Because writing a novel is such a personal experience – I mean, it’s just you and whatever words you write down – we tend to have an skewed perspective of our work. Writing isn’t meant to be in a vacuum, though, so even if you spend hours upon hours alone writing that rough draft, you need some outside perspectives to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because it’s not their work (and they’re not emotionally invested in it), they will better be able to see what works, what doesn’t, what’s good, and what can be improved.
You may have read my post about why you need an editor. And while I always recommend an editor for works you intend to publish, this is a different kind of post. This is a post about community…a creative writer’s circle, if you will.
Truman Capote and Harper Lee.
Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Mary Shelley and Lord Byron.
Each of these famous author pairs have more than just writing in common: they sharpened each other through critiquing each other’s work. They were a part of the same critique groups. They were personal friends, but more than that, they are the reason for each others’ success. If Truman Capote hadn’t encouraged Harper Lee to write To Kill a Mockingbird; if Lord Byron hadn’t challenged Mary Shelley to write a ghost story; if Hemingway hadn’t reviewed and critiqued The Great Gatsby; the classic novels these authors produced may never have been classics at all.
You need writer friends. Plain and simple as that.
Writer friends are the kind of friends who share a mutual love of writing, who also take their art seriously, and are well-read enough to know what’s good writing and what’s not. These aren’t beta readers, and they’re not editors. They are fellow writers and, at the same time, dear friends. They care about you enough to want your story to shine. They want you to improve, they want you to keep writing, and they are there to encourage you and offer advice when necessary.
But where can one find such a friend? you may ask.
Well, they’re everywhere. But here are a few places to start looking:
Do you already have some close friends who write for fun, or at least have shown an interest in writing? This is the best place to start. However, sometimes this doesn’t always work. Although I have several friends who love to write, not all of them take it seriously enough for me to rely on to critique my work. Because they’re still in writer’s infancy, their feedback might not be as helpful to my work.
A local college.
At almost every college or university there is a creative writing club. I recently joined the club on my college campus, and have found it extremely helpful that we can share our work with one another, Socratic seminar-style, and give/receive constructive criticism.
I did a summer camp back in 2014 where I got to learn with other young writers and receive feedback from them as well as college English professors. This definitely helped me grow and improve my craft. There are plenty of workshops for you to attend and network with other writers. Learn more about them/which ones to attend here (it’s step #8).
My very first writer’s circle developed on the (now deceased) teen website MissLiterati.com. Through this site, I was able to meet tons of other writers my age, and we could read each other’s works and comment on them. Wattpad.com is a great place to start building online friendships. Find stories that are similar to yours/in your genre, leave some comments and start up a conversation with the author. Pretty soon you may find a friendship forming, and they will probably check out your story and leaved some feedback, too.
A Facebook group.
A great way for writers all around the globe to connect and form a close-knit community is through a Facebook group. This is a place where writers can share helpful tips and information, ask questions, lend some encouragement – the list goes on. Join my Facebook group and be a part of my online author community – and once you’re in, please say hello! Share content! Interact with us! We want to get to know you and support you in any way we can.
Create Your Own.
Do you have the time/energy/resources to start a creative writing club at your school, library, church, or community center? THEN GO FOR IT. Pick a meeting place, date, and time. Send out advertisements in local papers, or put up tons of posters. Spread it through word-of-mouth and on social media. Recruit your friends, teachers, that barista at your favorite coffee shop, the local bookstore owner, etc. Take the initiative and make it happen! (And when you do, tell me all about it. Seriously. Leave a comment on this post or drop me an email: email@example.com. I’d love to hear about it.)
Well, that’s all for now. If you know of any other places to find a writing community, please let us know in the comments! And speaking of writing community, if you haven’t yet joined my email list, I highly recommend you do. Not only do you gain access to my writer’s resource library, full of helpful lists, charts, and worksheets, but you’ll also get exclusive writing advice from me that can’t be found anywhere else.
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