The elusive writing group that rocks

September 10, 2013 Jessie

I haven’t written a post in a while because I don’t have much to report in my writing world. My name recently changed and I am relocating, so writing has taken a back seat for a while. But I have been attending my KidLit writing group. And that makes me realize I have never dedicated a post to the wondrous phenomenon called writing groups.

Photo by http://www.sxc.hu/gallery/iprole

A great writing group can be difficult to find. Sometimes you just need to Google your city name and “writing group” and BAM! You have 10 to choose from. Sometimes you have to go online or start your own. I found my group on http://www.meetup.com. I tried a few that weren’t quite right for me until I settled in with my KidLit group, founded by Janet Wallace of Social Deviants and UtopYA Con.

I’ve talked about being a shy writer here so I’ll skip the part where I tell you to SHOW UP and put your fear in its place. I’ll jump straight into why a great writing group is awesome.

My writing group holds me accountable (see what I had to say about goal-setting here). They ask me how I’m doing and expect a real answer. They inspire me with their pages and their successes. Being part of a driven group keeps me going.

My writing group supports me. They motivate me with their love of my work. They give incisive critiques that are thoughtful and constructive. They tell me what doesn’t work and more importantly, why. A writing group is NOT great if all the writers just sit around and congratulate each other on how perfect they are. That doesn’t help you become a better writer.

My writing group believes in me. They threaten to make t-shirts with my characters’ names on them. They act sorrowful when I tell them I’m not ready to submit anything on my new WIP. They buoy me up when I think about quitting.

My writing group members feed off each other. This is absolutely key for me. They ignite debates when critiquing pages. They sometimes disagree on what works and what doesn’t. They talk about the submitter’s work with seriousness overlaid by a cheerful—and sometimes punch-drunk—attitude. This is what makes a great writing group different from a great CP or a great beta reader. When the group meets, one person’s comments may spark a brilliant idea in someone else’s mind that had not occurred to either writers before the discussion started. It’s magical to see this unfold.

My writing group is diverse. I write epic fantasy and the feedback I got from members who dislike fantasy as a rule is priceless. We’re all open to reviewing genres that are unfamiliar to us and all of understand that we can take or leave the critique as we see fit and not get our feelings hurt.

There are lots of poor writing groups. Some don’t have agreed-upon rules of engagement and the overly defensive or critical behavior of members can put you off. Sometimes the writers are too negative and bash each other, and sometimes the writers do nothing but say how good their work is. Sometimes the chemistry simply isn’t there.

The members of my writing group have become very dear friends AND valuable partners of mine.

I want to hear from you. Do you have a writing group? Is it virtual or face-to-face? How would you define a great writing group?

2 Comments on “The elusive writing group that rocks

  1. I totally agree. We have an amazing writer's group. I love that we all have varied opinions on everything and are not afraid to share them and respect other viewpoints. I think what makes it work is the structure and accountability. We keep each other honest about our writing and offer constructive feedback. I think the most important thing to remember about any writing group is you get what you put into it. When you show up prepared and willing to contribute to critiques for your fellow writers, they in turn are more inclined to reciprocate. That builds a level of trust and community that is invaluable.

  2. Great post on what the essential elements of an outstanding writing group are. I, too, am proud of how our writing group has come together and grown. I love that we support and challenge each other. I love that we critique and celebrate each other.

    Thanks for sharing the love. I wish you weren't going away, but I know that it's just my selfishness thinking that way. This such a beautiful adventure for you.

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