Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Writers Groups

To join or not to join? That is the question!

Recently there was a passionate debate on the Black Horse Western writer’s forum concerning ‘How To Write’ books. Both sides of the fiery debate, for and against, were well represented.

I think that Writers Groups (or Circles as they are sometimes known) have a similar polarising effect.

Personnally, I knew that there was a local group called The Lanark Writers but I resisted joining for many years. I really didn’t understand what they did and therefore couldn’t consider what they had to offer – or indeed, what I had to offer them!

I’ve been a member now for over three years and for me, it’s been a great experience and one that I would heartily recommend – but I realise it’s not for everyone.

Of course, I have only ever been involved in one writing group and I would suspect that we are one of the more proactive and innovative but I don’t know. It would be good to hear about other peoples experiences.

I think if you were considering joining a writers group, you might wish to weigh up the following:


You’ve got to write something every week! No sitting around waiting for the muse to visit. I’ve been amazed how many times I’ve been asked to write about a subject that I have absolutely no knowledge or interest in and would never have written about it under my own steam and yet something half decent comes out of it.

It exposes you to other styles of writing, ideas, genres etc that you just would not discover on your own. I would never have written my first Black Horse Western if I had not been listening to a guest speaker relating his experiences with Robert Hale and I thought, “I’ll have a go at that!”

It helps you network. Authors, competitions, Arts Council, publishers, guest speakers and loads of other invaluable contacts.

As long as the criticism is constructive, it can really boost your confidence. Good ideas are reinforced and bad ideas are nipped in the bud before you go and churn out 50,000 words.

It’s a pleasant (and cheap) evening out sharing your enthusiasm with other equally enthusiastic writers.

You may end up writing to please the group. One of the great challenges of writing is to find your unique ‘voice’ which may not go down well with members of your particular group.

Harsh criticism can destroy the confidence of a budding writer. The key word is ‘constructive’ criticism.

You can find yourself distracted from your own writing goal. For example, if you are working on a novel and most of the group are into poetry you may feel frustrated.

Although I have never had this experience, a more experienced writer may dominate the group.

I wonder how many other Black Horse Writers are or were members of writing groups and what their experience was in terms of a help or a hindrance to their writing careers? Would be good to know!


  1. For what it's worth, I agree. Although I'm not a Black Horse Western writer (yet), to me joining a group has been very helpful with the feedback you receive on your writing, no matter the subject. And a funny coincidence in this article and my next post which plugs a writer's group, The Writer's Roundtable.

  2. I've been in several and found them all worthwhile. Writing is lonely work and it helps a lot to get regular feedback. I'm currently in two. We email chapters in advance and meet every other week (when possible).

  3. I agree, usually the experience will be positive. I've been chairman of the Torrevieja Writers' Circle for about 3 years. Listening to criticism of work guides not only that writer but the others as well. Talks help and provide that added jolt of enthusiasm. Nobody is forced to write on any subject, but we do have set themes to help any blocked moments. Several stories I originally wrote for the Circle theme subjects became short stories that sold.

  4. Hi Oscar

    Glad to hear you've had a positive experience. Let me know some information about your writers round table - I can put in some links etc

    Good luck with your BHW


  5. Hi Evan

    Good to hear from you.

    This is a great idea about circulating chapters in advance.

    In the Lanark Writers group we have what is called an Inhouse Magazine which is published every 4 or 6 weeks and is designed to showcase Work in Progress.

    This forms part of our evening every week where all contributions are given feedback and discussion. The work is read out if it is not too long and it means longer pieces can be read at leisure and considered.

    It really is all done in a very constructive and positive way and I think we all get a lot out of it.


  6. Hi Nik

    Thanks for posting.

    I've been amazed at some of the themes or topics that have been suggested at a writers group meeting that, initially seemed to offer no inspiration.

    But you think about it for a couple of days and because you do want to participate and produce something for the next meeting, your subconcious gets to work on it and within a few days you've got some ideas.

    I've produced quite a few pieces of work that came from topics that seemed uninspiring at first sight.

    Again, the beauty of a writers group is that it gently prods you to write every week and as we are always told - WRITER'S WRITE