Writing Groups – Nomad Style

Many would say that writing is a solitary pursuit. That it involves long hours of deep and obsessive thought followed by longer hours furiously thrashing the keyboard into submitting a masterpiece of wit and plot, with a twist in the tail tighter than Liz Jones’ pursed lips when a man has just opened a door for her.

Once the final key is punched (it’s always D because every MS ends at THE END) then the perfect piece is printed and immediately submitted, and so the cycle continues.

In truth things are a little different for the majority of writers – those hours of deep thought are usually completed whilst running the kids to Judo club, or sitting watching them at swimming lessons; for others it’s work that consistently interrupts the creative process; the long hours at the keyboard are completed in the evening, after a day at work, and the product you print off after typing ‘THE END’ needs at least five edits to stop it from having as much coherence as an excited six year old on Christmas morning. Attempt this alone and you will simply end up as bonkers as Timmy Mallet after a pint of full fat coca cola.

So what to do? Well the answer is relatively simple to say but, far harder to implement: surround yourself with supportive people that know what you are going through and are willing to help – in short – get yourself a writing group!

A good writing group, much like a good heart, is hard to find (Sharkey, 1985 ;-)) but is indispensible for a whole range of reasons and this is what I’ve been meandering my way towards. What should a good writing group do? Let’s shake it down Nomad Style.

 N – No holds barred/ No nonsense feedback – If you want to get good at writing then you have to let people read your work and comment earnestly on it. If I want to be told that I am the next Tolkien, I show my work to my mum; if I want to be told the truth about my work I ask my writing group. Honest feedback, and the ability to act upon it, is in my opinion the most important factor in improving and heading towards publication.

O – Opinions – Have a great idea? Have a paragraph you aren’t sure about? Have anything where you just aren’t sure what to do? That’s when a writing group comes into its own – Ask! But ask people who understand the market, people who understand PoV and character development, who know the difference between 2nd person narrative and 3rd person omniscient. It’s only an opinion but, if its one you trust, it can quickly get a situation resolved and get you moving with what you should be doing: writing!

M – Motivation – Struggling to write? Feeling a bit fed up? Get your ‘all you can eat’ motivation here!! A writing group is a support network and, as such, they are there to support you. If you’re down talk about it and get a boost – but also share in other people’s success: I find nothing motivates me like seeing my fellow Nomads enjoying success in their writing and my commitment has improved immeasurably since we formed our group purely because of this.

 A – Ass Kicking – Yup, sometimes all the support, motivation and mollycoddling just isn’t enough to help you focus. What you need then is for someone to put their size 12 leather upper swiftly against your buttocks. It’s a fact, we can all become drowned in our own sorrow and procrastinatory self-sympathy that just prevents the creative process from proceeding any further – It’s also a fact that sometimes we just need some one to say ‘Suck it up, buttercup! Wake up, smell the coffee and take a big bite out of the reality sandwich! It’s time to get writing.’

D – Dissemination of information – If you want to know what’s going on and don’t have time to trawl all the literary sites, then a writing group can also help. On the Nomad’s site we frequently share articles, reviews and adverts about upcoming events and, way more importantly, we arrange to meet at them and report back afterwards. I would boldly say that there are very few literary events in the UK where there isn’t a Nomad presence. Whoever was able to go reports back the info from agents and publishers they met as well as the general chitchat from published authors etc. It is invaluable to have this kind of current contact with the literary world and it is so much easier to do if you have some friends working with you. I could have used Dialect for my D paragraph because writers do have their own dialect and you learn this from immersion in the writing world.

S – Sompanionship (spelled Companionship in many dialects ;-)) – Ok, so I couldn’t think of an S-word for friendship but that is one of the most key ingredients for any writing group. The Nomads are, above all else, friends and it is this that allows us to all achieve the aims set out above. We meet only a few times a year (we are a spread out group covering most of the country) but we talk online and by phone, we email our work around, and a couple of times a year we all congregate and have a weekend together. Last meet was Oxford, next month the meeting is in Portsmouth and after that it is York in September. It’s a huge commitment for many of us but we make it happen, because we have a great time together, talking about the things we all like. It is this companionship that drives us all to stick at the writing, take/offer the advice, feedback and motivation, listen/offer opinions and take a foot in the ass if we need it.

This is, in my humble opinion, the essence of a writing group and there is no question that I have finished my current novel in no small part due to the help and support I have received from the nomads. If you aren’t part of a writing group then I would have a look around, if you really don’t believe that they are any help then I’d be really interested to hear why? (Comment below?) But if, like me, you have a superb writing group around you then good luck with your work, as I am sure that it will be 100% better than if you tried to go it alone. 😉

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