Hello and thank you to those of you who responded to last week’s little survey in regard to writing and critique groups. The survey consisted of four questions and I will go through them one at a time, sharing both the responses of those who left their answers in the comments last week, as well as my own personal experiences.
Q: Are you part of a writer’s group or critique group?
A: Mary shared that she is not part of either a writer’s group or a critique group. She also shared that she doesn’t have a lot of time to commit to a group regularly. Her available time would be sporadic.
Kayla also shared that she is not part of a specific writer’s group or critique group. However, she is part of a writer’s chat-type group.
I have been a part of a writing group for seven years. I also participated in a writing group for three or four years. I am also part of several writing groups, though not active in some of them. I have been a part of several different critique groups as well, but am currently part of only one small critique group.
Q: Does your group meet in person or strictly online.
A: This question didn’t apply to Mary, and it didn’t really apply to Kayla either, although Kayla did share that if she were part of a group, online would work best for her.
My current writer’s group and critique group are in person groups, although the writer’s group hasn’t met in person since Covid-19 began.
I have also been part of an international group that was online, except for an annual in person conference. I was a part of that group for three or four years, and it definitely benefitted me to some degree. I am also part of several online writing groups on Facebook, and I am part of the same online chat-type group as Kayla.
Q: If you’re not part of a writer’s group, would you like to be?
A: Mary said she thinks she’d like to be, and Kayla said she would like to be.
Q: How do you benefit from participating in a writer’s group?
A: Mary thought it would be helpful to find out if her writing is interesting to other people. She also shared that she knows she tends to be more “wordy” than current guidelines suggest, and she shared that she doesn’t always have a lot of confidence in her skills.
In my experience over the past seven years, I have found some writing groups and critique groups very helpful, and I have found that some writing groups and critique groups were not helpful. Some were even harmful.
How could a writing group or critique group be harmful? The groups that I attended that fall under this category, I visited just once and never went back because they were very unkind with their critiques of other writers’ works. They were quite critical and stated things in an unkind way instead of being kind, helpful, and offering constructive criticism. Had I attended any of these groups years before I did, I may have walked away thinking I couldn’t possibly be a writer and may have stopped writing. Thankfully, I had learned some things before attending such a group, and walked away feeling sorry for those in the group because I felt that they were missing out on something.
Another group that wasn’t helpful was a group of people who wrote “for themselves”. Although some of them said they would like to get published, they criticized “considering their audience” as they wrote, or following “any” rules at all in their writing.
I have found the Facebook groups very helpful in the past. However, since Facebook has become a catalyst for people to criticize one another, be unkind toward others, and go on and on about politics or Covid-19, I avoid Facebook for the most part. Not to mention, I have become quite busy with my writing endeavors, and I found it beneficial to cut down on the number of groups I participate in. I decided to narrow it down to the groups I find most beneficial and least time-consuming for me.
I also want to mention one type of critique group that I have not found as helpful as I would like, and that is a critique group that meets only once a month and doesn’t consist of the same people each month. This group also doesn’t share progressive pieces, like sharing your novel chapter by chapter, because it would take too long, since they only meet once a month. This caused some people to struggle with focusing on the piece being shared because it may not be the next one in order from the last one they read. They couldn’t seem to simply focus on the piece before them without wanting to know what happened “before”.
So, what kinds of writing and critique groups do I find helpful?
I am part of a writing group that meets once a month and has a speaker each month that teaches something about writing, publishing, or marketing. They also have an annual one-day conference where there are hour long seminars taught on writing, publishing, or marketing, and you can have one-on-one meetings with editors, published authors, or publishers, and, occasionally, maybe, an agent. I have found this group helpful and beneficial. I have made valuable connections and dear friends through this group.
I am also part of a writer’s group that I started with a small group of women that I was friends with, when I learned that they all had a strong interest in writing. We decided to have a very unique writing group, and it works very well for us. We meet, (or at least we did before Covid-19), once a week either at a coffee shop or one of the ladies’ homes. We spend two hours together brainstorming, asking each other for tips or advice, and just writing. We even had all nighters from time to time, where we stayed up all night on a Friday night engaging in these same activities. (Now, we’ve all gotten to a place where we can’t stay awake all night anymore, so we plan to implement the same thing as all-day.)
The critique group that I found that works best for me, and I’ve heard other writers speak highly of similar critique groups, consists of just me and two other ladies. We have been getting together, weekly for the first summer or year, then biweekly since, and we share our chapters to our novels, one after the other. I find this so helpful and effective because we really get to know each other’s writing style, voice, and goals, and this knowledge makes the feedback I get from these ladies incredibly helpful in my editing and revising process. This will seriously cut down on the cost of a professional edit before I publish.
With all of that said, I really only participate in the chat-type online group now because there’s no pressure to engage at specific times. We have members from different parts of the world, therefore we are not all in the same time zone. So the way this works, we enter the private meeting room and talk with whoever’s there when we are and we talk about writing, publishing, marketing, how to design a book cover, etc. In addition, we share things about ourselves and our lives. We encourage one another not just in our writing journeys, but in our life experiences without pressure or judgement.
So, as you can see, I regularly participate in three writer’s groups, each different from the others, and one critique group. The benefits I receive from these groups are: encouragement, support, ideas, advice on improving my writing, and interacting with people who are kind, who care about me, and who become friends.
Mary and Kayla, I hope you see this post and read it, and I hope others who would like to become part of a writer’s group, but don’t know how to find one or don’t have access to one in your own area, also read this. I am interested in helping writers like you to be able to participate in a group that would be valuable to you. I am trying to figure out how best to do that. Please keep reading my Thursday posts because as I work out the details, I hope to create a group for you, and when I know how it will all work, I will post here to explain it and offer it to you.
Writing may seem like a very solitary activity, but no one likes to be in something alone, and I have found many writers to be helpful, caring, and encouraging, and that is what I want to provide for those of you who are looking for that. That’s the purpose of these Thursday posts as well.