Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Reflecting on writers groups

Have you ever belonged to a writer’s group? Did it work? Why (or why not?) What would be your criteria for the perfect writer’s group?

First I would like to share my thoughts about writer's groups. What do I want out of it? Foremost, I wish for it to be serious about writing and be interactive. To understand each other writings and offer constructive criticism. Feedback is essential for us to move up as writers. One writers group I had initially joined only cared for the so-called group leader. Even if he read out trash, most went ga-ga over it. I truly disliked that aspect as no one was interested in others writing. Not even the moderator. We were forced to discuss his writings only. This put me off and I stopped going after a few times.

Then I joined a poetry reading group. It was a good lesson as long as 12-15 people met and discussed their poems. However, slowly more people trickled in, resulting in utter chaos. More serious poets had to take a back seat waiting for their turn to read and sorely disappointed as no one cared to listen to them. After a while, food was the only thing that held any interest for most of those attended. I stopped visiting this group too.

As you can see, none of the two groups worked out for me. As a concept it is good. Working it out is the problem. Most non-serious writers turn it into a friendship network. That is not what I want out of a writers group. I wish to improve upon my writing. I wish for good critiquing to help me with my words. I am still searching for a good writers group.

A good group can show us our strengths and weaknesses in our writings. That is what I wish for myself. My writings should flow like a river and not impede me. For a poet or writer, getting intimate with the words gives us a high. I truly aspire for that.

What is your take on it? Would you like to join one?


  1. Quite honestly, I could not join a writer's group. I always feel there would be strong and quieter personalities in tension. I feel that not all would get the attention they may seek and some would get more than their full share! I think it needs to be clear why the group exists, so that those who join, are there for the same reasons.

    I also feel that what makes our differences as writers unique could get lost in the communal think pool.

  2. I'd like to try it. I can see the opportunity to share what you've written with a group, to get immediate feedback.

    oh, check it out, I've been experimenting with 100-word stories. Feedback is welcomed (from my online writer's group):

    Life Like a River

  3. I have been a member (briefly) of a writer's group in the past, and after moving, have joined one in my new town. It's very good for networking, event sharing and general positive support, and I enjoy hearing about what others are doing, but for real feedback, especially "constructive criticism" I would still turn to a trusted friend for an honest opinion.

  4. Well, I left school at fifteen, have no academic qualifications whatsoever, have never attended a writers' group and never read a 'how to' book.
    I'm totally self taught. I may never be a 'big' writer, but I know I'm myself.

  5. I'm sad to hear that neither group worked out for you, and reading the reasons why they didn't got me to thinking that maybe there could be a time and writer limits. What I mean is maybe work it in a way that only five writers may participate and the writing group meets from a certain amount of time before a new group is formed. Or, if the leader is REALLY dedicated to groups like this, he can host more than one writing group at a time, each of 5-6 writers, who meet on different days. This is much more work though, and very time consuming.

    I've been wanting to join a book club or writing group for at least a year now, and nothing seems to stick out to me. =0(

  6. I was a big fan of your suggestion on the 3WW blog on how to pass the time ;-)

  7. Yes I would! Even a cyber group that would actually critique work would be heaven sent. Moving in one direction as a group ultimately ending at a "goal" would be perfect. I have begun 52 weeks of stories, all related in some way. I posted chapter VI today on IIIWW. I print each chapter after I have posted and am having fun watching them accumulate.


  8. Yes, your 3WW suppgestion sounds like a good way to pass the time!

    I've neveer been part of a writing group but do enjoy the blog writing community.

  9. I currently am a member of two writing groups. It is so easy to find a bad group and so hard to find a good group. I think anything larger than six people is too big for novel critique, and anything fewer than four is not diverse enough.

    A good writing group needs to have commonality of vision--are you all looking for publication? Are you all looking for friendly validation and support?

    A good writing group has to have either a high degree of quality or a high degree of potential, or both. It is critical not to invite writers who don't measure up because they drag down the discussion, and you spend more time teaching grammar and usage than you do on storytelling and craft.

    A good writing group has to have a healthy balance between brutally honest criticism and unconditional support. Every writer in the group must trust all the others. Every one must honestly have the others' best interests at heart, be unafraid to say what they think, and be unhurt by criticism.

    And god forbid you have someone that smells bad.

  10. I like this comment - "a good group can show the strengths and weaknesses in our writing." That's the ideal, isnt' it?

    It's hard to find a good balance of camraderie and seriousness. I'm sorry neither one of your group experiences worked out.

  11. Nice post! I've belonged to several - both online and in real time. I think most groups do have a limited shelf life - and often lack focus in outcome which varies from time to time. I'm currently semi-involved with an online poetry group and find it somewhat helpful but don't really depend on it. It would be nice to find a new group, but...

  12. I think it's good you are looking for that feedback. Maybe you will find just a few serious writers with whom you can have that helpful relationship.

  13. Take a college class or a continuing education class at a university/college. It may cost some money, but worth it in the long run. You will have a tried and true (and hopefully published and honest) teacher who focuses on your work,style, and aspirations.

  14. great post g.. sometimes yes sounds like a great idea but have yet to make any steps towards that endeavor..

  15. I started a writing group and it has become an interesting group, we try to focus on writing better to be published and then share other writing. So far we have a children's book author, a screenwriter, a newspaper editor, a college graduate writing a novel, several authors with works in progress, and me- the least experienced. It's a good mix so far. Finding a good group is hard, even with our diversity, I wonder how long we will last.

  16. I have never tried a writer's group in real life. However, I have become involved with a poet community online. I would like to contrast what others have said with the idea that some anonymity can promote some level of honesty for a serious critique.

    I do not think serious means brutal, however. I steer clear of people who think a good critique is just bashing the piece. It is important to let people know that you are interested in improving, so they can feel comfortable. The community I work with has a posting rule where one must critique at least two pieces before posting one for critique. I found the give and take works well. So it is something I would look for.

    However, online diversity of levels of expertise means that as the writer, you have to delineate between worthy advice and rubbish. Nonetheless, my involvement has made me grow in a measure I could not have imagined.

    Only one gem critique can have a huge impact. I believe that a writer's weakness is often a habit more than an individual event. At least, I have found this to be the case for me. So one good critique can be held up against future work again and again. It's priceless.

  17. Yep, I haven't had luck with writer's groups. The last one had two problems: Most didn't really want critiques, only to hear positive feedback. And all of them liked lots of rules. I told them rather than follow a lot of rules, I planned on staying home to write.