Writing Advice: How Fellow Writers Can Help You Get Published


An interesting article and insight into how writing groups and feedback from other writers can help you get published (or at least help you improve your work!).


Like the great cats, or giant pandas we labor alone at our craft, at least most of the time. Oh, we may venture out occasionally to find a mate as do the majestic beasts, but we have no colleagues with whom to shmooze, to bounce off ideas, or to complain about the frustrations of publishing.

I sometimes wonder why this is so. At first the answer seems obvious. Writing is the product of our own unique brains. It contains our ideas, or creations and our take on the world. Mixing in someone else’s views may distort our intent or our meaning.

But wait! Aren’t we all the sum of influences all around us? From our earliest days, we are surrounded by people and experiences that leave a mark on our brain, however unconscious.

Later in life we read books, listen to others, see films and watch television (gasp!). These also imprint their mark on our thinking, want to, or not. So if we can come to terms with the idea that nothing that appears on our blank pages is totally pure of influences, why not make a conscious effort to acquire positive influence on our writing?

Many writers, in fact, do participate in various sorts of writing groups, though I’ve heard that some big name authors discourage it. I have also heard nightmare stories about some writers groups: members insulted for the quality of their writing to the point of quitting writing altogether, members shirking their responsibilities to provide serious, high quality critiques to peers and sometimes general time wasting in idle chit chat. As unfortunate as such cases may be, I’d attribute it to human nature, not to the personalities of authors in general.

If we are willing to open ourselves up to the thinking of others and have the inner resources to analyze and not glom on to their words, writers groups can be helpful, especially for those in the early years of their writing careers. I will share some of my experience in the hope at least some of you may benefit.

I participated in an outstanding online course on memoir writing at Gotham Writers Workshops. I enrolled with a great deal of trepidation being a bit wary of Internet relationships. But I had been so satisfied with my in-person instruction at Gotham that I took the risk. To my great surprise I found the online class superior. It took me a while to figure out why, then it hit me. Both the instructor and participants had to write down their critiques and comments. When we write something, especially something a number of others will read, we tend to give it more thought, more attention; after all our professional persona is at stake.

Consequently, I found the comments in the on-line course of much higher quality than those casually tossed out during an in-person class. What a delightful surprise!

At the end of the course I could easily assess whose comments were most incisive, well written and offered with tact and sensitivity. I decided to ask those few participants if they wished to continue after the end of the course in the system we used in class. They all agreed readily.

Each spoke of how helpful it was to hear an outside opinion on how their words were being heard and interpreted by others. So, we set up our goals to critique a certain amount of words per week or month; decided on the rotation and added a new twist. We would each select a reading of something outside our own writing, a piece we thought especially well written, or interesting and we would discuss it on a particular schedule agreed to by all. The intent here was to get a bit outside our comfort zone.

Five of us continued to exchange comments for six or seven years. We became online friends, getting to know each other’s families and life stories. All of this was particularly helpful as we were critiquing memoirs. We were scattered throughout the United States and for many years never met one another, yet we relied on these members for their steadfast support. Eventually we accepted a new member who came highly recommended by one of us.

The adjustment and shifting of schedules took some time, but we stuck together though thick and thin. When any of us suffered a personal problem, a broken leg, or a serious family illness, trays of food and bouquets of flowers made their way to homes we had never seen. But we celebrated happy occasions too: children’s graduations, awards and publication of our works. We exchanged suggestions on where to submit our work and held our friends’ virtual hands when the inevitable rejections arrived.

One of the side benefits, but one that proved enormously helpful, was that we had male members whose perspective was somewhat different and they saw things we may not have noticed with our female eyes. We did the same for them. I do not believe that such mixed-sex writing groups are very common.

Eventually, for me, a point came when the time it took to comment with depth and insight into the writing of others impinged too much on my own writing time. I began to feel resentful that I had to put my work aside right when I felt in the groove and felt reluctant to switch gears into someone else’s story. That was the time to say goodbye to my writing buddies with regret, but with a feeling each of them too, could eventually feel they could take off the set off training wheels.

I am grateful to each of them. My book may not have found a publisher without their wise advice. One of my fondest memories is the warm speech one of our male members made at the launch of my book in New York City. Now I look forward to the day I will raise a glass of champagne at his launch.


Article By Annette Libeskind Berkovits

See the original here: http://booksbywomen.org/writing-advice-how-fellow-writers-can-help-you-get-published/

5 Benefits of Workshopping Your Writing


Writing is something that I do for myself. It gives me the opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy a guilt-free cup of tea. However since deciding to take my writing to the next level, I have realised that sometimes you need to break out of that cosy comfort zone, in order to be a little more productive.

This new inspiration came in the form of participating in my first writing workshop. And let me just say, it will not be my last! Although sharing your work with fellow writers is a very confronting experience, it is something that makes you a braver and better writer. I had never been exposed to so many talented and unique minds, all with something brilliant to contribute. Listening and learning from them has definitely reinvigorated my writing, and has motivated me to share some of the benefits with you:

1. Learning to appreciate constructive criticism

More often than not sharing your work can be a daunting experience. Especially in the context where criticism is always guaranteed. Therefore, we tend to gravitate toward our closest family and friends for feedback, knowing that their encouragement will come from a place of love. The problem with this is that your writing may never be challenged, and without being challenged, you may never know your full potential.

2. Helping others improve their work

Participating in writing workshops doesn’t only involve accepting feedback, it also involves giving it. This is great, because it gives you a reason to expand your horizons, and gain exposure to different types of literature. Pushing your boundaries will not only help you to develop a critical eye when giving feedback, it will also give you the opportunity to learn new techniques to implement into your own work.

3. Meeting others who share your passion

Creative writing workshops exist both online and offline. Both mediums offer positives, however the most important thing to consider is that being part of any workshop gives you the chance to be part of a community. Writing is often something we do in solitude, often believing a quiet environment and sense of calm will inspire our words onto paper. However, you would be surprised, just how accurate the expression ‘two heads are better than one,’ really is.

4. Discovering your strengths

Whether creative writing is your true calling or just a hobby, gaining some outside perspective is definitely beneficial. Learning where your strengths lay will give your work direction, as well as giving you some well-deserved encouragement. Refining your strengths will not only improve your writing, but will also make your weaknesses easier to accept. Let’s face it, no one’s perfect!

5. Keeping you motivated

Sometimes writing can be as simple breathing. Other times, you may struggle to write even a sentence. It’s very easy to lose motivation when the words just won’t flow, and minutes of rest become hours, days or even weeks. But trust me, just like exercising, without continual training it just gets harder. Having a group of people to keep you accountable, will definitely give you the motivation you need to keep going. Knowing that you will be expected to share your work will ensure you put in your best effort. Workshopping your writing will keep you on your toes, and will help you to develop better writing habits to improve your skills all round.

So there you have it. If you’re not sure about your writing capabilities, are stuck in a bit of slump, need some motivation, or just want to meet people who share your passion, then workshopping your writing is definitely for you. Sharing ideas, insights and feedback is a surefire way to improve your work and will certainly help you to learn and grow as writer and as an individual.

Workshopping gives you the opportunity to share your love of writing, as well as new ideas, insights and conversation with people who are genuinely interested in your passion. Being able to bounce thoughts off like-minded people is truly invaluable. Workshops provide the perfect space for sharing passing thoughts, which can grow into fully encapsulated ideas with the help of fellow writers. Furthermore, they also offer you the chance to break out of your comfort zone, meet new people and potentially make lifelong friends.

Via http://writersedit.com/5-benefits-workshopping-writing