This post is to celebrate a good writers group–largely due to the fact that I love my current group so much. We are (mostly) pictured above at group member and excellent author Emily Bleeker‘s (center) launch party for her second book WHEN I’M GONE.
Unfortunately, not all writers’ groups are created equal. Here are some things I suggest looking for/establishing in a group.
Atmosphere of Safety and Respect
As authors, our work is highly personal, and sharing it with others can be daunting. It’s important to find a group where you can feel comfortable sharing and where you know members of the group are going to treat you and work with encouragement and respect. Some of our members have read their work aloud for the first time in our group–and are now sharing more regularly and working to branch out to wider audiences. A writers’ group should be a place where you can build confidence and not the reverse.
Structure and Schedule
It’s important to find a group that works best for you and your time constraints. Our group meets once a month at a central location for (a strict) two hours.
Also the meeting itself can take on a variety of purposes. Some groups merely read their work. Some actually take time to write at the group–sharing prompts and ideas to jump-start inspiration.
We have found what works best for us is for each member to share (usually aloud) excerpts or pieces of writing they have completed, and then we give them (constructive) feedback as a group. We set goals for the following month–which can be anything from word count to making submissions or writing query letters.
Someone once told me that the most reliable reviews were mixed reviews. Anything all bad or all good is rarely reliable. I feel the same applies to feedback from fellow writers/readers. A good reader should always be able to find something good about your piece and almost always something that can be improved. Don’t ask people to read your work and expect them to only have good things to say. You will not be able to become a stronger writer if you are unwilling to see the ways you can change and improve.
Learn to trust your instincts so that you can recognize which criticism is really going to help you improve your work and which is subjective or unnecessary. Then when you find peers whose feedback most often feels productive you know you’ve found a good group.
Some writers find it productive to meet entirely with authors who are at the same place in their writing career, or who write the same genre. I kind of think that good writing is good writing. We have everything from relative beginners to successful published authors. We write everything from women’s fiction to middle grade, to fantasy, to picture books and poetry. and each group member has something original to add.
I have learned so much from my writers’ group friends, and I know that each of us has come along way in our writing as a result of our association. I highly recommend starting/joining a group of your own.