Writing a book or becoming a better writer doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavor. Through group writing sessions, you can both improve your writing and write more productively with the guidance and support of other writers. Depending on the group, these sessions might take place in your local area or online in a virtual setting, like Dudley Court Press’s own Writers’ Sprint.
If you haven’t participated in any group writing sessions before, or if you haven’t been to one in a while, then I applaud you for getting started and taking your writing more seriously. And to help you get the most out of the experience and take your writing to the next level, I encourage you to keep the following tips in mind. They might just be the encouragement you need to write your book this year.
#1. Show Up
You’ve found the group. You’ve set aside the time. Now it’s time to show up, and not just once. To get the most out of your group writing sessions, you should be there—ready to work—for every single session. Don’t shortchange the magic of the process and quit now.
If you invest the time into becoming a better writer, I guarantee that you’ll soon be amazed at all the progress you’ve made and all the words that you’ve committed to the page. And before you know it, you’ll have a finished book in your hands and be a published writer.
Listening allows you to discover the wisdom of others; yet, it’s a skill that as adults we seem to practice less and less of. When was the last time you truly listened to the others around you?
In your group writing sessions, you will invariably hear many voices and much of what they say may be new to you. However, try to really listen—really hear what they have to say.
Give due consideration to new people and new ideas. Pay attention to words of praise as well as to those bearing constructive criticism; after all, they are two sides of the same coin that has been designed to help you become a better writer.
Listen to the leaders of your group writing sessions. Listen to the other writers who attend. You’ll never know in advance what form great wisdom will take. And last but not least, listen to what your own voice has to say. That voice, after all, is what will allow you to write—and to continue writing.
Listening is beneficial for your writing and greatly appreciated by others in your group, but you can’t stop there. To get the most out of your group writing sessions and become a better writer, you also need to contribute and participate in as many sessions as possible.
Whether your group members are reading passages out loud, writing new material or commenting on others’ work, it’s hard work. It’s vulnerable. It’s brave. Don’t leave them all alone to do the heavy lifting. After all, the best group writing sessions are about give and take.
For example, some groups encourage everyone to write something each week and read an excerpt from it at each session. This can be followed by a group discussion and offering some feedback and ideas for the writer. You may not have something new to read each week and once in a while that’s fine. But if you’re regularly not contributing to the group, that can quickly become a problem.
Instead, you might try reading something that you wrote a while back—unless this goes against the group’s instructions, there’s no harm in it. Or you could try reading the next chunk of a piece that you had read to the group before. In addition, you could try to set aside some more time each week to devote to your writing or ask the leaders of your group writing sessions for some assistance. They should be glad to help you participate more.
#4. Be Kind and Constructive
Like most people, writers love to hear others sing their praises and say what they’ve done well. But many dread criticism of their actions and of their work. Of course, criticism that is unfair or overly harsh can be crippling and discouraging, and has no place in a group whose stated goal is the betterment of its members. But gentle, constructive criticism that has as its aim to help a writer improve can be just what a fellow writer needs to hear. Constructive criticism can help us all grow as writers and as people. That’s why, done right, a little constructive kindness can go a long way.
Practice giving constructive criticism in your group sessions. For example, you might try a classic “sandwich:” one item of praise and one item of constructive criticism followed by a final item of praise.
Be honest in your feedback, but be mindful as well. Think about how you would want to receive constructive criticism to learn and grow as a writer.
Dudley Court Press
Dudley Court Press works with writers like you every day. As a full-service, hybrid publishing house, we help thoughtful people write their books and become successful published authors.
For more information, including about DCP’s programs for writers including Writers’ Sprint, Memoir Writing Made Easy, and Aspiring Author to Published Pro, please get in touch at info@DudleyCourtPress.com.