Breakdown

I used to belong to two Writer’s Groups. One, as far as I am aware, still meets every week on a Monday afternoon, and the other just once a month on a Monday evening. This, you will realise, could cause some conflict, but we (I gave a lift to a friend who doesn’t drive and who also attended both groups) avoided this by not attending the afternoon group on the days when the monthly group held its meetings.

Writer’s Groups are in many ways a good idea. It means that people who enjoy writing, whether or not they wish to publish anything, can meet like-minded people for encouragement and helpful advice. Another advantage is that usually there is writing involved and having a deadline (ie the next meeting) ensures that you actually do sit down and do something. Writing to a set topic also helps focus the mind and sometimes to write outside your comfort-zone, trying new genres.

The Monday afternoon group met in a local Library on the other side of our County Town. Several exercises were set each week as ‘homework’ and we were also encouraged to take part in writing a ‘communal’ novel (usually a farce – not my genre at all) and also to bring along whatever we were working on privately. None of this was compulsory of course and I rarely managed to produce anything in all categories each week. In fact I never contributed to the novel at all, not only because it wasn’t my type of genre but also because I don’t believe that such multi-collaboration produces anything worth reading! The aim of these collaborations was simply to help those who had never written a novel to have a go, but the results tended to have too many characters, be rather meandering, disjointed and confusing and very similar to each other, with the same kind of humour every time; rather like a poor imitation of a Brian Rix Farce. I had tried to suggest trying a different genre from time to time but with no success. The resulting book was often self-published by the group and sometimes read out on hospital radio or at the local prison and the justification for continuing with the farces was that this is what their readers liked.

To cut a long story short, the amount of writing that was required to fully participate on a weekly basis with this group meant that there would be little time to do anything else and I do have a life outside writing. On top of that, very little criticism, helpful or otherwise, was offered, we simply read our exercise and then on to the next person. So, although we enjoyed going to the group and socialising with the other welcoming members, my friend and I both decided to hit it on the head.

The Monday evening group is different. We meet in a pub in a village a few miles from home, central for most members and, as I mentioned, only once a month. We simply set a topic at the end of each session to write about for the next meeting. This can be interpreted however we wish, fact or fiction. We read this out at the next meeting, providing copies for everyone, and invite comments and constructive criticism from the others. This enables us to write a longer piece if we wish, and sometimes even instalments from prospective novels. The fact that there is a core of only five people means that there is time for everyone to read even a fairly substantial piece and receive helpful comments. On the whole it is more challenging than the other group and more rewarding.

The August meeting for this Writer’s Group was cancelled as most of the five were unable to attend, including me. We don’t have a set Monday each month, with such a small number it is easier to arrange a date for the next meeting to suit all participants at the end of each session. I suddenly realised we were into September and I had heard nothing about our meeting so I contacted one of the others only to discover yesterday evening that it is tonight. I am assuming the subject is the same as that set for the cancelled meeting – ‘Breakdown’ – I hadn’t come up with any inspiration last time round so can I come up with something at such short notice for tonight? I’ll give it a go. I better go and get on with it…

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. julespaige
    Sep 05, 2016 @ 11:43:33

    Breakdown can be many things…and I think you already have your subject.
    The breakdown of communication.

    I’ve yet to find a writers group. There are a few. One was through the local bookstore…but I did some research on the proctor and wasn’t impressed. While there does need to be some guidance, I wasn’t in the mood for a fire and brimstone conflict of interests.

    I have luckily found some very good friends on the net. Wishing the distance weren’t as great as it is.

    Life however will go on. ‘Good luck’ with what matters most.

    Reply

    • Libby
      Sep 05, 2016 @ 12:21:29

      πŸ™‚ Thanks for the suggestion – breakdown of communication – good one. I hadn’t thought of that and there is room for scope there but I don’t think I can do it justice in the time available. I think I’m going with a fictional version of an actual breakdown in my car some years ago when my children were little. In my version the driver is on the verge of ‘breakdown’ too. (Not me I hasten to add!).

      Reply

      • julespaige
        Sep 05, 2016 @ 13:14:37

        Oh, I’ve been there too. I had an old station wagon for a time (I think the only car we actually bought new…) in it’s later years I broke-down every time I had to drive it never sure if it was going to start, or if I’d get home from where I went πŸ˜‰

  2. elaine patricia
    Sep 05, 2016 @ 20:03:10

    I also belong to a couple of writers groups and don’t always manage to get my ‘homework’ done Libby.

    Reply

  3. Jenny Roman
    Sep 05, 2016 @ 22:36:48

    Lovely blog, Elizabeth – and it was a great meeting even if only arranged at the last minute so glad we went ahead. Some good pieces, good discussion, and great to have a new member too.

    Reply

    • Libby
      Sep 07, 2016 @ 14:20:30

      Yes indeed. I felt quite chuffed I’d managed to produce something and the new member looks as if she will be a keen addition.

      Reply

  4. Polly
    Sep 11, 2016 @ 23:18:49

    There are many and varied writing groups in Worcestershire, we’re spoiled for choice if anything. I enjoy the Worcester Writers’ Circle which is part of NAWG, sets prompts but they’re not mandatory, we meet twice a month. I do go along to others but as and when I can manage them. What with spoken word events it can all get a bit much (!)

    Reply

    • Libby
      Sep 12, 2016 @ 09:58:12

      The weekly group I attended is also part of NAWG but I just found having to come up with three or four pieces of writing every week plus trying to fit in my own things rather too much. These were not mandatory either but you feel guilty if you don’t produce something! Once a month is much easier to cope with and allows time for other writing and hobbies. Twice a month sounds like a good compromise. πŸ™‚

      Reply

      • Polly
        Sep 15, 2016 @ 00:41:48

        We’re told the Worcester Writers’ Circle was formed in 1941 and it’s one of the longest continuously active groups in the country. I guess over the years they’ve worked out a good formula, it works for me πŸ™‚

  5. dragonscaleclippings
    Sep 20, 2016 @ 11:09:34

    I think your once a month group sounds the best! I can’t do deadlines – only the ones I set myself! I’ve always struggled with writers groups and now just belong to a postal folio – it works best for me!

    Reply

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