I put this question on Mystery Circus a year or so ago, but since many here are new members, here it is again. Do you belong to a writing group? Have you found it helpful if and when you did?. In the long run, did it help your writing. I belong to two groups-one mostly poets, the other mostly fiction writers. I am somewhat reluctant to show them what is the first novel I've tried because it might derail it completely. It is one thing when this happens with a short story, but now....What do you think? Have you ever tossed something on the advice of a group?

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I've never belonged to a writing group and the experiences I had as a student when I dared to take the elective creative writing classes were disastrous. In one, the professor had us share ten pages with the rest of the class so I showed the first chapter to a novel. The class loved it, wanted to see the next chapter, thought I sound pretty much professional and otherwise stroked my ego. The rest of the session was the professor trying to convice the class that they were wrong and that they would never spend money on this book if they read the first chapter in the airport bookstore.

In the other workshop experience, I kept getting into a group that included this one young lady who wanted honest feedback but held it against you if it wasn't a glowing review of every aspect of the story. Right nnow I tell my stories to Damaris and that's about it. She generally approves.
Yes, that's the problem when I just show them to my husband, he's too approving. Mostly happy that I am keeping busy probably. I think if you can find one really good critic, you don't need a group. You also need a group where you are not either the most successful or least successful in terms of publication. There are a lot of ifs, that's for sure.
Well, Damaris GENERALLY approves. When she thinks something is a stupid idea, she'll use precisely those terms.
I've never belonged to a writing group and don't think it would work for me. If people are temperamentally suited for it, and belong to a strong group of like-minded, equivalently-talented and intelligent writers, I can see the advantage for some. But I can't ever imagine myself doing it.
I'm not against writing groups - I just haven't found one that works for me. I have a crit partner who is brutally honest, but always helpful. My husband isn't quite as brutal, but he gives great feedback - and not of the "honey that's great" variety, though he points out the stuff that works as well as what doesn't.

Regardless of whether you work in a group or with a crit partner, I do think it's helpful to get fresh eyes on your work. If you're committed to the novel (and you must be if you put in all the time and effort to finish the first draft), then you need to know what needs attention in the rewrite. The one nice thing about a group is that everybody has a different strength - some will point out chronology/continuity errors, some will have an ear for rhythm, some for dialog, etc. Ears up and blue pencil out when more than one person has a similar issue. JMHO.
I'm in a writing group and have been for almost 10 years, so I can say unequivocably that it works for me. I was extremely lucky -- the group is all mystery/suspense authors, and most have been published many times. Having said that, though, you have to be ready to take criticism. We usually couch it by saying "this stopped me, because..." What that does is take away the need to defend your work. If somebody's taken out of the read because of something you wrote, you need to consider whether you want to change it or not. 99 per cent of the time I do. You also have the right group, ie professionals, and I think being in the same or similar genres helps. But if you have all that, a writer's group is indispensable. They are my "first line edit"....
Yes, I do. We found each other through a forum for a very famous author. One of our members began taking creative writing courses and offered to share the weekly prompts with us, if we were interested in trying our hand. It's what got me started after years of toying with desire to write, That and the encouragement of several friends on anther forum (Thank you SR, but since you have an evil reputation to uphold and I better not ruin it, I'll keep it mum!). The prompts actually inspired each of the stories I submitted to Flashing In The Gutters.
I have gotten huge encouragement and support from the talented people in the group, as well as the members of the forum who simply want to read and offer suggestions. It's been a blast and 2 of us recently had our first stories placed in an upcoming anthology. I doubt I would have begun believing in myself without the group behind me.
I think it was a very positive experience for me, but I have heard of some groups where the rivalry between members becouses ruthless and toxic and nothing good can grow in that environment. If you find the right group, it can be a very positive thing for a beginning writer.
On the whole I find it a positive thing, The more helpful group, in terms of my writing, takes it deadly seriously and is also very supportive. Usually there is a very helpful criticism or two that I incorporate into the story. It would be great to have more crime fiction writers though. Their ciritques tend to be more applicable to lit fiction sometimes. They want a fuller-bodied short story than crime fiction permits.
I tried five writing groups before I ended up at one I felt comfortable with for two years. With the more serious writers in the group, we broke away and created a more focused, smaller group. Three years later, I think I need to go to the next level and find one or two writing partners. Despite a few stumbles, the groups remained solidly focused on the works and not the writers, but disappointments have dwindled the original eight down to four, with two teetering on leaving. I suspect writing has a much higher attrition/failure rate than anyone really knows. Based on all the stories I've heard, I feel I've learned a lot and been fortunate. Many stories of writing groups are horror stories of pompous asses and prima donnas. Perhaps when my first novel gets picked up, I'll have more confidence and some insight into the "real" expectations of agents, editors, and the buying public to go solo and find the writing soul mate or two with whom to bounce ideas and get honest feedback in a more concentrated fashion. I've submitted eight novels (parts and whole) to these writing groups. To the more direct question, yes. I have tossed two novels (both with over 50K words written) because neither seemed to be moving in a direction that would lead to publication. I have continued on a third one they never liked, but now, after years of effort, it seems, according to my beta readers, as my strongest story yet. There is this fine line between listening to the committee and listening to yourself. It is a lucky few who develop that ear early in their careers and manage to succeed because of it.
I belonged to a writers group once upon a time. No, I did not find it particularly helpful for my writing and I would never consider returning to it.

Some of the reasons for that echo why a spouse is usually not the best 'critiquing' partner. In order to really benefit you need to be interacting with people who have similar goals and are at a similar level of experience. Now, that comes off sounding as though someone published can't learn from someone unpublished, which is absolutely untrue. It really goes to how serious one is about their writing.

What I found was that many people in the group had never shared work with someone else and still wouldn't. Most wrote material and wouldn't submit it. The few authors were expected to teach sessions for free. In other words, once you moved in to publication territory you had pressure to do things for the group but there was nobody to help you with your issues.

I have a few people I sometimes exchange work with for critiquing. This can be a tremendous benefit, especially if you stuff your ego in a drawer. Things Stuart pointed out to me in that full-day critiquing session last year still surface in my mind when I'm writing now. It didn't just help me with one work - I learned things I'm trying to apply across the board.
In recent years I've belonged to three writing groups, two of them for mystery writers and one more general. They were extremely helpful, though they're not currently operational. One was an online critique group run under the auspices of the Guppies of Sisters in Crime. We sent chapters back and forth using Word's editing function, and I got insightful suggestions from writers in Arizona, Florida and Texas whom I've still never met face to face but whom I consider my friends. The other mystery group was the "Unusual Suspects" in Saratoga, with Anne White (who's on Crimespace) and M.E. Kemp.

Both groups helped especially with questions of voice, plot development, what grabbed people, what was confusing or offensive and similar issues. But they also helped group members who were working on their first novels and wrestling with more elementary questions, even grammar and where to put the paragraph breaks.

I'd say by all means join a group - better to be "derailed" early and get back on track than to find yourself on a solo trip to Siberia with no way back. But the group should have groundrules that favor kind, constructive criticism and forbid outright nastiness and insults. Follow your intuition about any group you join, and good luck!
When I need a boost, I let my DH read. We pretty much have an unspoken agreement. It's always good, and I should always keep going (he just says it 'cause he wants the check, LOL). It works.

I would never do well in a critique group; I'm too impressionable. I would believe that I need to fix every single thing they mention, and there's no guarantee that they're always right. But I would think they are. Editors are always right (they critique for a living; they're pros at it), but critique groups? I sat in on one a couple times (so I'm not the best judge), and they wouldn't work for me. I have to live and die by my own sword, LOLOL. I'm self-critical enough, as long as I listen to myself. :-)


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