How do you like to write?

Everyone has a preferred method when it comes to writing. Some like to write alone with no noise and distractions. Some need a glass/bottle of wine and some music in the background. Some can write wherever they are. No matter what it takes to forge your special creative environment, consider a writing group. Create your own with some friends or maybe there is one local you can join. The benefits are worth it.

The writing group of which I am part started in 2006 at the suggestion of my old friend, Kevin Pajak. A few of us gathered at my place, set up our laptops and started writing. One immediate benefit of working with a group was the work itself. Having only written a few things back in middle and high school, I had not produced anything since then, other than ideas. I had plenty of those. Coming together and setting aside time to write made it possible to start bringing those ideas out of my head. I would describe it best as going to the gym with one or more friends–it forces you to do it.

The other benefit of working with a group is immediate feedback. Having a problem with word choice or a sentence? Stop and ask. Everyone has an opinion, and they can help you figure out what is going on from another person’s perspective. Likewise with editing. You have a group of people who can help you edit your work, because no matter how many times you read it, you will miss something. Plus, reading other peoples works helps you develop your own craft. We pass around our work and make comments.

Comments can be tricky, depending on the writer. I prefer to think of them as suggestions. Even if I completely disagree with what the person suggests as a fix, I’ll regard it as a reader finding something amiss with that sentence or paragraph. I’ll take the suggestion in context, put it in my voice, and devise a solution that I’m good with. The same applies to word choice, which I will usually agree with and apply as suggested. There are also those rare occasions where I refuse the suggestion, but when you do that, you need to be ready to defend that, which may inspire you to go back and fix the problem elsewhere in the story.

One final observation about working with a group: keep your new ideas to yourself. Not that someone might pilfer it–which could still happen–but mainly to prevent the others from building up an expectation of what’s to come. We had that problem early on as we worked on our short story anthology. Someone has a new idea, we bounced ideas around before putting fingers to keyboard. Once you start to write, the organic nature of writing makes it come out different from the original concept. By keeping it to yourself until it is ready for review, it’s always fresh, and that can help reduce some of the unnecessary commentary from your jilted readers.

Do you have a writing group? What benefits have you found that I have left off?

Back to work.