As I mentioned last month, one of the best decisions I've made as a writer was to enroll in a class/critique group at a local studio in Waukesha. Here is how it works.
My AllWriters Workplace and Workshop class meets once a week, in my case on Monday nights from 7:00 - 9:00 PM. There's anywhere from 8-11 people in class and everyone brings up to 10 pages, (or 3 poems for poetry). Then, as your turn comes up you read your work. Copies are passed out to the students and they mark them up and critique after you are done reading. They tell you what they like, what didn't make sense and what they disliked. It is intended to be a positive feedback loop - no one is scorned or ridiculed - Lord knows writers do that enough to themselves.
I cannot undersell the importance of this group/process. It makes my writing better and helps me to encourage and critique other writers. It is the single thing I most emphasize to someone thinking about starting to write. Get in a group. No writer should be on an island.
But the group has done so much more for me than just help my writing. They encouraged me to submit my first work. When I had my first little poem accepted for publication I was ecstatic! How silly it seems now, but what that poem did was fuel my desire for publication. I started submitting more and more and, in large part because of the good editing I was getting from the group, I had decent luck getting work accepted routinely.
The group also holds three events called the Friday Night Free For All. At these events, students of the studio read from four different genres, Poetry, Memoir, Short Story and Novel. Because I have been chosen to do this on a number of occasions, it has helped my public speaking skills. We are encouraged to introduce ourselves and read a bit of our published work.
Writers as a general rule, tend to be introverted people. Reading in front of a group can be fairly daunting, but as writers, we need to know how to do it. If you write a book, someday, whether you want to or not, you will be required to read it in front of people, sometimes several times. And if you want to do it well, you have to look at it as performance in every sense of the word. As much as I'm not a crowd person, I went ahead and took advantage of every chance and got a little better each time I spoke.
So, good feedback, first time publication and presenting in front of a group are just a few of the things I've benefited from by being part of this writing group. Next month I'll touch on a few more things I've come away with.
Join me in March, won't you?