A little while ago, Darlene Foster was my guest, writing about the benefits of writers critique groups. Here, Barbara G. Tarn shares a different perspective…
I loved my offline writers group, but writers groups are often useless. See for example this hilarious post on what a random writer might tell Jane Austen about her novel Pride and Prejudice. I have attended their meetings in Rome from September 2005 to May 2017, leave or take a month or three (and no summer meetings).
But especially in the last few years, I went there to speak English in a non-English-speaking country more than to get feedback on my writing. Because here’s what I learned.
1) You can’t write by committee
I’m stealing this from my writing guru, Dean Wesley Smith. He says that writers group are useless, since you get feedback from beginners like you. Sometimes even at a lower lever than you are. And if you listen to all their feedback, you’re screwed.
2) You still need some feedback
Since writers are the worst judges of their work, you need someone who is not you and can come to your story with fresh eyes. Some people call them First Readers, some beta-reader, Uncle Orson (in How to write science fiction and fantasy) Wise Reader.
What are they? To me, they’re readers who tell me where I was unclear, went too fast, where I forget setting and if there is a plot hole.
A writers group will nitpick on your word choice and sentence structure, and won’t tell you any of that. A good proofreader can take care of that grammar stuff, other writers are usually the worst feedback-givers of the world.
3) It is the nature of the beast
Writers groups can help, but unfortunately the writers are trained to study manuscripts and books in a different way, therefore their comments are probably how they would have written it, which is not what you need. You need to write your own story in the most effective way.
Also, especially if you write genre books, writers might not be your target audience. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to get those goggle-eyed looks from people who wonder how you came up with your great SFF idea.
4) Some writers are awesome anyway
Some of my beta-readers are also writers, but they don’t belong to my writers’ group. My offline beta does, but she’s gone back to the US in September, hence one more reason to stop attending the meetings.
5) You don’t really need a writers’ group
Get some confidence boost. Trust your process. You need beta-readers, not fellow writers. Unless you meet with writers to network and discuss business and craft,which is not the same thing as critiquing pieces.
Read like a reader, write like a writer, trust your first reader and/or your editor and let it go. Have fun!
Indie Author Barb since 2011 – for info on my books www.unicornproductionsbooks.com
My only non-fiction book is How to publish your book in English when you’re not a native speaker where I also mention writers groups. And everything else. I should probably update it, though!
About the author
Barbara G.Tarn had an intense life in the Middle Ages that stuck to her through the centuries. She prefers swords to guns, long gowns to mini-skirts, and even though she buried the warrior woman, she deplores the death of knights in shining chainmail. She likes to think her condo apartment is a medieval castle, unfortunately lacking a dungeon to throw noisy neighbors and naughty colleagues in. Also known as the Lady with the Unicorns, these days she prefers to add a touch of fantasy to all her stories, past and present – when she’s not wandering on her fantasy world of Silvery Earth or in her Star Minds futuristic universe. She’s a writer, sometimes artist, mostly a world-creator and story-teller. Two of her stories received an Honorable Mention at the Writers of the Future contest. She writes, draws, ignores her day job and blogs every other day.
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Books by Barbara G. Tarn
Barbara is a prolific writer, in both English and Italian, with far too many books to list, including her Silevery Earth and Star Minds series’ and many others. Full details of all her books can be found at Unicorn Productions Books.