With a little help from my new friends


I’ve recently joined an online course in the hope that it will improve my creative writing. I am probably also looking for some kind of external validation: it’s lonely sitting on your own, writing all day, not knowing if what you pen is actually any good. And there’s only so many drafts that hubby can review. I had searched for local courses in my community, but there was nothing suitable that was nearby and in English.

I don’t know why but I wasn’t expecting to post all my work online for my fellow students to review and provide feedback. But of course, it makes a lot of sense. Not only am I learning different styles, but everyone sees something different in a piece of work. It’s a helpful reminder I don’t have to explain everything to the reader, and some things are better left for their own interpretation. Our tutor is also encouraging us to tackle things we may not have considered. For example, writing a book blurb at the outset to help focus a story.

An eclectic mix ... everyone with their own personal reason for honing their craft

The added beauty of an online course is the immense diversity of the participants. Sitting in Hong Kong, I am writing with twelve pen-pals from across the globe including Japan, Spain, Ireland, the UK and the US. It’s an eclectic mix of backgrounds and ages, everyone with their own personal reason for honing their craft. There is an array of subject matter–as captivating and diverse as the students themselves. And I love I can join in the conversation any time, any place­–it’s perfect for my travel schedule.

As Sharon Bially points out, a writing group is valuable “to have a community of writerly peers to debate craft with, to vent with about rejection and rejoice with over triumphs, large and small.” I am left wondering Why on earth didn’t I join a writing group earlier? I suspect it was probably lack of confidence and an urge to make in-roads in private before exposing my words to the world.

I already recognise I need to continue with a writing group

The course I signed up for is only six weeks long, but I already recognise I need to continue with a writing group in some form or another. There are several online writing communities: Scribophile, Mibba, Inked Voices, Writers Café and of course NaNoWriMo to name a few. Some are universal whereas others provide an opportunity to join a smaller writing group within a group.

Jane Friedman offers good questions to ask yourself when looking for writing partner or group:

  • are you at a similar writing stage?

  • are the frequency of submissions and reviews creating a workable pace?

  • do you enjoy the content?

However, she also warns of some pitfalls: struggling writers may not be the best critics; and even if they were–they may not want to tell you the truth.

For me, I have signed up for another online course. It’s with the same provider, but different participants and a different topic. But who knows, maybe I’ll stay in touch with some of my international pen-pals for the years to come…

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