Monday, November 19, 2012

Writing Group Q&A

I've heard it in every class and conference I've attended since my freshman year of high school--writing groups are a must for would-be authors. I've been in a writing group for just as long, hopping from one to the other (I think I've been in three and a half, now. Half, because one writing group replaced roughly half its members).

Why join a writing group?

Are writing groups worthwhile? Yes, absolutely! In the beginning they encouraged me to write. Once I was consistent with draft, they helped me see where I went wrong. Now writing groups catch all the mistakes I don't see and help me mold my story into something enjoyable, something publishable. Do you use a writing group?

How did you find your writing group?

How are writing groups formed? I found my first by joining a club that sponsored it. My second was one that a friend put together, and my third a teacher mashed together for me (which ended up being my best writing group ever, namely because everyone in the group wrote in the same genre and for the same audience, which I've discovered is crucial). I've been pondering joining a new writing group, or creating a new one, but I'm not sure where to look or how to start. If you're in a writing group, how did you get there?

What do you use your writing group for?

I originally did writing groups in sync with my current manuscript--I'd send in 1,000 to 3,000 words a week to be critiqued, and I critiqued in turn. However, I've now found that the alpha-/beta reader system works much better for me: I prefer to finish my entire rough draft and get an overall critique for it. Then I fix it, and send it to a second set of readers. I think this is harder for group function, however, as it demands a lot of work without a consistent schedule. What set-up works best for you?

How does your writing group function?

I've done groups in person, online, and via Skype. In-person is definitely my favorite, as it's more personal (on the flip side, it also encourages more banter and therefore creates longer sessions). Due to distance, I'm currently limited to online/Skype groups. Is there a style that you prefer?

I would love to hear about others' groups, and if you're in an online group looking for members, do broadcast it! Myself and other readers are bound to benefit from it.


  1. Defining the purpose of a group is important. If it's a "writing group" meant to provide encouragement and support of the members' writing efforts, then it's going to be different from a "critique group" where constructive advice and opinions are expected.

    I've belonged to both but have moved back to just one critique group of which I'm a charter member. For me, the ideal group size is 4-7. I think the value depends a lot on the compatibility of the membership, and that can be easier to achieve when a few writing friends set up their own group. I don't find it necessary to have everyone working in the same genre, but I wanted the opportunity to critique my novel-length mss, so it helped to have others involved who were also writing novels and thus understand the mechanics.

    While our group isn't currently doing it, I've found the most helpful method is when a full chapter can be e-mailed to everyone in the group ahead of time. We commit to printing out and critiquing everyone else's, and then take them with us to the next meeting to discuss and return marked mss to the authors. My DD's group uses this method. Sharing full mss with another member or other writing friend for beta reading also works great.

    Until I'm comfortable with the individuals doing critiquing I prefer the online or written-on-the-ms kind of feedback, just because it's sometimes easier to accept criticism when it's not face to face, plus there's less temptation to try and defend your work.

  2. I used to have a writing group. Then everybody moved away. :(

  3. I'd love to join a real life writing group, but I have no idea where to meet them since I don't go to university.

  4. I'm with you on preferring to write the whole MS then do alpha/beta. I'd be interested in doing a writing group again, but, yeah, distance problems. Over the chat/Skype, perhaps?

  5. I'm between groups now, waiting until I'm well into the next WIP to join. Groups are fantastic though, you learn a ton and make friends along the way. :)

  6. I think writer's groups are a must. There are so many different types, all beneficial, and people can choose what works best for them.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  7. For me, meeting in person works best. I haven't tried Skype, I suspect that would be second best for me. Online, where there is not hard/set schedule, I can often get behind. But I do find them helpful!