The stars must have been properly aligned and the writing angel perched on my shoulder when I was invited to join my first writing group. But that doesn’t happen to everyone. If you’re thinking of joining a group or changing into another one (yes, it’s permissible) here are some things to look for:
- Ask or ascertain whether the group is for novice, intermediate, or advanced writers. Do you really want to spend time trying to figure out what ‘story arc,’ and ‘archetypes’ mean or be in a group where everyone has already published.
- Is writing a hobby for you or are you passionate about writing and want to publish?
- Do you want to join a group to socialize, network, share information, or strictly do critiques? If you’re friendly and enjoy potluck with your group that’s fine, unless you’re adverse to that.
- Is the group composed of only fiction writers, non-fiction, supernatural, or poetry. Some genre’s can blend and others don’t.
- A small group of 4 to 6 writers is great and 6-8 is good, more than that can be unwieldy.
Once you’re in a group watch out for the different ‘types’ of writing group members. There is the “Nice” ‘critiquer’ who loves everything you write, is so sweet and supportive and whose feedback is vague. The “Oversensitive” writer tears up when given a legitimate constructive suggestion. He or she becomes overly defensive or passive aggressive; wait until it’s your turn to read and they’ll pounce on you. The “I Know it All” who’d rather hear him/herself talk than be helpful. They go on tangents and start talking about how Stephen King (in his book “On Writing”) feels about what you did. Then there is the Holy Grail of critiquer’s, the “Helpful” ones who have a good eye for editing, gives clear suggestions, and helps you with MS Word (OK, that’s not a requirement for a ‘helpful’).
Find a healthy balance of all of the above type of ‘critique-rs’ (two ‘helpful’ cancel out a ‘nice’ and ‘oversensitive,’ but it takes three ‘helpful’ to cancel out a ‘know it all’). If you find a group that meets your particulars, then jump into the writing group waters now, don’t wait until the stars are aligned; your small window of opportunity may close.