How to choose a writers’ group
Photo tim caynes
Being a writer can be a lonely profession. It’s you, your computer and your imagination. There are the occasional journeys out to conduct interviews or gather research, but for the most part writers spend a lot of time alone.
One of the best ways to expand your social circle—and receive feedback on your work or perfect your writing skills—is by joining a writers’ group, an organized group of writers who get together periodically to critique each others’ work or discuss the art of writing.
Before jumping in to the first writers’ group that comes along, though, take some time to ask yourself what your goal is in your writing career; then choose a group that best meets your needs. To get you started, here are the types of writers’ groups you may encounter and how each can help you advance your writing career.
Critique groups offer writers the opportunity to share work and receive feedback on what they’ve written. A classic example is Zoetrope Virtual Studio , an offshoot of Francis Ford Coppola’s production company.
Some critique groups are highly structured, with specific time limits set on how long each person has to share his or her writing and receive comments in return. Others are structured so that a certain number of people have the opportunity to share work at each meeting. Be prepared to both receive and give feedback.
Workshop groups are generally led by a facilitator about a specific writing-related topic during each meeting. Writers’ groups of this nature may or may not be in direct correlation with what you are working on at that specific time, but, instead, encourage writers to practice particular skills. Reading and receiving feedback on your work is not generally part of a workshop writers’ group.
Face-to-Face vs. Online
If you hope to connect with writers in your geographical area, then joining a face-to-face group may be up your best choice. Physically meeting with people to discuss the writing world allows you to connect with others who also deal with the ups and downs of the writer’s life.
These groups often have a set schedule when everyone in the group gets together. Face-to-face groups often offer a sense of camaraderie and friendship based on the shared love of writing, which can be welcome in this otherwise lonely occupation.
Online groups, such as Scribophile and SheWrites, are easily accessible anytime you have an internet connection. Some have a set time where all the members meet on a forum or chat board to discuss assignments or particular aspects of writing, but many are open for members to connect to the web when and where it is most convenient. The anonymity of online groups helps many to be more open in giving constructive criticism.
Genre-Specific vs. General Writing
Some groups focus specifically on a certain genre, such as young adult fiction. If you write within a particular niche, these groups can help you focus on the details that will allow you and your writing to stand out among the many others also tackling the same genre.
These groups can help answer specific questions related to your niche and may help you network with the movers and shakers in that particular area of writing as well.
If you dabble in a number of genres or are just starting out as a writer, you may find a writing group that spans a variety of writing types to be more appropriate. General writing groups also have the opportunity to open your eyes to types of writing you didn’t know you had an interest in or realize existed.
Local vs. National
Many writers’ groups exist because a few interested writers got together at their local coffee shop and started talking about the writing life. These grassroots groups have encouraged many people to take the next steps in their writing careers. After all, if your next door neighbor or mailman can tell their stories, why can’t you? These local groups often run based on word-of-mouth promotion and offer little in the way of “extras” to membership, but the real goal is to encourage your craft with like-minded people who also share your love for writing.
On the other hand, national groups, such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Romance Writers of America, have a sizeable membership that consists of award-winning authors, illustrators, editors, publishers and agents. These large, membership-based groups often have regional or local chapters; conferences, events and networking opportunities; and awards and scholarships. They also have tiered levels of membership, higher membership fees and sometimes an application process, but the expanded breadth of resources available is significantly greater than what writers may receive through smaller, local groups.
The beauty of writers’ groups—like writers themselves—is that they are all different from each other. Try them out to find that one that is right for you … and don’t be surprised to find that you’ll never be a lonely writer again.
What writers’ groups do you like? Let us know in the comments.
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