The Writers' Group.

This is quite a short section, even though its topic is amongst the biggest talking points in the writing world. The question goes: are writing groups worth belonging to?

On the whole I would say yes. Joining a writing group or circle gives a new writer a chance to value his work against that of his or her peers and to gain useful constructive criticism at one and the same time. Public readings help to build confidence and the group can provide advice and encouragement in what can be a lonely profession.

That's the upside and if only every writers' group ran on those lines what a great thing they would be - indeed most are. However, some aren't.

There can be a tendency for this kind of group to attract the sort of people who thrive on cliquey behavior and seem to think that they - and they alone - know how to write. They generally fall into one of two categories. The first category is populated by 'authors' - those whose literary skills are so keen that they find the need to continuously rewrite, edit and refine that novel they've been working on for the last fifteen years. The second category is the home of the professional critic who hasn't ever had a thing published , never will have anything published and exists only to rubbish the work of others.

If you join a group that contains someone from either category, either leave or ignore them totally. As the latter is difficult to do, simply because of the kind of people they are, I'd leave. Your whole writing career could be soured by one of these people and they are the last thing you need as a fledgling writer.

However, do try to find a good writers' group - they are worth their weight in gold and can help you immensely. If you are very lucky the group will have amongst its members some published writers and you may be able to obtain some mentoring along this route. Don't be afraid to ask - any seasoned writer is usually extremely flattered to receive a genuine call for help and advice from a new writer

Now this  next is just a personal thing and you can take this advice or leave it as you will. I would advise limiting any time spent on the internet during which you visit writing fora. Any forum, in my experience, contains a higher-than-average share of  the 'author' and 'pro critic' type, both of whom seem to spend an inordinate amount of their working(?) day dispensing 'advice' to new writers. It's very easy (and I speak from experience) to get caught up in spending a lot of time writing reviews (and what qualifies a new writer to start producing reviews?), sending emails to one another and generally wasting time that could be more profitably spent. Do your writing instead - it's more worthwhile.

So let's have a look at our penultimate topic - competitions.

Index page  1. Necessary equipment.  2. The importance of the workplace 3. Choosing the right book for you to write. 4. Ideas and how to get them. 5. How to plan a story. 6. How to make characters come to life. 7. Plotting your story. 8. Self-editing and the final draft. 9. Agents and Publishers 11. Writing competitions. 12. Reference works.