My first encounter with a writer’s group was in university many years ago and I have to say that it had a competitive edge which almost defeated the value of the peer review. I will always remember the pale faces on the days we presented our work. Some students were actually made ill by the strain.
Many years later, and with a change of career ambition, I returned to writing as a hobby. That was my second entry into the interesting world of the writer’s circle. The chairperson of the group had published one item and that was one more than the rest of us. Each of us took a turn to read out precious words and I would spend most of the session dreading my own moment of truth. Inevitably the feedback was positive, leaving me feeling full of self importance until I finally realised that such praise is not always constructive for making improvements.
Since then I have tried different groups, study methods and even subjecting my poor family to my work in an effort to find the perfect way to improve my writing. My favourite and the most useful has been the most recent attempt. During a Novel Writing Course I became part of a peer critiquing group in which we managed to give and receive honest, and therefore valuable, review.
My own personal development has given the maturity to accept critique and use it for improvement. I think that we should always consider a writer’s own confidence and maturity as a person when offering a critique. Sometimes, less is more and a writer will develop with tiny steps rather than all at once.
Have you had a good or bad experience in a writing group or circle? I would love to hear from you.