One of the things every writer needs is an audience. Many writers have a small group of friends or family with whom they share their raw material, but not many have a circle of peers with whom they share their work in hopes of improving it. One of the things that has served both famous and undiscovered writers is forming a circle of fellow writers who will encourage and critique professionally. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams met regularly for this purpose. David Bratman has put up an excellent article about this at http://www.mythsoc.org/inklings.html . Here are some guidelines for setting up your own writers group.
- Pick a time convenient to all.
- Pick a place that is quiet and at least relatively private. Do not burden an innkeeper by taking up one of his tables unless you are buying food and beverage, and even then ask his permission.
- Keep the group small; more than five can become cumbersome.
- Everyone should bring something to each meeting. This is good for disciplining one's self to write.
- After each person reads, the others should give feedback and ask questions.
- All feedback should be honest.
- All feedback should be kind.
- Never put down another writer's work.
- If a submission is genuinely bad, show the writer in a way that builds up and helps him improve his skill.
- Ask questions that naturally occur as you listen but not until the writer is finished. These questions can reveal flaws that the writer does not see.
- Tell the writer what is good and stress why you like it.
- Have fun.
- Celebrate grandly when one of your group has a success.
There are many other things that can be done to enhance a group of writers. Forging a band of friends who encourage and support each other as you swim upstream toward publication can be very rewarding. If you have specific questions about this, feel free to ask. If you have a group or form one, feel free to tell me about it.
Wishing you joy in the journey,