I was a bit shocked to realize that although I’ve been writing this blog for about 5 months, I have yet to talk about writing circles (oops – sorry!).
What reminded me was yesterday’s mention of what you’re best/worst at. In essence, that’s what a writing circle is designed to tell you. It’s a peer review, plain and simple: writers meet and give each other feedback on works in progress (or drafts). For those of you who’ve taken creative writing classes, it’s pretty similar if you take away the class lectures and teacher.
The biggest advantage to working with a writing circle is feedback. If there are big plot holes, characterization problems, or other major issues, a good writing circle will tell you. If you go around the circle for comments, and everyone has the same critique, well, there’s most likely an issue there. At the very least, it’s something you should take another look at and see if it’s working as well as you thought.
On the other hand, beware of letting a writing circle lead you astray on a work in progress. If you’re getting a lot of opinions or suggestions for the plot, then those ideas can distract or derail you from your original story. The best writing circles try not to do this (they stick to comments like “the fight with the orogogs breaks the rules of magic from the first chapter” instead of “this would be even better if you added mutants in the jailbreak scene.”).
Unfortunately, the best way to know a good writing circle from a not-so-good one is to go and try it. You may have to try several before you find one that is a good match for you, but at least, finding writing circles to try is not as difficult now that they’re listed online. You might even try an online writing circle instead of meeting in person. Or organize your own with friends who write.
Hmmm… that sounds like a lot of work. Is it worth it?
That depends on you. You may love writing circles and use them all the time. You may loathe them and avoid them with a vengeance. Or you may only use them when you’re stuck (like if you know that something is wrong with the story, but you just can’t pin it down). I’d say it’s worth trying a handful if only to find out whether you find them helpful.
Of course, if you have a good one, now would be a really good time to comment and recommend it to everyone… just saying.