TTT – Writing Groups (Part One)

Whether you love them or hate them, writing groups are a valuable tool for those who are serious about the craft of writing. Gone are the days of the elite groups hunkered away in the depths of basements, identifiable only by the mists of cigarette smoke drifting out from beneath a locked and guarded door…but that might be Freemasons, I get confused. Writer’s groups now can be found almost anywhere: your local library, bookstores, coffee shops, bars (warning – writing progress may suffer), and even online.

In the coming weeks, I will take a look at writer’s groups, what you should look for in a group, the pros and cons of joining one, and the ways that they’ll help you to develop your writing. This week we’ll start with the

What to look for in a writing group

Not all writing groups are right for everyone. We all have our own preferences when it comes to people we interact and share or work with. This is no different when choosing a group to work with. Some groups are huge, boast hundreds of members, meet fortnightly in a prestigious hotel and charge through the nose for entry. Others are small, intimate, free to join, and meet on only the 29th day of February. The rest are somewhere in between.

Most established groups are often on the lookout for new members

When choosing a group, you should consider the following:

  • Cost – does the group require members to pay a fee? How often? What are you paying for?
  • Size – is the group large or small? How many members attend regularly?
  • Location – is the group accessible to you?
  • Entry requirements – does the group require its members to be published? Earning from their writing? Writing for specific genres?
  • Meeting frequency – does the group meet frequently or are there prolonged gaps between meetings? Does this fit with your needs? Do they meet at a time that suits you?
  • Affable – are you welcomed into the group? Do you get along with other members?
  • Comfortable – Do you feel like you want to participate? In discussions? By reading your work?

The main requirement for me and other writers I’ve spoken to is that the members should be capable of giving and receiving both creative and constructive criticism. This will become clearer when we look at the pros and cons of a writing group, but the biggest assistance a group can be to a writer is with regards feedback on their work. Support comes a close second.

At the time of writing, I (technically) belong to two writers groups. Both of them existing only in the realms of cyberspace with one group more active than the other. Both are small groups, were free to join (although, I do pay emotionally), and give me all the constructive criticism I can handle right now. The best thing is that all their feedback is honest and doesn’t pull any punches. What more can a writer want?

Over to you, do any of you belong to a writing group? What made you pick them? What makes you stay? I’d love to hear from you.

4 thoughts on “TTT – Writing Groups (Part One)

  1. I can’t say I’m officially part of a real group. Generally, I don’t do very well in groups of people; and I think it would be hard to find one I really love. I prefer writing buddies and one-on-one relationships with several writers.
    Groups are cool though. I just think the hardest part is finding the right group and deciding to commit. I am looking forward to more posts on this.

  2. I joined a couple of writing group websites when I first decided I wanted to write, then promptly forgot about them. In fact, In fact, this post has just reminded me about them. Maybe i should go take a look now I am actually writing things…

  3. Chris: I currently belong to two critique groups as well. One I have been with for more than five years. We have undergone the usual looking for a quieter place to meet (we currently meet at a Panera between breakfast and lunch every other Thursday). Every other week is great, and there is a core of four of us who have stuck with the group. These people literally helped me write my first and second books and am now on the third. We are all writing or have written books but also write short stories to the contributions are varied. Great folks all who offer different talents to reviewing. We keep the group between 6-8 by closing from time to time.
    The other is also every other week but occasionally swells to 14 or more. People drop in and out of this group with alarming regularity, which mean the quality of what I get from it is very mixed. This group has formed, broken up and reformed many times – possibly because it is a night time meeting – and thus most of the time the participants are coming in without any background on what I am writing. But it is a reasonable challenge to critique new material in vastly different genres of various quality on a constant basis.
    I completely believe in critique groups, but there are clearly some things to consider: time, place, compatibility and above all, size. Elizabeth Hein (Scribbling in the Storage Room) did a post on this sometime last spring. You should check it out.
    Thanks for the post – I think it will stimulate a lot of consideration!

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