Are you in one?

If so, how did it get its start? When did you join? How many did you go through to land in the one that works for you?

If not, why not? Do you wish you were? Do you have any readers at all?

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I am not in a writers group. Sometimes I wish I were. I know people I can count on to give me great feedback, but they're as busy as I am so they often end up reading just a short story or something. I've had a few readers for my novel but only a couple who could give me the heavy-duty feedback I needed.

I would love to start or join a writers' group, but I'm at a disadvantage because...

- Most of the ones I've ever seen meet at 7pm (doesn't matter which day). That's the start of bedtime at our house, of which I am a critical part.
- I live in the sticks. Small population, so I can't hop groups if I don't find one that works. And I'd have to travel if I were.
- Sheer lack of time to read others and make intelligent suggestions. I love critiquing, but I'm not even doing it professionally right now.

That's just my answer. Who else is or is not, and how did that come to pass?
I've tried starting them and merely joining them. I've had the face to face ones and the online ones, but the group thing has never worked for me.

Invariably, there are members who either don't write as often or those that write too much or those who only want to line edit and wordsmith and not offer anything else. But I have found that through my trial and error to find a group, I DID find individuals I liked working with. One of my favorites is NOT an author, but someone I met years ago when I was researching a location. A very astute reader. So I prefer to work one-on-one with writers I like working with--ie I like reading their work, hearing their comments, and we have similar work ethic, etc.

And I also noticed that once I got pubbed, my needs changed. I prefer big picture comments on plot and char motivation and not the line edits so much. Plus, I prefer to get the whole book written, then invite someone to read, rather than ask for comments chap by chap. But I do the group thing when it comes to promotion for example--because spreading the workload there makes sense.

Now that I'm writing full time though, I would like to find that face to face person that is in a similar situation with a flexible schedule to meet once a week--mainly for the social interaction and to talk about writing, period. And it would be nice to have someone go with me when I get a wild hair to research the crazy stuff I do.
I find that I sometimes need to retrace my steps to a chapter to add threads of evidence or character motivation--at times, going back to the first chapter. So rather than confuse my readers/critiquers, I now prefer to finish the whole thing. I often miss the ongoing feedback, but it allows me to focus on the writing and muddle through it. If I have trouble on a plot point, it's tough to catch someone up on the story, but I like to puzzle out my own problems anyway. I have to be pretty desperate to regurgitate my whole book to work out a tangle. Been there, done that. But my poor husband usually gets me through it.
Hi Jordan,

I agree, I have tried writing groups, and---let's face it---it's a me, me situation, in most cases. I really get upset when someone correct my intentionally mis-spelled dialogue. Tells me that they don't get it.

If you can find a writer or two that you click with, both receiving & offering fine-tuned critique based mostly on plot or characterization, then I'm all for it. Unfortunately, I haven't found that person/persons yet.

Besides, I'm a Taurus, and reluctant to change or alter my thinking...
It's not easy.

I've been through a few, actually. I've been fortunate enough to meet some people who not only give excellent feedback but are excellent writers, as well. I've met some of them through blogging, actually. Others I met through writing classes at UCLA. More still through writer's conference.

I'm lucky that I'm in Los Angeles. Bet you never thought you'd hear lucky and Los Angeles put together. There are a lot of writers here. And no, they're not all doing screenplays. ;-)

If you're looking into being a part of a group there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. What are you looking for? Face to face feedback? Does your writing get energized when you're around other writers? Is online critiquing okay or not what you're looking for?

How much time do you want to commit to it? Once a week? Once a month?

What sorts of writers are you looking to hook up with? Do you think genre specific will be more helpful or do you want different perspectives? You're going to get different points of view from people who write different things.

What do you expect to gain from the group? What do you expect to contribute to the group?

What makes a good critique for you?

Once you've got that figure out, then there's the hard part of finding the people, schedulign the time and so on.

It can be very hit or miss. Finding them through a writing class can be tough, especially since you've already been writing a long time. A lot of classes can be the blind leading the blind and you may find yourself teaching others how to write rather than getting what you need out of it.

Most of all, I think a good group needs to be made up of people who take it seriously and are open to not just giving feedback, but taking it as well.
I've been a writers group about five years now. It started out with just a buddy and I and we gradually built up to eight or so friends and acquaintances. I'm currently looking for forming a new group. I have a friend down in Florida who has a group similar to Joyce's, but they are six, all in different genres. I like the idea of that. I've pieced together three, so we'll see what happens.

question- what works best, weekly or monthly? My current group is weekly, but that seems too much. I think monthly would also work better in Christa's case.
The coolest part about our group is that my writing partner, Mike, owns a little cafe/bookstore/bar called Kafe Kerouac. Mike was interviewed in the NY Times 2 weeks ago for the 50th anniversary of On The Road. Pretty writerly eh?
I've been with a small group of local writers (all but one published) for about 12 years now. To some extent it is due to them that I finally did get published. A writer needs feedback to understand how the material is seen by others, but I am the final judge. We meet every 2 weeks to turn in new work and critique the previous submission. All comments are intended to make the book (or story) better and are received in that frame of mind. I would not dream of laying a whole novel on any one person, but I am grateful for input on 15 to 30 pages from a number of very different readers and look forward to doing revisions. There again, it is important to me to have the book in good shape before moving on. I spend the two weeks between meetings writing, then interrupt for a day to make revisions, then continue with the plot. Occasionally something goes to the group a second time. And I appreciate even the line-by-line editing.
My readers have all become friends by now.
When I started writing seriously with a goal of publication about eight years ago, I lived in a remote rural area. Meeting writers face-to-face was something I never considered because it wasn't an option.

As for online groups, I've been a part of several. I find I like large groups far better than small ones - they carry less of an individual obligation. If someone asks a question, maybe wants another pair of eyes to look over their query and I don't have time for it, I don't have to feel guilty because I know someone else will.

As for critiques - after a lot of trial and error, I finally found a couple of great critique partners - online, naturally - who write in my same genre and who are at about the same place as I am in their careers. I think the similarities are very important, since my critique partners understand the genre, their comments are more valuable, I believe, than someone who doesn't write thrillers.

I think as our writerly needs evolve, the kind of association we need from fellow writers changes as well. I think it's great that thanks to the Internet, we have so many options
I've been in five. The first was horrible, the other ones okay.
Two at the present. One is all fiction and a playright. The other is fiction and a lot of poetry. Both are about five years for me but date much further back than my entry. The first we read the stuff ahead and come in ready to discuss it. The second, we read it aloud. The second is not very helpful except sometimes reading it aloud points up passages that are too long or too dull.
The first group is much better and everyone takes it seriously. The only thing is, no crime fiction writers. I always have the feeling they think I should return to the lit stories but don't say so. One of the six members is too critical, but the rest are pretty evenhanded. I think it works great for short stories but I haven't given them the novel. Once I held back, it grew too long.
I've been in one in-person group, and it was definitely energizing - there's nothing so satisfying as knowing that a reader is waiting to read and talk about your work! We met once a month, bringing in short stories or chapters and reading on the spot. It was tough, especially when you had to say to someone's face, "It's not working, and here's why..." but hey - wouldn't you rather hear the bad news from a friend than an editor, and have a chance to fix a problem?

The group began when a handful of SF writers/fans bemoaned the fact that none of the U.S. magazines were buying their work: Canadian SF was "too dark," and "too different." I was writing more crime than SF, but the others in the group didn't mind - the writing was always more important than the genre.

Somewhere along the line we got this crazy idea to start our own magazine - On Spec - and although it took off and kept growing over the next 18 years, it was at the expense of the writers group. People moved or moved on, and between the magazine and our lives and our own writing, we never seemed to have time to meet and crit anymore.

I live in a rural area now, and rely on emailed crits from 2-3 beta readers, all of them writers, all of them past or present editors with the magazine. Sometimes I hate them for their brutal honesty, but then I come to my senses and appreciate the fact that they're trying to help me make the book the best it can be.

For me, that's the thing to look for in a writer's group (and to contribute to it) - honesty and a willingness to help a fellow writer improve.
I'm in two. One I heard about when my (now ex-) wife overheard two people talking about it. The other is the aftermath of a class I took. They're the only two I've been involved with, and I like them both, so I guess I was very lucky. I've heard stories.

I encourage people to find writers groups, for encouragement, if nothing else. I understand not all groups are as supportive as the two I lucked into.


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