Posts tagged ‘writer’s groups’

January 19th, 2012

Guest Post: In Praise of Writers’ Groups by Charlie Heathcote

by Madeleine Rex

Imagine yourself sitting in a room with six large tables wedged together, surrounded by chairs. You’re huddled up, your face hidden by as much as your collar as humanly possible without dying from asphyxiation. Your sleeves are pulled down over your hands and you’re twiddling your thumbs through the fabric. Your legs are crossed because you don’t want to take up too much room.

On the table in front of you, you’ve crafted yourself a small square, upon which sits your notebook, a plastic wallet of the first few chapters of that novel, and an assortment of pens and pencils because you don’t want to seem ill-prepared. Your eyes dart back and forth across and around the table as you take in the other folk around you, all with their piles. You can tell who the more writerly writers are because they take up as much room as they possibly can, with their words written in a large font on thick paper that you can’t help but be in awe of.

Yes, you’re at a writers’ group; one of the places writers go to realise that they’re not the only writers in the world. And that first meeting is always the worst. At least, it was for me. I suppose I better give some backstory here. I’m Charlie and I’m a writer, or, to be more specific, I write urban fantasy set in my home town; a boring, non-descript place that I actually quite like. However, as this was the first writer’s group I was attending, I worried that there wouldn’t be that many fantasy writers.

There is a big stigma against fantasy writers, and I thought that the other writers there would be writing mainstream fiction with big ideas and a narratorial voice that bounced off the page like soup off a spoon. (Does soup bounce? … It does now.)

I’ve always wanted to attend a writers’ group. Ever since I found out they existed I’ve wanted to share my experiences with other writers and not feel so much of a failure. I suppose I filled the gap a bit by going to university to study Creative Writing, but there’s a different feel to a writers’ group.

Some writers’ groups are for writers who have been writing for years, others are for those who just want to see what it’s like, and others have a kind of catharsis for the writer. All right, so you could say that they all fulfill this purpose: They don’t throw people out for being illiterate – they’re prepared to hear what anyone has to say as long as it’s not offensive. Writers’ groups are there for writers to talk about writing.

Writers’ groups are for poets, prosers, script-writers and lyricists. We even accept non-fiction writers. There’s so much you can learn from one another. One of the questions we’re often asked about our writing is, ‘Is it true?’ And lately, I’ve begun to wonder whether it means ‘is the work autobiographical’ or ‘is it true to the writer’. As writers, we all share our own truths, we have recurring themes and motifs because things run around in our head. Look at the Harry Potter Series, it constantly deals with the idea of deceptive appearances.

You may think I’ve gone off on a tangent, but I do have a point. Writers’ groups help us discover what our truth is. I’ve never looked at my work the way other writers see my work. I’ve never noticed my truths, but the group realises my strengths and weaknesses and helps me to progress as a writer.

We discuss our writing habits, and how we go about the writing process. We realise that we’re not alone as writers, and I think that as writers this is one of the best things we need.

So this is something of a short post, but it’s all I have. Writers’ groups will help you as a writer, and they’ll also give you a enough time to read your work.

Until next time, that is all.

Thanks to Charlie Heathcote, my friend from Various Altitudes. Charlie is a great and enthusiastic writer. You can find him on his blog and Twitter.

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