Once upon a time, long, long ago, I joined a local writing group. That experience proved to be an eye-opener in many ways. I learned a great deal, though nothing about how to improve my own writing. For instance, I learned:

     1. Many writers do not like to be criticized, even if the critique is polite and meant to be helpful.

     2. Many writers are extremely possessive of their creations and are seldom willing to make any changes, even necessary, positive ones.

     3. Some writers expect their readers to automatically “get” what the work is about, by some kind of mental osmosis apparently, and therefore, the author need not explain the meaning of his/her work.

     4. Many writers cannot spell, punctuate, use correct grammar, or construct a proper sentence ( let alone a paragraph! ) to save their souls. ( But because of numbers 1-3, they refuse to accept any critiques/ changes! )

Though enlightening, that one group experience was a bit of an ordeal for me. I attempted to be helpful to other members, but soon learned to keep my mouth shut. What I’d assumed to be a children’s fantasy story—tiny, shrinking hero who rode around in peoples’ pockets or pant-cuffs—wasn’t at all intended as such. Oops! And I discovered too late that the totally unnecessary incorporation of bird lore quoted straight from the encyclopedia was the main reason one writer had written her romance! Another big “oops!”

The most edifying things I learned from the group experience was that I wrote better than the other participants, that my story was more fully developed, more creative, and more entertaining than any of the other work presented. Those few group members who were into science fiction loved my work. And that was a great ego boost, which I was in dire need of.

But if I were ever asked to join another such group, I’d think long and hard about it. The pitfalls are many; the rewards, few. Unless you are well aware of what you’re getting yourself into, are sure you’ll learn how to improve your writing, and are willing to both give and accept criticism, you’re probably better off passing on the prospect. If you can’t find a group whose members actually know what they’re talking about, how about checking a few books out of your local library? You can find many books there to help you write more professionally.

Just some friendly advice—take it or leave it as you will.