TTT – Writing Groups (Part Two)

Welcome back to the second part in this series on writing groups. Last week, we discussed the things to look out for when joining a writing group (for those of you who missed that, it can be found here). This week, it’s pros and cons.

I firmly believe that the only two things every writer needs are a good notebook and a writing group. The former seems to be a given, at least for most. The latter, on the other hand, has encountered more resistance. Trust me, you NEED a group. You don’t necessarily need to join an established group; one you set up with friends will do just fine.

So, let’s look at the pros and cons of writing groups.

Pros

1. Learning experience

A good writing group will challenge you to push your knowledge of the craft beyond what you may be used to. The other members can be a source of inspiration and offer a wealth of information on grammar, style, formatting, and even an insight into the publishing industry. The biggest thing you’ll learn is confidence: confidence in your writing, confidence to share your work with others, and confidence to listen to and give constructive criticism.

2. Find your voice

If there’s one thing a writing group does well it’s to encourage you to find your voice. Through critiques of your work, regular readings, and guidance from other members about what they like and don’t like, you will find your voice starting to show through in your work. We all know how hard it is to discover your writing voice but, with the help of a group, you will find that when it does bubble to the surface you will know.

3. Generation of ideas

Writing groups, especially those that encourage workshops and exercises, are great forums for idea generation. Even ones that don’t do anything formal are still a melting pot of ideas and discussion.

4. Beta-reader pool

What better place to find your next set of beta-readers than a writing group. At least they’ll know what you’re going through.

5. Support Network

A good group is like your best friend, always there when you need them. They’re the ones who’ll help you through your low points, act as sounding boards when you need to think through plot holes, and just tell you to stop being ridiculous when the doubts set in.

Cons

1. Criticism

We join writer’s groups for the constructive criticism they afford us but not all groups seem to grasp this. A few are more concerned with promoting their “star” writer’s work than functioning as a group. On the subject of constructive criticism, honesty is essential for it to be worth anyone’s time. Some groups have a real problem with been honest with a writer about their work. It may be done for the best of reasons (i.e. not wishing any offence) but it’s useless.

2. Commitment

A writing group is only useful if people attend. You need to be sure that you (and others) can afford the time commitment of a weekly/fortnightly/monthly meeting. The more infrequent the meetings, the limited involvement and benefit you’re going to get from it.

3. Interaction

For a group to function well, it needs its members to interact with each other. This may be a terrifying thought; we didn’t become writers to “deal with people”, most of us become writers because we are unable to do just that. The old adage that you only get out what you put in is key.

4. Expense

There are many writers’ groups that are free to join, most of these dwell in the realms of cyberspace. Others meet at a physical location and, because of dirty words like “room hire” and “entry fees”, charge. It’s up to you to decide if the charges are reasonable and ones that you want to pay out.

5. Attention

The size of a group could have you vying for attention with the other writers. Consider the size of the group you’re looking to join and how well organised it is. Do members have to shout over each other to be heard or does everyone have a say and a turn to read/comment?

Next time: Writing Groups and Development.


 

What are your experiences of writing groups? Have you any pros or cons you think should be added to the list? Answers on a postcard…or, better yet, put them in the comments.

8 thoughts on “TTT – Writing Groups (Part Two)

  1. I agree that writing groups are very important. An honest critique group is one the most valuable thing a writer can have. Too many young (whether in age or experience) writers work in their little caves, pour all their time into this wonderful story idea, finish their first draft, edit it by looking for typos and run-on sentences, and then try submitting it to agents (or probably directly to publishers), thinking it’s the next bestselling novel. I feel really sorry for writers who either don’t share their work with other writers for their opinion or receive dishonest opinions, and then wonder why no one wants to publish their book. Or they just selfpublish their book right away.
    So yes, writing groups make all the difference and I hope every writer can be part of some community. It’s sort of really scary but it’s worth it.
    Nice post, Chris. I can’t wait for next week’s.

  2. I would think another important point would be to ensure your writers group have members who are able to challenge you. A group of noobs together are only going to be able to assist with things they know. Inexperienced writers need more experienced people to help them progress: A tutor type, not just a bunch of people at the same level as them. I’m lucky that you put up with my constant questions 😀

  3. Good points all. One thing I’ve found is that the level of writing ability can vary drastically in a group, so you might not get what you wish for from every member. After talking this over with several group members, the decision was: since we had all benefited from the group, it was time to pass it on.

    1. I’m a bit scared as well. I’m always so hard on myself and am afraid of getting critiqued. But, that’s how we get better.

    1. There are a lot of excellent writing groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. A search on either site will produce results. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get a feel for the group before committing.

      It pays to remember that if it doesn’t work out, you can try elsewhere.

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