There is a writing group to fit every need. There are heavy-duty critique groups that provide written feedback MFA-style. (I was a member of one that had by-laws and a mission statement. It was intense.) There are casual online groups that allow you to email pages whenever the mood strikes. Some writing groups are actual writing groups in which members come together to write, but there is no feedback. Some writing groups serve as accountability partners. Some cap their membership and ask for dues as a measure of commitment. Some let anyone join and then create sub-groups.
And that just scratches the surface. With so many options, how do you know which type of group is right for you?
- Be honest. The most important step is to be honest about what kind of support you need. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Do you need a quick “how’s it going” check-in with someone every day/week/month? Or would this feel overwhelming?
- Would you want a trusted reader to offer feedback and guidance on your work? Or do you prefer to get a professional opinion?
- Do you like a high-energy group? One with a formal structure? An in-depth exchange of ideas? A relaxed, informal process?
- Online or in-person? If you join an in-person group, are the logistics possible with your current schedule and location?
- Are you just starting out? Or do you have many publishing credits to your name?
- What size group do you prefer?
- Support is a two-way street. Most writing groups and accountability partners exist on a generous give-and-take model, i.e. I read your work and offer encouragement, and you do the same in return. This is immensely valuable for two reasons:
- Commenting on another writer’s pages helps you think critically about what is working and what needs revision. You can apply these concepts to your own story.
- You can see how a story evolves from initial drafts to completion. It’s easier to gain this perspective when you have a bit of distance from it.
- Start the search. A quick online search for groups in your area is a good place to start, but if the results are over/underwhelming, expand your reach to include these options.
- Writing conferences or book festivals.
- Local writing centers
- Writing associations (Especially helpful for genre writers)
- Family and friends (A bit tricky. Most people in your close circle are probably far too nice to hold you accountable or provide honest feedback)
- Ask questions. Most groups have one or two people who bring new members into the fold. Get the answers you need to make sure expectations can be met on both sides. If possible, reach out to current members and get their take. Or ask if you can sit in on a trial basis.
- Comfort is key. I don’t mean that giving and receiving feedback will always be comfortable (this could be the subject of a future post!), but you should feel at ease with the members and structure of the group.
No group will be all things to all writers. You may want to join more than one group to fit different needs.
Are you part of a writing group? How did you find the group? What has your experience been? Let us know in comments.