Writing groups: the good, the bad, and the… okay there’s no third thing.

group

Last week I wrote about critiques, which I get a lot of as I’m part of two in-person critique groups. And MOST of the time? I love them! Occasionally, not so much. For fun I decided to do a pros and cons list of writing groups.

I was going to start with the cons so we could end on a positive note. That’s why desserts come after dinner, right? But then I decided that starting a post negatively isn’t a great idea. Plus it’s not a good analogy anyway, as I would never say no to dessert before dinner. Or FOR dinner… 🙂

So the conventional route it is then!

line break 3~ Pros ~

 1. Diversity! Unless you’ve got a themed group (sci fi only, romance only, etc), then your group will have all kinds of writers, which is SO GREAT. One, you’ll get to hear different kinds of work, which is way more interesting than hearing the same thing all the time. Two, you’ll get to hear a range of perspectives. This is helpful because it lets you know how your work reads to different audiences, and the different viewpoints might show you something you hadn’t thought of.

2. Numbers! The more perspectives you’re hearing from, the greater chance you’ll hear that spot-on critique that really saves you. Numbers also help you not get swayed by a small sampling of opinions which a larger audience might not agree with. Conversely, if the majority of readers agree on a problem, that tells you what problem to focus on.

3. Improvement! It can be hard to see the weak spots in your own writing, or to know what makes sense in your own head but isn’t coming across to others, which makes feedback so important. Others in the group will have knowledge that you don’t which you can learn from.

4. Motivation! Being surrounded by other creative people is a great way to get your own juices flowing, and the chance to showcase what you’ve been working so hard on is validating. Plus, being held accountable by outside forces pushes your butt into that chair. If you’re struggling, you know you’re not alone. Writer’s block? Self-doubt? No idea how to end the damn thing? Someone else will surely have experienced the same issue and can lend advice, or at least sympathy.

5. And lastly… Friends! Isn’t it nice to talk with people who get it? Without saying a word, you know you’ve already got one thing in common. Writing demands a lot of solitary time, so it’s nice to have this social outlet.

For me, these are all strong enough to trump any downsides, but alas, some downsides there still are…

line break 3 ~ Cons ~

1. Bullies. Occasionally you’ll get that one smug author who likes puffing himself up by beating others down, as I discussed here. Fortunately this is rare, but it does occur. I had a run-in with this last year, but nothing bad’s happened since.

2. Too many opinions. Above I said that more is better, but there is a limit. Too many competing critiques and you don’t know what to think anymore. “Is A right, or is B? Or C, for that matter! And don’t even get me started on that wild card, D…” When that happens, you just gotta go with the one that makes the most sense to you.

3. Critiques that don’t apply to you. As great as diversity is, sometimes you’ll get feedback from someone who doesn’t know your genre or style and is operating from totally different expectations and rules. They don’t get what you’re going for at all, and you try to explain it to them, but they keep insisting you’re doing it wrong. Arg, right? Arg.

4. Speaking of rules… Rules. Writers’ groups are often populated by students of creative writing classes or English programs or simply folks tightly attached to their how-to manuals. Rules are important, of course! But some writers hang onto rules with white knuckles. There are places where they can be dismissed for stylistic purposes, or changed depending on the genre. Not all writers will get this and will hone in on what they consider “wrong,” losing sight of the big picture. Again, arg.

5. Paper wastage. Luckily I’m in groups that don’t require printed copies, but finding them wasn’t easy. Most groups want you to bring several copies of several pages every meeting. That’s a ton of wasted paper!

So there you have it. While I’ve definitely had frustrations with my groups, the perks outweigh them by far. I’ve met cool people, heard awesome work, and received insightful critiques that made my projects better.

pen12Tell me, what are your feelings on writing groups? Any pros/cons that I’ve missed?

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16 thoughts on “Writing groups: the good, the bad, and the… okay there’s no third thing.

  1. That sounds like such a fun/cool thing to do! I wish I could get the courage to do something like that, it seems like it would be very helpful! But I would probably just show up and quiver in the corner with a chocolate bar, and cringe in fear if anyone was reading my work! Hmm… maybe with enough wine it could be managed…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, I completely understand – I was terrified out of my wits the first time I went! I still get nervous sometimes and I’ve been doing this for almost a year. But most of the time it’s a lot of fun – I enjoy hearing and responding to other people’s work and making new writer-friends. If you decide to try a group, just remember that you won’t be alone – many others will be scared too, if not everybody!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess you could say I’m part of a virtual group and the key thing for us is diversity – only five of us but we cover a wide age range, both genders and span several continents! None of us have ever met but we chat most days and became friends through a love of writing. I think in the beginning we fell into the trap of being too kind but as time has gone on that’s certainly changed. I’d like to experience a local writing group at some point – if nothing else it’ll probably inspire a story or a blog post! Interesting topic and I think you cover the key points really well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s great that you’ve developed such a close group of writer-friends! I’ve posted my work to online groups for feedback as well, but there’s something really fun about meeting in person, getting to talk in real time. And since I spend so much time working from home, it’s a nice way to get out of the house.

      Liked by 1 person

      • True – you can never substitute actual human contact. With actual humans 🙂 There must be other people in Cape Town who only get chance to draw breath around about 9pm!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I found a writers group in my area, but there are only like 6-10 that meet up once a week. Granted, I only need a few people I can trust, but it’s hard to find someone that fits. But most of my life is conducted online (when I’m not working) so online writing groups work well for me. Plus there’s the whole chronic pain thing. My whole spine is degenerating, and my right hip is unstable and partially dislocates, so after work I’m in a lot of pain and I just want to lay down. I sit most of my day at work because I can’t stand for long periods of time or my hip goes out on me, so then my back gets sore :/ Anyway, I think the writer’s groups have helped me a lot. Critiquing others helps me better evaluate my own mistakes. Reading the critiques of others also helps. I just reread the first draft of my suicide story, which I wrote fresh out of my fandom, and it was bad XD

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved this post bc it’s so true! For me, sometimes writers groups are great for me; other times they sap me of energy…. But that’s like everything in life. Right now, I’m part of a group at a great theater in North Hollywood where writers and actors are working together to develop material and that’s been one of the most positive, supportive, fun groups ever… Just a thought – add actors to the mix, it suddenly becomes more fun/less pressure!!

    Liked by 1 person

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