Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Write-ins’

How Writing Groups Improve Writing (and make it fun)

In Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Discipline, Writing Groups, Writing Motivation on July 22, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Birthday(WithSarah)2 04-2016

Shelley Widhalm’s write-in group gets together once a week to write, but also celebrates birthdays to add fun to the writing venture.

A big part of writing discipline is showing up. You already may have picked a favorite spot and best time of day for optimal energy.

Accountability can add to that discipline, while also making it fun, both from setting up a date and time to meet but also wanting to have some work to show at that meeting.

Writers gather in four typical ways: writing groups to critique each other’s work, write-ins to work on individual projects at a set time, writing planning or accountability groups to check on each member’s progress on writing plans and projects, and writing partners to share the experience of writing.

I’ve belonged to all four types and find that each has its benefits.

Right now, I’m part of a planning group that meets monthly, and we talk about our accomplishments, what we’re working on, what we plan to work on over the next month and any obstacles we face.

The few times I didn’t make much progress on my novel revision, I realized I wanted to return to the next meeting with something to report. I also saw that at each meeting, which began in late 2017, I had the same excuse: not enough time or energy for writing and too many time wasters keeping me from it.

Takeaways for writing accountability groups:

  • Have writing goals to give you something to move toward, but don’t make them unreasonable. Remember you can try again tomorrow.
  • Acknowledge your accomplishments, even if they seem small to you. (I kept up with my daily poem challenge, worked on my novel revision and wrote a short story.)
  • Look at what you’re achieving versus what you’re not achieving, while having compassion for yourself.

I also am a member of a weekly write-in that I joined two years ago. Currently, we have three members, and we meet at a local coffee shop and work on our personal writing projects. We talk for a little bit about our work and writing lives and do a couple of social things, such as going out for each other’s birthdays, and then focus on writing.

I’ve also met one-on-one with other writers and like the experience of sharing a writing table and find the experience to be similar but in a smaller format.

Takeaways for write-in groups (or one-on-one meetings):

  • Work on your personal writing projects, not work, because then you did not set the boundary with work and gift yourself with that time.
  • Realize that showing up for writing for two hours a week (or whatever you choose) adds to an accumulation of words and material over several months. You make progress toward your goal.

I’ve also belonged to several writing critique groups, which have varied in format. We either exchange a section of our work ahead of time and bring our revision suggestions to the meeting or revise on the spot. We then discuss our suggestions, going around the table for each critique.

Takeaways for writing critique groups:

  • You can get a variety of perspectives on what you’ve written, since each writer will notice different things.
  • You get a better understanding of what works and doesn’t work, both at the sentence level and at the level of the overall story structure or in the storytelling.
  • With the help of other writers, you can identify weak areas in plot and character development that you may not notice, as well as problems with pacing, setting, logistics or dialog.
  • If you choose to read the work aloud, you can notice grammar mistakes and missing words that you might not notice with silent reading.
  • You improve editing skills by observing how other writers’ edited each other’s work and also by doing the editing, because practice leads to skill improvement.
  • You can brainstorm plot or other elements within your story to help improve your writing.
  • You can deepen your knowledge of writing and writing techniques, because each writer has a different understanding of and experiences with the same writing concepts.

With all of these groups, I’ve worked hard to keep to a writing schedule, wanting a project to work on and to demonstrate I’m making progress on that project. I want to be a writer after all, not wishing I were a writer. That means I have to show up and be accountable, both to myself and to my fellow writers—and, of course, to my projects!

The Benefits of Write-ins

In Write-ins, Writing, Writing Processes on February 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

Writing alone in that comfy spot has its advantages—routine, familiarity and comfort—but writing with others can spark the mind and the writing hand.

I belong to a couple of writing groups, Mountain View Authors, a critique group that meets every other week to evaluate the members’ novel and short story writing projects, and Northern Colorado Writers, a membership organization that offers classes, conferences and coffee chats for writers.

A write-in is a way to socialize the physical process of writing by giving you space and time to write with one or more people beside you. And it’s a way to add regularity to your writing schedule.

I’ve belonged to a couple of write-ins over the past two years, but those times I wasn’t part of such a group, I felt like something was missing. I, of course, already had my critique group, learned about writing through classes and workshops, read writers’ magazines, and spent time alone writing.

But belonging to a write-in, even with one other person (which is the case for me on a weekly basis at a local coffee shop) gives you more of a reason to show up for your writing, making you accountable for being there and doing the work.

When you have someone to write with, side by side, you have someone to motivate and encourage you as you make progress in your novel, short story, poetry collection or other writing project.

Here are some other benefits of write-ins:

  • You can ask grammar, writing and storytelling questions about anything from sentence structure to plot, character, setting or dialog.
  • You can check to see if what you wrote makes sense or if the dialog sounds like how people talk (it helps to read aloud what you wrote to see how your writing sounds).
  • You can show a section of your work and get comments about what you’ve written so far or the direction you’re heading with your story.
  • You can do speed contests to see how many words you can write in a certain period of time, such as 10 or 15 minutes.
  • You can do writing exercises to practice and get feedback on your spontaneous writing.
  • You can take a break and talk about writing or life.

And lastly, a write-in helps you stay on task. You shouldn’t be doing other things, avoiding the writing, because the other writers are writing. So, basically, you’re compelled and inspired to write.

See how my BFF Zoey the cute dachshund approaches write-ins in her version of dog-ins at