On The Importance of Writing Groups

Auntie M belongs to a unique writing group. What author doesn’t want to improve his or her writing skills? Mine meets in person yearly, but we are in contact all year long on email. It’s an unusual concept, but one that works for us because we are all novelists, and when we meet, we workshop our entire novels. We rotate to each other’s homes each year across the country, so we’ve visited each other’s homes and explored different areas.

Our week together is thrilling beyond belief, but filled with hard work as we go through each other’s manuscripts page by page, after having received them the month before for our first reading. Picture four female writers sitting around a table, a tin of chocolate chip cookies in the center to sustain them, various beverages at hand, pens and pencils, and those stacks of manuscript pages. It’s daunting and exhilarating at once.

We learn what’s worked for the others in our first drafts—and what hasn’t. We learn what needs to be expanded and what needs to be trimmed. We learn what thoughts we’ve kept locked inside our brains that never made it to the page. Most of all, we gather ideas for filling out the plot and adding texture to create a fully realized book and a satisfying read. This is the goal of any writing group, and it can come to you if you join a local group.

Auntie M writes crime novels but some of the others don’t. We have not found this to be an obstacle. Good writing and a good story keep our interest. Our hallmark is that the author is owner of her work, and the critique process represents suggestions. If one other person finds fault with a passage, I take that under advisement. But if three other writers tell me my pacing is slow in the same spot, you’d better believe I’m going to revise that scene.

But this process we’ve derived is not for most writers. What’s far more reasonable is for writers in any genre to belong to a writing group that meets monthly or bi-monthly. One group I’m aware of that I can highly recommend is the Pamlico Writers Group. Meeting bi-monthly for general critique sessions in the historic Turnage Theatre in downtown Washington, NC, it’s one of the oldest writing groups in North Carolina.

The group sponsors workshops and meet-the-author luncheons, where writers have the opportunity to pick the brains of published authors in a casual setting. The workshops offer variations on different aspects writers need on craft, publishing, techniques and other skill sets.

For several years now Auntie M has been teaching writing workshops at the PWG’s yearly conference that draws writers and readers from all over the state and bordering areas. I’ve been on panel discussions and met budding authors, published big names, publishers, agents, and all manner of readers and fans. As part of this yearly conference, the PWG sponsors a writing competition, handing out prizes in several genres, with a category for high school writers. 2018’s conference will be held March 23rd and 24th, so do plan to keep those dates open and check their website for registration opening.

If you’re any level of writer who longs to be a part of an enthusiastic and diverse writing community, learn about the PWG and contact them through their website: http://www.pamlicowritersgroup.wildaprocot.org, or email Sherri Hollister (pwgcritique.group@gmail.com) or Louis Edwards (pwgwashingtonnc@gmail.com) with questions or for more information. And do check out their anthology contest, which opened July 15th~