I have a whole new fresh set of eyes to read my latest work, and it's awesome. There is nothing like a writing group to get you motivated anew. My last group kind of faded away quietly. No good-byes. No "this is the end of our writing group." After a year and a half of not meeting, I figured it was time to get out there and find a new group. (It takes me a while.)
Once again, SCBWI pointed me in the right direction. Someone on the listserv was looking for a writing group in the city. So was I. And so were 7 or 8 other people. Voila! It was a done deal. The folks on the listserv are so supportive that they also gave a ton of tips for starting a group, how-to's, how-not-to's.
In case you're starting up a writing group or thinking of it, here is what we've done. It's working well so far!
At our first meeting, we got together to introduce ourselves and our work. We also discussed what we'd like from the group. We decided meeting once a month would be best, and we can meet online if necessary.
We created a Wiggio account that we use to upload everything and post meeting dates and writing deadlines. Since we're a kid lit group, for each meeting we can submit a picture book or one chapter for others to read. We have the materials one week in advance of the meeting so that we are prepared with feedback when we gather.
It's really important to read your work aloud, but it's especially helpful to have somebody else read your work aloud. So we did that. How fun. (I mean, really...writing for kids is so fun.) And then we went around the room and discussed the work. Of course this was done in a positive, constructive way. Everyone provided such great insight and suggestions. I learned a lot just being present.
One thing we found helped a lot was for the writer to come prepared with a question for the group about his or her writing. That focused the reading somewhat and anchored the discussion to follow. We would go off on non-related tangents, but it was a great way to get conversation up and running.
I'm nearing the end of one phase of my project, a critical time when as a writer, I might get too comfortable and relax a little bit, when what I really need to be doing is pushing through. This creative group of folks is giving me the push I need. I've been working for so long now all by my lonesome; it's invigorating to get my writing out there to fresh eyes.