group through Twitter and other media sites. That’s why you’ll see me with loads of retweets involving FFP. But it’s a fabulous group with lots of lovely members who are supportive. The website’s pages are worth checking out, they have a Home page, Books page, Authors page, Review page and loads more. They also post an excerpt from one of the books every day. I love it when it’s my turn. Oh, and they also have a readers’ club if you would like to join. The details are on the Books page of the site here’s the link
Last and not least, there is the Authors Electric group, which again is an invitation only group. Each member is expected to provide a blog post for their blog – Do Authors Dream of Electric Books. My turn is on the 19th of each month if you want to check me out. The blog itself is a mix of posts from various writers and is well worth a look. Here’s the link

Well, that’s an overview of the groups I’m involved with and all I can say is that I find them beneficial. However, whether you would is a different matter and only you can decide whether to join a group or not. The only advice I would give is, be selective.




Melanie said...

Great post, Chris! I'm a member three physical writers' groups - Romance Writers of America (only because I have to join them in order to join their Ottawa chapter), my local group Writer's Ink and where I started out as an associate reader and am now a featured author!

The very first group I belonged to didn't give me what I was looking for so after one year, I left. It was about the same time that Writer's Ink started.

It's great to have like-minded people who aren't afraid to critique your work honestly and not just nod and say 'very nice'.

I can see where my writing has developed over the years and on Sept 15, my debut novel will be released to the masses.

AliB said...

Very useful Chris - like you I've been in different groups at different times - all (well, with one exception!) have served a purpose, though not always the same one. Contact with other writers has definitely kept me going.
Ali B

Anonymous said...

I found joining a writers' group to be invaluable for helping my writing to develop. I agree, though,that the groups need to be dedicated to serious writing or it can become a waste of time.

Sheryl said...

I would agree, honest ctritique, particularly in the early stages, is invaluable. As is the support you get when the odd (ahem) rejection may come your way or perhaps a bad review. As a writer's life tends to be a bit of a juggling act, though, I would say be selective and try to blance your time (not easy sometimes). :) xx

Linn B Halton said...

I agree with Sheryl, it's a juggling act and you have to be quite focussed on where you spend your time. I belong to a book club but we spend a lot of time putting the world to right! However, it is fun and often informative.

Carol E Wyer said...

Super post Chris. There are no writer's groups where I live so I have found the support and encouragement form members of on-line groups invaluable. As you know, we are both members of two of the above mentioned groups and it is thanks to them, and another I write for, that I have learned so much and met so many new friends.
Where would be without the internet?

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris!
This is a great post. I participate in a local writer's group associated with SCBWI and it has been invaluable. I've only been a member for a few months, but I've learned so much from those folks. Also, I'm a member of as well and that has been a godsend. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Pauline Barclay said...

Hello Chris, an interesting post. Like Carol there are no local writer's group where I live, so being part of interactive group has been very helpful. And I've met some amazing authors and soem great readers too.

Chris Longmuir said...

Thanks for your comments, everybody. This topic seems to have generated a lot of interest.

myraduffy said...

Very interesting,Chris and I must agree that joining a Writers' group -real or virtual- is of enormous help.

Nicky Wells said...

Great post, Chris. I think the answer is clear: Writers do need writers' groups. The benefits are HUGE. I am honoured and humbled to be part of with you, and it was amazing hearing you speak at the recent Summer Audience. We wouldn't have met, were it not for this 'virtual' writers' group. Lovely feature, as always. Thank you!

Joan Fleming said...

Interesting post, Chris. With on-line groups now as well as the physical ones, we can all have access to their benefits. Some of us are lucky enough to have both!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I've always loved my local writing group and it definitely gave me confidence to grow as a writer. Also love the SAW, and some of the online groups I belong to - very inspiring!