Most writers, at some point in their career, are asked when they knew that that’s what they wanted to be. Some are able to pin-point the moment, others bring it back to a specific event and a few admit that their need to write came during a period of their lives.
The initial spark came to me during a certain autumn when I took a creative writing class in the local VEC – admittedly more as a something-to-do-on-a-Wednesday-night than anything else. The vibrant and productive twelve-week course flew by and as it drew to a close, one of my classmates – I’m afraid I can’t take the credit for it – suggested that we continue to get together every couple of weeks, to help each other with our writing and make sure we all keep going. Thus The Naas Harbour Writers was born. And it was during the first few months in this group, as I developed my first novel, that I realised that writing was what I wanted to do.
This is the power of the writing group.
Writing, by its nature, is a solitary endeavour and this solitude can quite often lead to restlessness and loneliness. An occasional respite with a few like-minded individuals, where chapters are read out and reviewed, ideas are shared and vast quantities of tea are drunk, can be invigorating and revitalizing.
These meetings can also help break through that dreaded writer’s block (yes, it does exist). As well as the Naas group, I have been in two other writing groups which I specifically joined when I needed help or guidance with a particular area of my writing. And I can definitely report that my time with all these groups has been hugely beneficial.
Writing groups aren’t for everyone – some prefer the solitude and that’s to be commended. And it’s also important to point out that, when we do decide to join a group, we shouldn’t just pick the first one we come across or the one that’s closest to our house. There’s no harm in doing a bit of homework first, to find out if that group in the local library is actually suitable for us – for our personality or our style-of-writing. We probably won’t know this for certain until we join but a bit of research – such as talking to current and former members – is invaluable.
Writer Holly Lisle gives us a great guide into finding the right writers group. She lets us know some of the criteria that all groups should be embracing, such as having clear goals for members and having distinct guidelines for critiquing (‘Critique the writing, never the writer.’). Holly also includes some warning signs to look out for, signs that a particular group should be avoided.
The majority of writers in Ireland will know the Irish Writers Centre. This long-time hub of writing in Ireland aims to support all writers and to promote Irish writers at home and abroad. As well as offering a wide variety of writing courses and running regular readings and recitals by some of the country’s best scribes, it plays host to a number of writers’ groups at its premises in Parnell Square in Dublin. These, as well as other affiliated groups, are outlined on their website.
If scriptwriting is more your thing, it might be worth checking out the Writers’ Guild of Ireland (formerly the Irish Playwright’ and Screenwriters’ Guild), who facilitate a number of writers groups. These groups meet every two weeks in Filmbase on Curved Street, where they discuss and critique member’s scripts for film, TV, theatre and radio. Writers such as Mark O’Connor (King of the Travellers) and Shay Linehan (The Cant) have used these groups to workshop their scripts.
In relation to specific writers groups, there is no shortage of them to choose from – too many for me to be able to focus on any in particular. The online writing magazine The New Writer gives us a listing of writing groups around Ireland and the UK, with links to their websites and contact details.
When it comes to online writing groups, Scribophile is hard to beat. It is, in fact, an extensive resource, featuring writing contests, author-profiles and blogs. It also has a far-reaching selection of groups and if you’re happy to pay the website’s membership fee, you can then join one of these groups to talk about your writing, get tips and advice to help hone your skills and discuss your specific project.
An alternative (and less costly) online community is WriteWords. As well as an extensive sections on writing jobs and courses and a comprehensive directory of publishers, agents and film producers, WriteWords also provides a wide range of online writing groups, categorized by genre, medium (short-story, novels, screenplays) and ability level. The writing groups are in the style of forums and might suit a writer starting off who would like to submit writing while maintaining a certain anonymity.
“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.
Holly Lisle’s advice on how to pick the writers group that’s right for you.
“I credit what I learned from my early groups with leading me to publication.”
The Centre Of Excellence.
Writing Groups at and affiliated with the Irish Writers’ Centre.
“The Irish Writers’ Centre has been used as a base for writing groups for many years, with a number of Ireland’s best new talents emerging through this creative channel.”
Writing A Script? Join The Guild.
The Writers Guild of Ireland facilitates a number of groups for scriptwriters.
“The IPSG has helped start writers groups in both Dublin and Galway.”
The List Is Long And Distinguished.
Writing Groups & Regional Organizations in the UK & Republic of Ireland (including writing.ie).
Are You A Scribophile?
An extensive resource, featuring writing contests, author-profiles, blogs and a far-reaching selection of writing groups.
It’s the Write Word.
An online resource providing a wide range of writing groups, categorized by genre, medium and ability level.
“The WriteWords team founded WW in 2003, because we wanted a writing community that we would want to join ourselves. “