Thursday’s Thoughts, Questions, and Comments About Writing



Hello and thank you to those of you who responded to last week’s little survey in regard to writing and critique groups. The survey consisted of four questions and I will go through them one at a time, sharing both the responses of those who left their answers in the comments last week, as well as my own personal experiences.

Q:  Are you part of a writer’s group or critique group?

A:  Mary shared that she is not part of either a writer’s group or a critique group. She also shared that she doesn’t have a lot of time to commit to a group regularly. Her available time would be sporadic.

Kayla also shared that she is not part of a specific writer’s group or critique group. However, she is part of a writer’s chat-type group.

I have been a part of a writing group for seven years. I also participated in a writing group for three or four years. I am also part of several writing groups, though not active in some of them. I have been a part of several different critique groups as well, but am currently part of only one small critique group.

Q:  Does your group meet in person or strictly online.

A:  This question didn’t apply to Mary, and it didn’t really apply to Kayla either, although Kayla did share that if she were part of a group, online would work best for her.

My current writer’s group and critique group are in person groups, although the writer’s group hasn’t met in person since Covid-19 began.

I have also been part of an international group that was online, except for an annual in person conference. I was a part of that group for three or four years, and it definitely benefitted me to some degree. I am also part of several online writing groups on Facebook, and I am part of the same online chat-type group as Kayla.

Q:  If you’re not part of a writer’s group, would you like to be?

A:  Mary said she thinks she’d like to be, and Kayla said she would like to be.

Q:  How do you benefit from participating in a writer’s group?

A:  Mary thought it would be helpful to find out if her writing is interesting to other people. She also shared that she knows she tends to be more “wordy” than current guidelines suggest, and she shared that she doesn’t always have a lot of confidence in her skills.

In my experience over the past seven years, I have found some writing groups and critique groups very helpful, and I have found that some writing groups and critique groups were not helpful. Some were even harmful.

How could a writing group or critique group be harmful? The groups that I attended that fall under this category, I visited just once and never went back because they were very unkind with their critiques of other writers’ works. They were quite critical and stated things in an unkind way instead of being kind, helpful, and offering constructive criticism. Had I attended any of these groups years before I did, I may have walked away thinking I couldn’t possibly be a writer and may have stopped writing. Thankfully, I had learned some things before attending such a group, and walked away feeling sorry for those in the group because I felt that they were missing out on something.

Another group that wasn’t helpful was a group of people who wrote “for themselves”. Although some of them said they would like to get published, they criticized “considering their audience” as they wrote, or following “any” rules at all in their writing.

I have found the Facebook groups very helpful in the past. However, since Facebook has become a catalyst for people to criticize one another, be unkind toward others, and go on and on about politics or Covid-19, I avoid Facebook for the most part. Not to mention, I have become quite busy with my writing endeavors, and I found it beneficial to cut down on the number of groups I participate in. I decided to narrow it down to the groups I find most beneficial and least time-consuming for me.

I also want to mention one type of critique group that I have not found as helpful as I would like, and that is a critique group that meets only once a month and doesn’t consist of the same people each month. This group also doesn’t share progressive pieces, like sharing your novel chapter by chapter, because it would take too long, since they only meet once a month. This caused some people to struggle with focusing on the piece being shared because it may not be the next one in order from the last one they read. They couldn’t seem to simply focus on the piece before them without wanting to know what happened “before”.

So, what kinds of writing and critique groups do I find helpful?

I am part of a writing group that meets once a month and has a speaker each month that teaches something about writing, publishing, or marketing. They also have an annual one-day conference where there are hour long seminars taught on writing, publishing, or marketing, and you can have one-on-one meetings with editors, published authors, or publishers, and, occasionally, maybe, an agent. I have found this group helpful and beneficial. I have made valuable connections and dear friends through this group.

I am also part of a writer’s group that I started with a small group of women that I was friends with, when I learned that they all had a strong interest in writing. We decided to have a very unique writing group, and it works very well for us. We meet, (or at least we did before Covid-19), once a week either at a coffee shop or one of the ladies’ homes. We spend two hours together brainstorming, asking each other for tips or advice, and just writing. We even had all nighters from time to time, where we stayed up all night on a Friday night engaging in these same activities. (Now, we’ve all gotten to a place where we can’t stay awake all night anymore, so we plan to implement the same thing as all-day.)

The critique group that I found that works best for me, and I’ve heard other writers speak highly of similar critique groups, consists of just me and two other ladies. We have been getting together, weekly for the first summer or year, then biweekly since, and we share our chapters to our novels, one after the other. I find this so helpful and effective because we really get to know each other’s writing style, voice, and goals, and this knowledge makes the feedback I get from these ladies incredibly helpful in my editing and revising process. This will seriously cut down on the cost of a professional edit before I publish.

With all of that said, I really only participate in the chat-type online group now because there’s no pressure to engage at specific times. We have members from different parts of the world, therefore we are not all in the same time zone. So the way this works, we enter the private meeting room and talk with whoever’s there when we are and we talk about writing, publishing, marketing, how to design a book cover, etc. In addition, we share things about ourselves and our lives. We encourage one another not just in our writing journeys, but in our life experiences without pressure or judgement.

So, as you can see, I regularly participate in three writer’s groups, each different from the others, and one critique group. The benefits I receive from these groups are: encouragement, support, ideas, advice on improving my writing, and interacting with people who are kind, who care about me, and who become friends.

Mary and Kayla, I hope you see this post and read it, and I hope others who would like to become part of a writer’s group, but don’t know how to find one or don’t have access to one in your own area, also read this. I am interested in helping writers like you to be able to participate in a group that would be valuable to you. I am trying to figure out how best to do that. Please keep reading my Thursday posts because as I work out the details, I hope to create a group for you, and when I know how it will all work, I will post here to explain it and offer it to you.

Writing may seem like a very solitary activity, but no one likes to be in something alone, and I have found many writers to be helpful, caring, and encouraging, and that is what I want to provide for those of you who are looking for that. That’s the purpose of these Thursday posts as well.

Thursday’s Thoughts, Questions, and Comments About Writing

Today, I’d like to ask you to participate in a brief survey in regard to writer’s groups.

Please put your answers to the following questions in the comments section below.

  1. Are you part of a writer’s group or critique group?
  2. Does your group meet in person or strictly online?
  3. If you’re not part of a writer’s group, would you like to be?
  4. How do you benefit from participating in a writer’s group?

Next week, I will post results of this survey, as well as my own opinions and experiences with writer’s groups.

Writers’ Retreat #2

On Saturday, we held our second writers’ retreat.  One of the ladies from our PA chapter of ACFW held it at her house, but it wasn’t strictly for ACFW members and we had a nice turn out.  There were nine of us this time.  If I’m not mistaken, that’s two more than last time.

I led another creative exercise in the morning to get our creative juices flowing.  Then we had a brainstorming session to talk about our current work in progress or any other writing project we thought we could use some brainstorming.  At first, I didn’t think I had anything I needed help with.  I don’t have any short projects in the works right now and I don’t seem to be struggling for blog posts either.  However, Lisa, the hostess, asked me questions that got me to thinking, and I decided to ask a question and share a scene from my current novel.  I’m glad I did because even though it was hard to hear something negative about the scene, it ended up being a big help, and the fact that we had a free writing session immediately following the brainstorming session gave me an immediate opportunity to rewrite the scene, making it much better.

After lunch, we had a lesson that Donna led about self editing.  I don’t mind saying I did not enjoy this lesson.  It was very difficult.  I know that self editing is important, and I also know why she had us do the lesson she had us do, but I still didn’t like it.  She had us choose a long paragraph from our current work in progress and count the words in it.  Then she gave us five minutes to cut that word count in half.  After that, she had us count the words again to see how we had done.  Then she gave us another five minutes to cut that number in half.  This exercise was an epic fail for me.  You see, I don’t have very many long paragraphs in my work in progress.  I struggle with including enough description to properly set my scenes, but am talented at writing good dialogue and action to keep the story moving.  Therefore, I am not an overly wordy writer so it was extremely difficult to cut a paragraph without removing important information.  I do understand the need to do this, though.  I watched a friend struggle through having to make a lot of cuts to her first novel according to her agent’s guidelines to attempt to find publishers who might be interested in publishing that novel for her.  She is extremely happy with the final results but she struggled and worked extremely hard to get there.

That is not to say that I am not willing to struggle and work hard to put out a really good final product, but I don’t think I will go about it the way that Donna had us do.  I know I will start by looking for all of the “over used” words.  You know, words we use over and over again because we tend to write like we talk or think.  I know I will have to change, cut and find synonyms to correct this problem.  I’m sure there will be other things I will have to cut as well, but I’m not really ready for that stage just yet and I need guidelines to be able to determine what really needs to be cut and what doesn’t.

How about you?  What have you experienced with self editing?

Winter Writers’ Retreat

Several months ago, I received an email from my writing friend, Lisa at Lisa’s Musings, talking about the possibility of having a Winter Writers’ Retreat.  She asked me for ideas and she shared her ideas with me.  Then we talked about what the schedule might look like and how we could keep it very low cost by simply having a simple lunch of sandwiches and salads and a dessert, with drinks and snacks available throughout the day, and the lunch would be all that each person would have to pay for.  Lisa also ran the idea by our friend, Donna at Donna L. H. Smith, who helped with some activity planning, getting the word out and registration.

So, this past Saturday, February 27th, seven (counting Lisa) of us got together at Lisa’s house for this retreat.  Donna asked us to introduce ourselves and share what type of writing we do and how long we’ve been married and how many children we have.  Then she opened with a devotion and prayer.

Lisa had asked me, during the planning, if I would be willing to lead an activity.  She gave me two choices and I chose the one I felt was the less daunting of the two.  🙂

Therefore, after the opening devotion and prayer, I led a creative writing exercise.  I was relieved when everyone found the exercise to be so much fun.

After the creative exercise, Lisa gave us two characterization exercises and two setting exercises and we spread out around the downstairs of Lisa’s beautiful home to spend some time writing, using at least one of these exercises.  I actually used a combination of one of the characterization and one of the setting exercises and I applied them to my current work in progress.  I think the creative writing exercise we started with helped to get my brain into writing mode.  (Of course that was the purpose.)

The next thing we did was break into two groups and we each shared about something we are currently struggling with in our work in progress, whether it was a plot problem, problem with a character or with the setting, or something else.  Then the others in the group helped to brainstorm to come up with ideas to work the problem out.

During lunch we had conversation about upcoming writers’ conferences, what we thought of the retreat up to that point, self-publishing and the possible challenges that would include, flash fiction and blog writing.

After lunch we had a critique group, where Lisa shared the critiquing process — a way to help and encourage the writer, not rip their work to shreds — to begin with a positive, then point out something that could use some work or fixing up with an idea or suggestion for that, and concluding with another positive.  These things need to be specific to be of any real help to the writer and the people doing the critiquing need to consider the Big Picture.

We ended with another prayer and an excerpt from a book that Lisa recommended for encouragement.

I cannot speak for any of the other ladies, but I found this day so very helpful.  I was able to leave there with a fresh excitement about writing, especially working on my work in progress.  I had been struggling with something before that and so the brainstorming for story problems was a huge help with that.  I also really enjoy being able to share with other writers because they understand me and I understand them.  We can help and encourage one another and that is so valuable.

Everyone left with a desire to do another retreat in the future.


This was the great group of ladies who attended, minus Donna, who took the photo.

I encourage all of you who write to find a group of writers you can spend time with talking, sharing, brainstorming, problem solving, and encouraging one another.  You may even want to consider starting your own small writers’ group or hold your own small simple retreat like the one we just had.  Writing is a solitary activity and can be stressful.  It’s good to step out of your writing closet and breathe some fresh air and spend time with others who understand your struggles and the way your mind works (you know, that you talk to your characters and stuff).

Have you been to a writers’ retreat?  Do you belong to a writers’ group?

Writers’ Club

This is a neat idea that two of my boys are participating in this school year.  A lady in our area had taught her children writing and had held Writers’ Clubs for them during their schooling years, and she enjoyed them so much and saw such growth and improvement in the students’ writing, that she has decided to continue to run Writers’ Clubs during the school year for homeschool students.

We meet once a month every month of the school year except December, and the students have an assignment for each month.  When we meet, they each take a turn reading their assignment aloud to the group.  It’s a great way for these young writers to hear what other writers are writing, how they are writing it and what voice they are writing it in.  The clubs are made up of children in all grade levels and some have been attending the writers’ club for several years and some are brand new this year (like my boys).  It helps those who struggle with writing to improve and to get ideas as they listen to other students share, and it’s fun for the ones who are good at writing to share as they continue to learn more about writing and continue to improve.

This is very much like the Writers’ Groups that are available to adults, except that in the Writers’ Groups, the other group members usually offer input on each person’s writing, hopefully in a kind, constructive criticism way.  The group I recently visited uses the “Oreo Cookie” method of input, which means the first thing is to say something positive about the piece, then offer your ideas of weak areas with suggestions for improvement, and wrap it up with another positive statement about the piece.  That’s a great way to help and encourage any writer.  After all, aren’t all of the rejection letters a writer receives, when trying to find a place to publish, hard enough blows to his/her confidence?

My First Writers’ Group Experience

Some time ago, I went searching online for writer’s groups in my area.  I found two, but only one that I really felt would be a good fit for me.  They meet once a month but take the summers off.  They had their seasonal ‘kick-off’ this morning.  They had a guest speaker, Dean Drawbaugh, who spoke about the “Nine Qualities that Generate Book Sales”.  He spoke for almost two hours.  It was very informative and interesting.  Mr. Drawbaugh is a writer, publisher and consultant.

It was definitely a step out of my comfort zone to go to the group this morning, as I am an introvert and am uncomfortable going into a group situation not knowing if anyone I know will be there.  It was a good-size group, between 30 and 35 people, some of whom drove for an hour or more to get there.  I didn’t notice anyone really reaching out to people they didn’t already know, but it is easier to get to know people and learn more about them in the small groups, so I’m sure that’s where I’ll get to know more of the people.  I did speak with the leader of the small group for a little while afterwards to gather a little more information about the group and the sharing process.

Mr. Drawbaugh also said something that I had posted here in the past about writing.  I had shared a while ago that I have been seeing a lot of stuff about writers writing for themselves and the fact that this seems to have become more important to some writers than determining their audience and writing for a specific audience.  I mentioned that unless you know who you are writing for and write to that audience, you probably won’t sell many books.  Mr. Drawbaugh said the same thing.  He said that if a writer wants to write for him or herself, that’s fine, if he/she only wants to sell one copy.  He stressed the importance of knowing who your audience is, writing to that audience, and then preparing to market to that audience.  That’s how you become a successful writer who sells lots of copies of your book.  So, the real question is, do you want to achieve a level of success that enables you to earn some money or do you just want to write for your own pleasure?  I know I want to achieve a level of success and earn some money.   Writing is hard work, and though I love it, I would really like to be paid to do it.

This particular writer’s group frequently has guest speakers.  Most months, though, they divide into small groups and whoever wants to can share a piece of writing for feedback from the others in the group.  There is a limit on the number of words your piece may have, to enable everyone who wants to share to have the time to do so.  Then there is the ‘oreo cookie’ rule that says that those giving feedback must start with something positive, followed by tips and advice on things that they think should be changed or that could be done better (this is also done in a kind, polite manner), and then end with another positive.

I think this is a great way to get and give feedback.  It gives the writer helpful advice and offers them another point of view or perspective that can be helpful without tearing them and/or their writing apart in a manner that is simply defeating.  This type of writer’s group is very helpful and encouraging.  I think I’m going to like this group.  I plan to continue attending.

It has inspired me to write more, and I look forward to seeing what I can come up with and, maybe, share at the next meeting.

Many people speak of a writer’s life as solitary and in many ways it is, but it is so important to have a network or group that you can be a part of to prevent yourself from giving up or becoming depressed.  It’s always good to know that you’re not the only one struggling with a scene or a character or whatever.

Are you a member of a writer’s group?  Can’t find one in your area?  Maybe you could start one.