The Importance of a Friend with a Red Pen

Red Pen

The pen doesn’t have to be red and the person wielding it doesn’t have to be a friend. It might even be better if they’re not. The important thing is sharing your work with other writers. We all know writing is a solitary business.

Once the words are down, that’s where a writing group can step in.

I’ve belonged to formal and informal writing groups off and on over the years. I feel more engaged and inspired when working in a critique group. Timely feedback is great, but for me it’s the creative atmosphere a group of writers talking about writing conjures around them. It’s an electric charge when my creativity lulls or the work gets hard.

Don’t just take my word for it.

Robert Lee Brewer at Writers’ Digest offers his thoughts on a poetry critique group. Our own Pamela Schoenewaldt offers her reasons for why you should join a writing group. The Hot Sheetco-founder and editor, Jane Friedman, has advice for finding the right group for you. And because nothing is a Utopia, not even writing groups, Jennie Nash talks about what doesn’t work in a writing group and how to fix it.

If you are already a member of the Knoxville Writers’ Guild, you can join one of the ongoing or newly formed groups through the Guild. If you aren’t a member, scroll on down to the bottom of the page and become one. If you are ready to sign up and none of the open Guild groups seems like a good match for what you’re working on, it might be time to form a new group. Contact the Guild if you’re interested in forming or leading a new group.

Neil Gaiman is one of my personal writing heroes and he almost always has something pithy to say about the art and craft of writing. As I’m knee deep in notes for rewrites and edits, I try to keep this quote from him in mind:

Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

The purpose of your writing group (you’ve joined one by now, right?) isn’t to do the work of fixing it for you. The purpose of those friends with red pens is to show you the places where you can make your writing better and to support you while you do it.

Victoria Raschke

Victoria Raschke writes books that start with questions like “what if you didn’t find out you were the chosen one until you were in your forties?” When she isn’t holed up in her favorite coffee house to write, she can be found at the nearest farmers’ market checking out the weird vegetables or at her home where she lives with a changing number of cats and her family who supports both her writing and her culinary experimentation — for the most part. Her first book, Who by Water, was published in 2017. Voices of the Dead Series Who by Water Our Lady of the Various Sorrows Like  a Pale Moon Strange as Angels Voices of the Dead Omnibus Edition (includes short "A Wand Needs a Witch") Renegade Tea Cookbook (2021)