Years ago, I trembled at the thought of attending a writer’s meeting. I was shy, introverted, and a dedicated homebody. Actually, I still am all of those things, but the difference between now and then is that I eventually craved interaction with other writers and decided not to let my fear get the best of me; I wanted to grow and challenge myself.
Through blogging, I met a local author who told me about two writer’s meetings she’s a part of. I went to one to see what it was like but did not care for it. Months later, I finally went to the other meeting, at a different library and ran by different people, and enjoyed it immensely. They didn’t only focus on critiques (or force them on participants) but also did informative presentations. If there was time at the end, they did fun writing exercises. I continued to go whenever I could. Now, I am active in that group by doing presentation, another thing I never thought I’d do, but I did…and I am.
And you could, too!
The Benefits of Attending A Writers’ Meeting:
1. Meeting Local Writers
There comes a time when all writers need and even crave interaction with other writers. Writing is a solitary profession. We spend hours and hours, days and days, alone in our houses, in our offices, at our desks, writing away, but at some point, we need the support of other writers. Local writers we can build a friendship with can be a lifeline for us. Finding out exactly how many writers there are locally to us is eye-opening; we’re not alone, after all.
2. Critique Partners
Most writer’s meetings include critiques where members can provide a certain number of pages of a story or current work-in-progress for critique. This is often the only chance a writer has to have their work looked at by another writer who has a decent grasp of grammar and understands storytelling and to receive feedback that could improve their story.
Usually, participation is optional, but being a part of the critiques can help you thicken your skin in regards to getting comfortable with having people look at your work and listening to their critiques without getting defensive. And being the one to give a critique of another’s story will be a lesson for you on how to handle critiques, whether you’re the one giving it or receiving it. You’ll also strength your proofreading skills.
3. Ask Questions
Writers in all stages have questions about genres, plotting, story structure, grammar, publishing, marketing, and whatever else. At a meeting with other writers is your chance to ask your questions and get answers from people who may have experience on the subject, or at least have an opinion. You may get a variety of answers on a single question, or everyone may agree whole-heartedly. In the case of varying responses, weigh each one, listen to your gut, and do additional research if necessary.
4. Answer Questions
Perhaps you have knowledge on a certain subject that another writer is inquiring about. Now is your chance to help a fellow writer and pass on your information/experience. I got into blogging so I could share what I knew, because I believe passing on what we know to others is what we should do…and want to do.
Help out a beginning writer or struggling writer as you would’ve wanted someone to do for you.
Another popular part of many writer’s meetings are presentations devoted to writing subjects, including publishing and marketing. For a writer just starting out, who needs all the information he/she can get, these presentations are invaluable. For a more experienced writer who is struggling, presentations can give him/her fresh, new ideas and information that can be put into immediate action.
If you are knowledgeable about a specific subject, you can be a presenter. I have to say, from experience, that there is nothing more nerve wracking to do at a writer’s meeting than to do a presentation yourself, but also nothing more rewarding. You will be nervous, even terrified in the beginning, but your nerves will calm as you do your thing. Afterward, you’ll feel invigorated. I can guarantee this. And you’ll also be proud of yourself. Not only for doing something outside of your comfort zone but also for helping other writers who may not be able to get that anywhere else.
7. Laid-Back Chit-Chat
At the start and end of a meeting is the opportunity for easy chit-chat. You can find out what other members are working on and struggling with and tell them the same. Learning to open up and talk to other writers is great for introverts, which many (if not all) writers are. The more you do it, the easier it will be, so the next time someone asks you about what you’re working on, you won’t shy away from it (or at least not as much as you normally would).
When you get to know other writers, you are cultivating valuable friendships. Writers need writer friends who can understand them, and being friends with other writers can open up many doors for you, such as doing marketing efforts (book signings) together.
Also, you and your writer friends could plan a lunch, cocktail, or dinner out once a month to catch up and have fun, which is something all writers need…we need to get away from our stories and out of our houses every once in a while, and this “date” with your local writer friends can lift you up and have you excited to get back to work.
And where do you find these writers you can build these meaningful relationships with? You guessed it…at writer’s meetings.
How To Find A Local Writers’ Meeting:
Visit your local libraries, or send the director an email, and inquire if writers gather there for meetings.
Sign up for MeetUp.com and search for writers’ meetings in your area.
Do a search in Facebook Groups to see if writers’ groups have been created for your city or nearby cities.
Create your own. Put up fliers at your local library, add the meeting to MeetUp.com, and create a Facebook group for it. Share your groups info throughout your social media and be patient. Your group won’t be booming the next day, but even if there’s just one other writer a part of the group aside from you, that writer can be the most important person in your writing life.
Someone might say that they prefer online groups, but there is something special and personal about real-world meetings where you can interact with other writers face to face and get out of the house, which is extremely healthy. Even if you’re not sure you’d like writer’s meetings, I encourage you to try it out by attending one a few times to get used to it, and if you don’t like how one is done, check out another. I guarantee that you will benefit from it one way or another.
by Chrys Fey
Chrys is the author of the Disaster Crimes series (beginning with Hurricane Crimes) and Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication. Fey is an editor for Dancing Lemur Press and runs the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s Goodreads book club. Visit her blog and follow her on Facebook.