Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Writing Groups and Critique Partners by Diane Bator

One of the best things any author can do is join a writing group or find other writers to critique their work. I wouldn't be where I am today without the support of both a local writing group and an online critique group.

When I moved across Canada from Alberta to Ontario in January 2006, I didn't know anyone in town - or even in the province. A year later, I found the Headwaters Writers' Guild. As eclectic as any group of writers could be, we varied in ages from young parents to seventy year olds. From new writers to veterans of the publishing world. But we all shared one love:  the written word. We have all been published in some form or another and we have all celebrated each others' successes. As we've aged, we've learned and been their to support one another through life's trials and tribulations. They were the people who encouraged me to write and finish my first novel and heard each word before the manuscript was ever sent to an agent or publisher. Our numbers ebb and flow as members come and go, but a few of us have been a part of the core group for many years. This April, for example, will mark my ninth year with the HWG and I still attend meetings as much as I can and at every meeting, I write a new scene for a new novel.

In our writing group, we take turns as leaders and use our two hours ever second Sunday to read things we've written and gather feedback from the group. We also take 15 - 20 minutes each meeting to write using prompts the leader that week chose for the occasion. Writing prompts, even used alone for some quiet writing practice, are a great way to exercise a writer's skills at letting thoughts flow. Many of the best stories and novels that have emerged from our group have their basis in our prompts.

Shortly after joining the writing group, I joined an online critique group. Through one of the women in this new group, I was introduced to my agent who has believed in me from the start, then to Books We Love who published my first novels.

In the years since, I've gone on to work with other now-published writers as critique partners. Reading other author's works in progress is a great way to provide continuous learning and help to recognize patterns and habits in our own work - good and bad. It also provides for solid connections in the writing world which can help with any writing career.

My best advice for a budding writer of any age is to join a writing group for the moral and literary support they can offer. Don't be afraid to share your work or to get help when you're stuck. A good writing group will give you both if you keep an open mind.

Diane Bator