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Nurturing a Writers’ Group

November 24, 2012 | By | 8 Replies More

Indian writer and professor Anubha Yadav enjoying a beautiful day at an outdoor cafe.

Writers are fragile. When rejection slips pile up one yearns for reassurance.

A decade back I would feel delighted if someone from my family or a close friend volunteered to read my work. But, often after reading they would feel obliged to make some positive remarks or critical comments. These casual reactions are just that: casual.

A serious writer needs to nurture a group for critique in an ordered and organized way: three to four people who are ready to engage with your work, and choose to invest in your writing career voluntarily over time.

I think finding this group is one of the most crucial aspects of a professional writer’s career. A quick search on the internet can lead anyone to various kinds of writing groups today- organized by geographical area or genres. It is indeed an easy and efficient way to find other writers for feedback. But I have realized it is not the most dependable feedback.

Writing groups that have worked for me have been small, a few members only, who over time become familiar with each other’s writing. In my opinion writing groups with many members usually end up providing only ‘general’ feedback. You also run into two problems:

1) The same writer may not return to read your rewrite or your next short story, and thereby you don’t get consistent engagement with your work.

2) Writers are at different stages of their writing careers, so the needed feedback and the feedback given vary greatly from person to person.

I believe that writers should try and nurture a small alternate writing feedback group, with three other members.

So how does one decide on the three people? I keep the following in mind. Writers meet fellow writers, publishing professionals, journalists, and people in the literary industry all the time. Developing relationships from these meetings over time is the key.

A healthy quid-pro-quo can sustain most of these relationships. For example, if you want to nurture a relationship with a senior writer, then perhaps you can offer something in return – be it a publicity event in your work place/a book review in a small newspaper where you know the editor, or an interview on your blog about the latest novel he/she has finished. I engage with a similarly chosen small group of people.

Here are some characteristics that I look for in fellow writers for my writer’s group:

1) Someone who is deeply interested in literature. Be it an academic who teaches the subject or the language you write in.

2) Writers, preferably someone who writes and reads the genre or form you write. A person who reads a genre or writes it will be well-versed with the contemporary trends and historical traditions of it. This is especially relevant if you prefer writing genre novels instead of literary fiction.

3) A contemporary fellow writer who is struggling with similar issues in his/her writing with an overlapping genre interest.

4) A publishing professional who is constantly reading fresh contemporary fiction emerging in the market.

Anubha Yadav, a writer from New Dehli India

When I send my work to them I make sure I do the following:

a) Choose a readable font– easy on the eyes, in easy-to-open Word files.

b) Clearly label what version your draft is.

c) If I want feedback on a single aspect only- specify that clearly in the body of your note – so they focus on that aspect for sure.

d) If you know a group member’s strong point is style or structure then you can also make a special note to them for feedback on that dimension.

Most people I interact with prefer  email. Check with them what frequency is acceptable. For myself, I ask permission to ask for feedback about once a week. You may find some say an enthusiastic ‘yes’ without knowing what it involves – the investment a writer is hoping for, in terms of time, over time. So, it is nice to attach a small note the first time about your expectations and check in with them.

Remember not to pester your readers if they don’t seem interested- nurturing writers by providing regular feedback is not everyone’s cup of tea!  If you don’t get feedback in time from a member, look to cultivate someone else as part of your writer’s feedback group – so you don’t end up waiting for Godot.

Anubha Yadav is an assistant professor at Kamala Nehru College at the University of Delhi in New Delhi,
India.

Follow Anubha Yadav on Twitter @anubhay1
Visit Anubha’s Facebook Page and her Post Modern Pigeon Holes blog.

 

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Category: Being a Writer, Contemporary Women Writers, Indian Women Writers

Comments (8)

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  1. I found this informative piece and advice to be quite timely. I am in the process of finishing up my second manuscript which is a compilation of letters I wrote while training for a marathon I completed two years ago. I always found writing and walking to be my escape from a troubled childhood. A friend of mine recommended that I dedicate each of my miles to someone who has touched my life in order to get through the big day, embarking on one’s first if not last, marathon. It was very easy for me to come up with 26 people and a point 2! I had a friend walk the marathon with me and at each mile marker, I talked to her about the person in my life whom I had dedicated that mile to. I say all this to tie into Anubha’s article here, that I never gave any thought to letting an intimate group of friends read my piece as part of a writing group. But, before I select a solid group, comprised of maybe an editor, senior writer, published author, etc, I think a pre writer’s group would help me if I just had a few of my closest friends, read some of the selected chapter letters I have written and give me feedback on how the letters resonate with them. I would be careful to stagger the letters so that the reader does not review a letter that I wrote for them, but am confident that they would be able to give me the input I need to move ahead with confidence. I feel that Anubha’s suggestions are just what I needed at this point because I never knew what the next step should be prior to professional editing. I was simply going to give each friend or family member their letter and see what they thought. But the idea of a pre group, and then a writing group, well, it has removed a hurdle that I was concerned about. I happen to already know an author who has published books on my topic in memoir form, and she held my hand in the process of getting my first manuscript published. Now with some experience under my belt, a writer’s group will be helpful in structuring the next piece as it is larger, deeper, and the book that I have been writing in my head for years! Thank you so much!

  2. I found this informative piece and advice to be quite timely. I am in the process of finishing up my second manuscript which is a compilation of letters I wrote while training for a marathon I completed two years ago. I always found writing and walking to be my escape from a troubled childhood. A friend of mine recommended that I dedicate each of my miles to someone who has touched my life in order to get through the big day, embarking on one’s first if not last, marathon. It was very easy for me to come up with 26 people and a point 2! I had a friend walk the marathon with me and at each mile marker, I talked to her about the person in my life whom I had dedicated that mile to. I say all this to tie into Anubha’s article here, that I never gave any thought to letting an intimate group of friends read my piece as part of a writing group. But, before I select a solid group, comprised of maybe an editor, senior writer, published author, etc, I think a pre writer’s group would help me if I just had a few of my closest friends, read some of the selected chapter letters I have written and give me feedback on how the letters resonate with them. I would be careful to stagger the letters so that the reader does not review a letter that I wrote for them, but am confident that they would be able to give me the input I need to move ahead with confidence. I feel that Anubha’s suggestions are just what I needed at this point because I never knew what the next step should be prior to professional editing. I was simply going to give each friend or family member their letter and see what they thought. But the idea of a pre group, and then a writing group, well, it has removed a hurdle that I was concerned about. Thank you so much !

    • Anubha Yadav says:

      Dear Melisande,

      I am very touched by your comment. Thank you for finding time to write this in. I also found your friends idea to dedicate a mile to a friend very creative and relevant.I am glad the piece found you in time.
      Happy editing and writing with your group.
      Best
      Anubha

    • Luckily, I already know a published author who held my hand though my first process of getting published. She also writes on the same topic as I in memoir form. Good to know I am stepping in the right direction !

  3. Anubha Yadav says:

    Fran,

    Trying and then seeking new people is the only good way to find an ideal feedback group. It seems the arrangement you have is working for you.

    Happy Writing
    Anubha

  4. I felt nurtured reading this post.

  5. Fran says:

    That’s some really sound advice. It’s not always easy to find people like the ones you mentioned but I do have someone who is a writer (different genre) but knows my writing very well. We help each other. Once we’ve spent time on our pieces we each pass them on to our other willing, but not always regular, readers for further comment and feedback

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