How to make the most of your local literature scene (even if you don’t live in London)

Beccy's blog for Writing East Midlands

I often felt in the past, and to be blunt sometimes still feel, that you just aren’t going to get the same creative opportunities outside London as you would in it. I don’t really believe this to be true, but when yet another cool event or festival you discover takes place in London, it can feel that way. My personal experience certainly doesn’t fit in with the London-centric idea: After having got over the shock that Aberystwyth had neither a Topshop nor a Sunday bus service, I began to be impressed by just how much it did offer its (term-time) population of 18000. It boasted 2 literary magazines, 2 cinemas (one art house and one mainstream), a copyright library, 3 university libraries, a municipal library, and more performance spaces than you could shake a stick at. Then I would come home to Derby from my holidays and hear about a new…

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The Value Of Writing Groups

C.K. Martin / Cas Martin

Writing groups can fall into a couple of categories.

Sometimes there are ones that are too large, which means in order for everyone to get a turn they can only read 500 words and get 2 minutes of feedback. Not exactly useful.

There are ones that are too friendly, where all feedback is positive and no one actually grows as a writer. It gives you the warm and fuzzies, but it’s no more beneficial than the one above.

writing group

Of course, the counter side to that is the writing group that is full of pretentious arseholes who think that scathing literary critiques are required because they’ve been sitting in that chair – usually going nowhere – for the past twenty years so they must be qualified to do so. This is my least favourite kind of writing group. It kills any joy you have in creating, undermines your self-confidence and when…

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Writing groups and other people’s opinions

Muse X-ing

In an earlier post, I discussed writing as a solitary craft as opposed to a social venture. Let us have a look at a few ways that writing can be used when others are involved.

I’d like to thank my readers for playing along with the 140 characters challenge. Some of the pitches were absolutely stunning! If you want to read even more great pitches, please visit Write Your Own Story. I was thrilled that she spread the word on her blog and got her readers to participate.
I think that one of the things I like most about blogging is exactly this kind of thing. Interacting, getting to know other writers (and readers), being able to share experiences and getting inspired. Blogs are a great way to share writing prompts and challenges. I’m getting increasingly glad that I finally caved in and made a blog.


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Are you asking the right questions? How to work more effectively with mentors etc.


Do you know how to ask the right questions when working with a mentor, editor, critique partner etc.? It seems like a simple enough question. Well at least I thought so until the last few weeks.

I have been working with a writing mentor for the last month or so and as a consequence of this I have been on a steep –sometimes painful- learning curve. However, it got off to a rocky start. Why? Because I didn’t know what questions to ask.

I have only had experience with a few editors, critique partners and mentors but what has enhanced all of these interactions has been my self-directed learning. It has been through buckling down and really sinking into some books on craft that I have been able to get the most out of my sessions.

Don’t get me wrong, all of the feedback I have had has been helpful…

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How to make the most of a writers group

Beach Girl Publishing

Do you belong to a local writers group? By local writers group, I mean a group that physically meets at least once a month, not something you find on Facebook.

If not, have you ever thought about joining one? Perhaps no writers group exists in your area. Have you thought about starting one?

Last winter, I was talking with another writer, whom I had met at a training for our regular jobs. She suggested we get together and talk about writing. She even knew of another writer.

This sounded like a great idea to me. I love talking about writing with others, especially when I can share what I have learned.

Before the three of us could get together, I discovered a writers group in my town. I couldn’t wait for the meeting.

What could this writers group do for me? What could I do for them?

Sharing ideas


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Conflicting advice

Fiction Craft

For most of my life, I’ve considered writing to be a solitary activity. When I began studying creative writing at university, I discovered the joys and frustrations of ‘critique groups’. Then my fellow-student Kathy George and I adopted each other as ‘writing buddies’. In the process of co-writing an article on writing partnerships for WQ, we interviewed fourteen other writers, who all told us they rely on fellow-writers for mutual support. Some people work one-on-one with a single trusted writing friend, others operate in groups of up to eight (though more commonly three to five).

One of the main ways writing buddies support each other is through providing feedback (sometimes called critique or constructive criticism) on work-in-progress. But here’s where it gets tricky. What if you don’t agree with your buddy’s feedback on your story?

Jenny writes a story and is very pleased with the climax, which she considers subtle…

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In Praise of Writing Groups

writing groups

Bookworm Rrriot

Julia Cameron says that artists love artists.  They find each other in classes, in workshops, online and even by snail mail.  In the old days (as well as in my active fantasy life) they found each other in cafes on the Left Bank or in bars in New York City– The Algonquin, anyone? I’ve found writers, and readers, in truly bizarre places, like trains and–eek– work.  But when it comes to finding your own kind, nothing beats a writing group.

My first writing group was Alison Hicks’ amazing Philadelphia Wordshop Studio, where I found confidence, inspiration and lifetime friends (and a husband but that’s a story for another post).  The Amherst Writers and Artists method that Alison uses creates a safe, supportive and creative environment like no other.

A one-week conference  led me to another group of novelists, poets and memoirists that meets something short of monthly in an amazing…

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Writing groups

Nikki Siegel

It’s the everyday support group – they cry on one other’s shoulders, they laugh together, and they occasionally brutally criticize each other.

Writing groups are the friends who push each other towards their fullest potential, whether that means giving encouragement or giving bluntly honest feedback, several authors said.

Jackie Lea Sommers, one author who has her own writing group, said she had been in a college program with an ample amount of feedback for her writing, but upon graduation, she lost that.

“It was like drinking from a fire hose to suddenly being parched with thirst,” Sommers said. “We took it upon ourselves to re-create the type of feedback-giving community that we had experienced in undergrad.”

Sommers said that eight years ago, she and a friend started their own writing group to get back what they had lost, but in the process, they gained much more than just feedback.


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Peggy Chambers "Views from the Hammock" site

fountain pen    I’m a member of several writing groups and I can’t say how much those people mean to me.  Not only are they great friends – we would do anything for each other, and have – but they are such great writers that they have made me a better writer.  I’ve learned so much from them.  I’ve learned to write better, to enhance my self-confidence, and often learned humility.

We gather to critique each other’s work, identify our mistakes, and hopefully lift each other up.  As a writer there are times when I look at my work and think what garbage.  I can’t do this anymore!  I know I’m not alone in these feelings.  I’m sure many great manuscripts were tossed in the fire when the author’s inability to see beyond their own failings made them throw in the towel.

My writers’ groups won’t let me throw in the…

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So, the question keeps coming up……

J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

…….about writing groups and do I belong to or attend one (or several). As it happens, I don’t. I’ve been to a few and enjoyed the experience, but within twenty minutes of the group starting, I’d zone out and find myself thinking about the project (or projects) I had going on at home that I really, REALLY wanted to be working on at that moment, instead of the exercises that were being handed out or giving my full attention to the work that was being critiqued. 

I also had a few negative experiences, where I felt attacked for a variety of reasons (an example: a fellow writer took exception to the term ‘drive-in’. He claimed to be confused by the use of it, feeling that it was for a restaurant, rather than a place for watching movies, even though I’d been clear on that particular point within two paragraphs). I…

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The Creative Writing PhD: Why Group Support Really Matters

Academic writing

100 days to the doctorate & beyond

red typewriter IMG_1049

Just as doctoral study is a mostly solitary activity, so too is writing. But that doesn’t mean you have to go solo. In fact, relying on the comfort of others is one of the things that stops you chucking the whole thing in, especially if you are doing a creative writing doctorate. Trust me on this.

An analogy I like to use is how doctoral study – and post doctoral life – is like motherhood. Desperately lonely in the early days. For someone used to the relentless pace of corporate life or the engagement and demands of academia, being on your own with a baby is a special kind of hell. The only way to survive is to reach out to others in the same boat. No new mother is an island.

Writing groups are like mother’s groups. Initially, it’s clinging to each other like no one else knows…

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3 things you need in a quality writers group

There are lots of things you need in a good writers group but there are three things I think you can’t do without.


Trust is probably one of the most fundamental things that needs to be developed for the group to really have a powerful impact on your work. For sure you can have a social group where you exchange goss, bits of information, general banter about where you are at with your writing. This is great and I love this part of groups. But the real value comes when there is an element of trust. This allows you to bring your work out for critical feedback and you can be confident these people want your writing to be the best it can be.


You actually do need some people in the group who know a bit about writing. But I think more important than those knowledge holders is positivism. People who see the strengths in your writing. You can’t build a house on shaky foundations. That means you also need to know your strengths and what to build on not just what needs work and fixing. Too often groups can give tough feedback too ‘help’ but unwittingly wipe out the fantastic elements of a writer just starting out. We need cheer leaders, people who are always pointing out what’s good about the work. Let’s face it most of us are pretty tough on our own work. Make sure there are those that excel at seeing the good and state it.

3. Grace

You need people who are happy to see others get ahead. That are gracious enough to support someone who ‘breaks’ to the next level before them. or those who are further ahead and facilitate those behind to break through themselves.


Of all the different characters that come together in writing groups if you can foster these qualities either by example or through agreement, you will build an environment that will help the group and its members flourish.



Traits of a Good Writing Group (And What a Good Group Isn’t)

Rather Than Writing

A good writing group can be a great asset to creating your best work, but a bad group can be worse than trying to work alone. How can you tell if you’ve found the right critique group? Here are some things to look for to make sure you’ve found a good group:

Members challenge each other

One of the main points of a writing group is to share your work and discuss how audiences might react to it. In a good group, members will be honest about their opinions of the work and challenge each other.

While a group that’s always positive might make you feel good about your writing abilities, it doesn’t help you improve your writing skills or your work. Look for a group where members are not afraid to critique honestly, but remember that you don’t have to make every change suggested. It’s your job to be open…

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