As an author, writing coach, and speaker, I have discovered that writing groups are one of the best ways to learn the craft of fiction.
Writing groups give solitary authors a chance to come out of their creative caves and get some feedback on their work. If you’d like me to speak to your writing group or your book group, send me an email using the contact form on this site.
For years I’ve had the pleasure of working with other writers. Mostly, this has been in writing groups. When I lived in Evanston, I participated in a largish group, The Glencoe Writers. We hired teachers from the Art Institute, Washington University, Purdue, and the University of Illinois to read and critique two manuscripts per week.
For a dozen years I was also a member of Fred Shafer’s novel and short story workshops. Fred, formerly an editor for the literary magazine TriQuarterly, met weekly with the short story writers and monthly with the novelists. Fred taught for an hour or so, and the other two hours were devoted to close study of student manuscripts.
One of the unique aspects of these workshops was the opportunity to learn from living writers. Every year Fred chose a writer for us to study. We then read all of that writer’s works, from the very beginning to the most recent. During the year, Fred extracted craft lessons from that writer’s books. He compared our writing to the work of the famous writer. The comparisons were not always favorable. In fact, almost never. But, gradually, we learned.
Ten years ago I moved to Phoenix. The Valley of the Sun has its own, vibrant writing communities, but we Phoenicians live miles apart. Meetup.com is a terrific place to quickly find writers, if you’re of a mind to do so.
Because I liked the encouragement and focus a group provided, I formed one. Here’s an article about a group I began.
I’ve been in other groups over the years, most recently as a member of a Stanford program. Nowadays, the fellow members of a group are called “beta readers.” They’ll tell you what’s working and where they stumbled. Without feedback, a writer simply cannot self-correct for inconsistencies. By reading drafts of works-in-progress, we learn.
One of the things I absolutely love about writing is there is no end to the learning curve. I am an inveterate student and always eager to pick up a suggestion that might make it easier to write or revise my stories.
Lately, I’ve realized that I’m in a good position to share some of the knowledge I’ve accumulated over many years. I could and have taught as an adjunct, and I’ve always been astonished at the pathetically low pay. Rather than go that route, I’m sharing the information on this blog that I would have shared with a group of ten or twelve aspiring writers.
I hope you’ll enjoy my posts and that you’ll leave comments or questions about topics you’d like me to cover. My primary goal is to help you write the best book you can write.