Last night I was asked to speak to some people who want to start a writing group. The discussion brought some pros and cons to mind as I came to the computer this morning.

Pros: encouragement, certainly. We often need impetus to keep writing, to improve our work, and to perservere.

Companionship. No one knows about writing except writers, the joys, the frustrations, and the plot-knots that drive you crazy.

Information. We all know a little bit about writing, editing, and publishing. Putting those things together builds a stronger base, a better chance of success.

On the con side? I can't say from experience, having never been in a writers' group. One problem that comes to mind, however, is variety of genres. Can a poet advise a crime fiction writer and vice versa? Will there be people interested in reading your 90,000 word novel when they bring only short stories to the meetings?

Group personality is important as well. Members would have to share a common mindset. Are we writing for the joy it brings or for profit? Will the group encourage everyone, no matter how weak the writing, or give honest feedback that may drive some away? Will everyone have to submit regularly, or will individuals be allowed to criticize without exposing themselves to criticism?

My thought is that anyone starting a writing group should explore carefully and discuss at length such questions. In a group of like-minded people who work well together, every person benefits, no matter what his writing goals. Otherwise, the group will fall apart very soon as individuals look elsewhere for the support they need.

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