5 Reasons Writers’ Groups Matter

Writers' groups have stopped me from losing my mind. Writing can be a lonely business, especially when you're working another job on top of your writing commitments. I make it a point to try and attend at least two writing events a month and I always leave each one feeling a bit better about myself. It's nice to know there are other people wondering if they have made a big mistake and realising that actually no we haven't. We may be amongst some of the lowest paid people on the planet, but together we are a formidable group. 

John Allen Safety Valve

Releasing my safety valve

The one thing regardless of genre that we have in common is the need to read and tell stories. 

I identifed a number of reasons as to why writers' groups and events can be so important to a writer:

1. You know you're not alone

Knowing there are others trying to do the same thing as you make you feel a whole lot better about the thoughts and characters running around in your head.

2. You are inspired to continue

Sometimes talking about writing with friends and colleagues who aren't in the business can be tough and a little demoralising. Like any job or career, it's hard to understand the challenges and benefits unless you're in the same job or career. Meeting other writers who are in the same business can be really inspiring and help you birth new ideas and keep working.

3. You never know who you're going to meet

I recently met in no particular order; Jo Fletcher (formerly an editor of Terry Pratchett & Ursula K Le Guin amongst others), Anna Jackson (Editorial Director of SFF at Orbit UK) and Eleanor Teasdale (Agent at Greene and Heaton). I met all of these publishing professionals at some of the writers' groups I attend regularly. I've also met other writers at different stages in their careers and made friends as well as establishing good professional relationships. I wouldn't have met any of these people if I hadn't gone to my groups. Writers' groups are often a good opportunity to network and make friends. Don't ever count them out.

4. You get to have your work critiqued by strangers 

An essential part of being a writer is knowing that everything you write needs a damn good edit. There is no writer alive that can produce the perfect story or novel without an editor. This is true across the whole publishing spectrum. Writers' groups provide me the opportunity to meet people who don't know me or my work and are happy to read and critique it dispassionately. This has been essential to my continuing development and directly contributed to me winning an international award in 2017. Giving a story or novel to a family member or friend is not always going to get me the best feedback. Giving my work to another reader and writer in my genre gives me more perspective. They will often pick out things I never would have noticed, often making the story better. 

5. You have fun

Writers' groups are a safety valve for me. They allow me to be 'John the Writer' as opposed to 'John the Odd Job Man' tapping madly away at his keyboard alone. I get to talk to people in my genre and share information. This is fun and helps both my writing and mental health.

About the Author

John is an award winning science fiction, horror and fantasy writer. He is also a public speaker and consultant and has worked with Time to Change - a campaign to end mental health stigma - and for Wellment - an organisation that delivers mental health at work training. He loves science fiction, fantasy and horror stories and novels. His work has appeared in Vector Magazine, Ink Pantry, Sci-Fi Bloggers, The Huffington Post and more. His short fantasy "Thanks for Applying" won an Honourable Mention Award in the Writers of the Future competition in 2017. HIs short horror "By the Boiler's Hand" was longlisted for the 2018 James White Award and won an Honourable Mention in the Writers of the Future competiton the same year. John has spoken at several events including the Nine Worlds Geekfest in London, Bristol Con 2018, and the Moorfields NHS Trust. He has delivered masterclasses on ending mental health stigma in the workplace for Time to Change. He lives with his wife and a pile of books in the UK.

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