What’s the Use of a Writer’s Group?


Yesterday was the second meeting of the newly formed writer’s group I joined.  At the moment it’s just an intimate group of three, including me.  The first week I submitted the first chapter of my novel, The West Queen.  I’ve been working on it for the past year.  The first draft took about three months and since then I’ve been revising and writing another novel.  The chapter I handed in is the fifth or sixth revision and represents a complete rewrite and restructure of the book.  So yesterday the other two members of the group came back with their editorials.  What can I get out of that and what did I get?

What I was looking for

When joining a writer’s group, as in most things in life, it is good to have some goal to provide direction.  After so many revisions and after making the decision to restructure my novel I really wanted some indication of if I was on the right track.  I knew my spelling was good, I mean I do know how to use the spell checker.  I knew my grammar was pretty close – there is always some wiggle room with grammar in a creative piece.  But I didn’t know if the chapter worked as an introduction to a novel.

My Focus

In particular I was looking for feedback on what I perceive as my two vices in writing.

  1. Writing sentences of a particular, recurring structure.  There was one thing wrong; his ideology.  That is an example.  I tend to write sentences that end in a semi colon with some additional information tacked on the end.  As a result I work hard to avoid doing it and I was worried this caused flow on problems.
  2. I sometimes feel that my writing is too focussed on the core story.  I feel as if every sentence I write has to directly relate to the story.  This means I feel as if my writing style is too brief, too abrupt.  That it doesn’t explore the characters and their actions sufficiently beyond what is absolutely needed.

The feedback

Amongst the expected suggestions on word use, cleaning up some clunky sentences and confusion surrounding some names of characters, the overall message was good.  The first chapter achieved its goals of introducing a complex world, the main character and setting the scene from which could spring a story.  As for my two concerns, well the first was well founded, but the second was baseless.  In trying to avoid my “crutch” sentence structure, I ended up with some sentences with extraneous commas and sometimes awkward wording.  Those parts have been pointed out and I’ll get in and straighten them out.  The second of my concerns  was mostly in my head.  Both the other members of the group liked the clean and focussed writing.  One comment was that many fantasy books have overly descriptive and flowery language that bogs the reader down, but not mine.  So I still need to make sure I don’t get too focussed, but in general I think I’ve managed to keep a reasonable balance.

What else is good about the group?

The other good thing is that I get exposed to other, different types of writing that I normally wouldn’t read.  One of the members produced two micro fiction stories.  Each was about a page of strong, character driven writing.  The other was a couple of fragments that I thought were fiction, but turned out to be real stories from the author’s life.  The micro fiction was a great example of how to write strong characterisations in a dark voice and the other was an excellent example of how fact can be stranger than fiction.

And now?

And now I go over chapter two and incorporate the feedback into chapter one.  More immediately however, I am writing a short story.  I haven’t done that since high school.  We’ll see how that goes.  Maybe I’ll publish it here online.  Or if it’s really, realy good (probably not) I’ll sell it for anywhere up to $20!  Wow the quick path to riches.

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About sjohnhughes

Author, nerd, father, runner and more View all posts by sjohnhughes

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