Writing is solitary, but it doesn’t have to be!

group of friends hanging out

Granted, the pandemic makes going to your neighborhood coffee shop problematic, but you don’t have to create in a vacuum either. The internet has been a haven for writers for years. There are sites and groups all over that allow us to share our experiences. If there is a group for baby wearing dads who love yoga in public parks, there are surely groups for your particular writing niche.

Depending on your comfort level, you can either lurk in those groups, or really get out there. Sometimes it’s therapeutic to see that others struggle with the same issues. Personally, I like to commiserate when I see someone else dealing with the same thing I am. Or maybe I’ve moved on from that issue but remember well how it felt. Either way, it helps me relate.

For me, the best groups go beyond sharing common problems, or even the solutions we find for those dilemmas. Authors can share their work with each other. I lucked into a great critique group that has helped my craft more than any other single course or group. If you can find a safe place to have your work torn apart and rebuilt, I can’t encourage you to dive in enough.

Another bit of sage advice along the same line, Don’t pigeonhole yourself to your genre. Having people who write the same kind of stories is wonderful, but you’ll learn more reading and critiquing stories different from yours. I find it much easier to see things outside of Fantasy or Science Fiction than I ever expected.

My last point about the goodness of critique groups is not taking the criticism as a personal attack. I’ve been in groups that focus on grammar and mechanics, which you certainly need to master. More important though, are methods of craft and storytelling you won’t get from any other source. None of that should be aimed in such a way that you want to delete your words and stop writing. I came close to that more than once.

Writers can be cantankerous lot when it comes to others work. You either need tough skin to withstand peer reviews, or learn to let that criticism run off your back like the proverbial duck and water. No matter what, don’t let critiques beat you down. It takes time and practice to write well, no matter what your ninth grade English teacher told you. Keep at it. Your story is important, and no one else can tell it (or show it) with your unique voice.

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