writers groups

The Joy of Writer’s Groups

I’m reading Anne Lamott’s “bird by bird” which is a book written for writers. She talks about everything in this book. Jealousy. The voices in your head that are always telling you your writing is shit. Perfectionism. The craft of writing. Writer’s block.

She also talks about writer’s groups, ranging from a few writer friends meeting occasionally to critique each other’s work and gossip to expensive writer’s conferences where you can count on people, including those you have long admired, taking a blowtorch to your work.

I’ve been in two writer’s groups so far. One when I was much younger and greener. I was the only horror writer in a group of romance writers. It was an eclectic mix but I learned a great deal, plus I felt accepted and valued. Today, I’m in one where I’m the erotica, romance and horror writer in a group of memoir, literary, and non-fiction writers.  Another eclectic mix. This group meets once per week on Wednesday mornings, and I love getting together with the other women on a regular basis. It’s a woman-only group. The men’s group meets immediately after this one.

I may write what the others don’t but I don’t feel at all an outsider. That’s what I love best about the group – the friendship. We are honest (not brutal) in our critiques and I get lots of useful feedback, especially when my confidence is low or I’m stuck at a spot in the story where I see no easy way out. Sometimes I paint myself into a corner. These women help to get me out of that corner.

Lamott described her writer’s group which sounds very much like mine. She wrote: “We – the other students and I – can be like a doctor to whom you take your work for a general checkup. We can give you a place to show up and give you a little benevolent pressure, which we hope will help you finish stories and sections. We can give you some respect, because we know what it takes.” Everyone helps each other and is fair-minded in criticism. An important thing to me is that no one is attacked or feels attacked.

My writer’s group recently helped me out of a very sticky situation with a novel I’m currently struggling over. I had no idea who one of the important, pivotal characters was because I created him from the seat of my pants and his nature was still developing. I also had no idea where the book was going and because of that I was stuck. The group leader introduced us to an exercise which has come in very handy for me – writing in reverse from the end to the beginning. I knew in general how the book was supposed to end so I created note cards describing that ending and then I moved backwards, briefly describing each scene. While doing this, I discovered the identity of that vexing character. Suffice to say he is really a she and now that I know who she is she is much easier to write. I’m also able to further develop a few minor characters I’d rather see more of. They’re interesting people and important to the plot. I’ve almost written backwards to where I am currently in the book. I have a long way to go but I feel much better about this book now than I did months ago when I all but gave up on it.

Writer’s groups may be available in your area. Call the local library or college to find one near you. Contact your local chapter of Romance Writers of America. It may know of groups near you. If you have friends who live near you who write, set up one of your own. I think it’s best to stick to smaller groups. That way, everyone is heard and things stay informal. My group ranges from four to ten people depending who shows up on a given week. Time of year, weather, and personal issues come into play regarding attendance. I look forward to my writer’s group each week for several reasons. It’s nice to hang out with other writers. It’s fun to be exposed to genres I don’t write and to give and receive feedback. I look forward to plot developments from others in the group. Updated manuscripts are a joy to hear read because I watched that piece grow from an “OMG what is this shit?” opinion by the writer to “this story is working out well”. Publication news is always greeted with great cheer. I get feedback I otherwise would not have received, thereby helping me my work in a new light from different perspectives. The women often bring treats to the group like croissants and muffins. We make coffee. We have birthday parties and holiday parties. If you can find a writer’s group like this I highly recommend joining. There is great value in the friendships and work inherent in such a group.


Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her two cats.

Web site: http://elizabethablack.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ElizabethABlack

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethblack


The Writers Group – A Feeling Of Belonging

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of
genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the
Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats.

I went to my first meeting with a local writers group
recently. The last time I was in a writers group was at least thirty years ago.
I must have driven past the place hundreds of times, but I never noticed it.
It’s a little hideaway tucked into a corner. I like to take the scenic route
home occasionally, driving past the rocky beaches next to the ocean. This
writers group is along that route. My husband and I were going for a drive,
when he noticed the sign on the building. I must have tunnel vision or
something, since I have never noticed it before.

I would love to join a writers group, especially a local
one. I live over an hour from most writers groups in this area, and I simply didn’t
want to do all that driving. This one is ten minutes away. I couldn’t resist.

One major disadvantage in my mind in being a writer is that
it is so isolating. I have my writer friends on Facebook and elsewhere on the
Internet, but I wanted to be around real, live, breathing people. Make eye
contact. Smell cologne and perfume. Speak in real time. Mingle in meat space. I
craved companionship. I can’t speak for all writers, of course, but I wanted to
belong to a group of people with similar interests. I also wanted to belong to
a group of people who could help me in my writing career.

Now… my main worry was what would the members think of
erotica writers? I had already visited the web site, and I saw lots of notices
about readings for poetry and literary fiction. Would I fit in? I also write
horror, dark fiction, and fantasy. Would dismembered bodies go over better than
erect penises? I had no idea, but I was willing to risk it. I’m not ashamed of
what I write, but I do want to be accepted and I want approval. I want praise
for a job well done, and I want people to show interest in my work.

I worried about disapproval, but I sucked it up and went to
a poetry reading I saw listed on the calendar.

I had a blast.

There were about twenty people present. I was one of several
new people, and I was welcomed with open arms. Most members were over sixty. I
didn’t talk much about myself except to say I was a writer, I lived in town,
and I have been looking for a writers group for some time. I mostly asked
everyone else about themselves. When I told one woman I wrote human sexuality articles
for a sex toys company in London as well as erotica, she gave me “the
look” (most erotica writers probably know what I’m talking about), but
once I explained a bit further, she had shown interest. Several others reacted
in a similar fashion. At the very least, I piqued their curiosity.

Despite my fears, I fit in. I felt welcome. That meant a
great deal to me. A man read some of his poetry, and I enjoyed myself. It felt
good being in a group of pleasant people. I shared wine and conversation out in
the back yard after dark in a very relaxed atmosphere. Not only did I feel
welcome, I welcomed them into my world.

I wonder how many erotica writers are slightly embarrassed
over what they write? I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from my Facebook
writer friends of family who disapprove of their sexy stories. Some have chosen
pseudonyms to protect their jobs, especially if they teach young children.
These writers don’t get much support from their friends and family, which may
make the isolation some writers experience more distressing.

The next event I’ll attend is an open reading for anyone who
wants to read aloud – an open mike night. I’m not quite ready to read yet. I’d
rather get to know everyone better first before I drop my smut on them, but
I’ll bring a little something along in case I feel brave and decide to read
anyway. My stage fright isn’t only about reading erotica. It’s about reading
any of my works aloud. How many writers feel a lack of confidence over what
they write? I chose the perfect story to read if I decide to do it. It’s sensual
and even poetic. I have a feeling it will be praised, and I like basking in
friendship. Groucho might have said he’d never be a part of any club that would
have him as a member, but that’s not for me. Even though I’m a loner at heart,
it feels good to belong.

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