In 2013 I joined a local Writers’ Group: Chapters and Verse. It had been in existence for a number of years, and over time, some had dropped out, and others had joined. When I came on board, there were seven of us. The group used to meet at the Community Room in the Chapters Bookstore, but when the room could no longer be booked in advance, we chose to take turns hosting the meetings in our homes.
Every two weeks we get together from 9:30 – noon on Tuesday morning. The host, who chairs the meeting, goes around the table and asks who has sharing and who has writing. We begin with sharing. This can be anything related to writing or reading. Sometimes it’s a newspaper article, or information about a local book signing, Kingston Writersfest, writing opportunities, or resources that others might find useful; or perhaps feedback a group member has received from a publisher.
When the sharing is complete, we move on to the writing. A person who has brought writing to share, hands out a printed copy to each group member. The person next to the writer reads the work aloud. Each of us makes notes on our individual copy. Then, in turn we share our feedback with the writer– what worked well, was particularly effective; what was confusing or needs further development. After that, the writer may respond to the comments and often a short discussion ensues. Then we return our copy with the comments recorded, and move on to the next piece.
Some group members write poetry; some short fiction; some articles for magazines. One woman received a grant to write about her years living in Canada’s north. Another has a manuscript under consideration with a publisher. Yet another is working on the text of what will be a graphic novel. For me, the group’s comments have been very useful in editing chapters of my novel, The Medal.
I have great respect for the women in our Writers’ Group. Although they each have a different focus for their feedback, collectively their comments have helped me tighten and improve my work.
A happy and unexpected outcome is that when I start something new, I hear their voices in my head, guiding me. As a result, the quality of my writing is better – even in a first draft.