I just finished my first writing group. We met for eight weeks in a classroom at the Burbank Adult School. Every Wednesday we gathered around a large wooden table to critique each other’s writing, and listen to our own writing being critiqued.

The Good

The best part about joining a writing group was that we were required to complete a new piece of work weekly. As a beginning writer, that was great. Not only were we forced to complete a piece of work on a regular basis, but we also got an opportunity to get that work critiqued. That was a blessing, because we got to hear what our peers thought about our work, as well as what the teacher had to say, who had more writing experience.

Tip: Pick a writing group that requires new material each week, either through assignments or of your own creation.

The Bad

I remember a rhyme from my childhood: “First the worst, second the best, etc…”

The first class was indeed the worst, when I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous that I would be joining a cast of seasoned writers who would show up with their portfolios of published work and expect me to be on their level. They would wear glasses on the tip of their noses as they looked down on me.

As I sat down and listened to introductions, I was pleasantly surprised when everyone there just wanted to write. Some had started writing books, and some had never written prose. There was a good mix.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to try a new class or join a writing group! There will be people there who could benefit from what you have to contribute.

The Ugly

The critiques were the ugliest part of the class. The first time my group discussed my story my face was warm and my pulse rate went up.

I eventually learned to enjoy the constructive criticism, because it helped me to become a better writer. It was ugly when the group did not say much about my piece. There were times when people stared at the table awkardly because they either didn’t have anything to say, didn’t know what to say, or were waiting for other people to say something. The best critiquing sessions were near the end of the writing group, when people felt more comfortable with each other.

Tip: Try to find at least one nice comment and one constructive comment about each paper that you critique. You will only be helping the members of your group and it will make the class more interesting.

What’s your experience with writing groups? If you want to join a group or take a class but haven’t, why?