Writers Should Stick Together like Velcro: Why You Need an Editing Group


Yes, it feels like this sometimes.

Most humans are naturally wired to avoid pain and stressful experiences. I say most humans because writers are human, but they’re different: they do not avoid pain.

Writers compose a curious part of the human population.  They’re prone to share the precious artistry of their souls and ask for constructive criticism in hopes of getting better.  As a writer myself, I went this route early in my career and found that the helpful advice I hoped to receive felt more like a literary slap in the face. In one of my first experiences, I tried to smile and jot down notes as a friend proceeded to (as I saw it at the time) rip my heart out and stomp on it.

“How could you do this to me?” I wanted to say. “Isn’t this one of the best things you’ve ever read??”


Writing groups are tough love but totally worth it, I promise!

This experience only temporarily gave the boot to my dreams, however, because I was–and still am–determined to become a great writer (as you might also, or at least a great reader!). Understandably, I was upset with my friend (as well as delusional about the quality of my story), but upon later reflection her words became more clear and helpful than she may have ever intended. I got the feedback I needed to honestly assess my writing.

As my astute colleague Doc so aptly put it, writers who want to self-publish need to work on their craft. The best way to do this is by getting honest feedback. The best way to get honest as well as informed feedback is by utilizing the time of fellow writers. This is because fellow writers have most likely taken classes, had similar experiences, and read helpful books on writing. You just don’t have the time to take every class on novel composition, character development, and literature that’s out there, and neither do you have time to read everything by Anne Lamott, Stephen King, and Robert McKee. You also don’t have time to make all the mistakes novice writers make. Let someone else bump you ahead on the learning curve–believe me, it’ll save you a ton of time and heartache!

If someone is a “serious” writer, they must endure constructive slapping on a regular basis. This is because good writers want to improve their writing and not just get empty praise (though a compelling case can be made for the necessity of praise, no matter how undeserved–I know I need it now and then!). Decide today to find at least one other person who wants greatness as much as you do, because we writers need to stick together.

Note: I’ve credited writers for their helpfulness, and I think it’s also fair to point out the extreme benefits of beta-readers within your editing group.  That, however, is a topic for another time.


3 comments on “Writers Should Stick Together like Velcro: Why You Need an Editing Group

  1. A very pertinent issue. I remember when I was younger I’d get feedback on forums and be a little deflated by negative criticism, but no anyone reading anything is welcomed.

    I think with certain people just starting out, to have the positives pointed out is the main thing rather than crushing someone with ‘yeh good story BUT, your grammar was awful etc’.

    My only gripe with writer groups is that I’m afraid I’ll get my material jacked. I’m a bit possesive over any good ideas relating to writing and I’m afraid of people stealing my ideas. Totally unjustified fear but it’s there.

    • I’m kind of on the more trusting side of the spectrum (which is both good and bad), and it’s never worried me that my ideas will get hijacked…but of course, I’ve determined that I’ll never ever EVER post my actual novel online! It only gets emails to trusted friends who I see frequently in person (like the writing group I’m with now, with whom I meet weekly). How do you get over the nervousness of posting your short stories online?

  2. I have to apologize for being too harsh on you when I critiqued some of your stuff back in high school–I’ve learned a lot better how to critique and give good feedback without being as harsh as I was. So I’m really, really sorry about it. And I’m sorry if I haven’t apologized to you before.

    My rule now is I have to say about as many positive things as I do negative things, and my negative things aren’t really negative–they are more like, I was confused about this, or I wanted to see more of this. I also never offer specific suggestions on how to fix things so much, unless explicitly asked–instead, I just give my response as a reader as honest as I can.

    Writers can have thin skins sometimes–I got some feedback the other day and it was completely accurate, not at all harsh, but you still want someone to say, “That was awesome!” And when they don’t, you’re crushed. It takes me a while to get over it sometimes.

    It’s why I’m more careful with feedback now.

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