I’ve talked about critique groups before and how important it is to have a group of writer friends, but I haven’t talked too much about what to look for in a group to make sure it’s a good fit. This is vital because if you’re getting feedback from the wrong people, it can hurt your writing.
So here are 4 things to look for in a writing group.
This might not seem important to you on the surface. After all, writing fiction is pretty same the same, regardless of genre right? Grammar rules remain consistent. And all stories require a basic character arc and plot-line. But that doesn’t factor in personal preference. Everybody has their own favorite types of fiction to read. And those biases may affect how they critique another writer’s story.
Think of it this way: If you write space opera, would you rely solely on a group of Jane Austen experts to critique your stuff? No. While all feedback can be of value, you should still seek input from authors familiar with the genre you write.
If you’re going to be spending a large amount of time with a group of people, you need to make sure you are all compatible. This could include things like having similar personal interests, but could also stray into the ugly territory of religion and politics. If you find yourself in a group of people who would rather argue with you than share writing tips and critiques, then you might want to consider make that group your “debate friends” and find new writing buddies.
But personal likes, dislikes, and beliefs are not the only place, nor the most important place, to make sure you are compatible with your group. I think you should find a writing group of people who share the same passion for writing and have similar goals. If your desire is to write full-time and really build your writing career, you’ll be better off finding a writing group of people who feel the same way so you can all help each other build your writing careers together.
Time and Place
If you want this to last, you need to have a schedule and location your a comfortable with. Everyone is busy (even those of you who have less than four kids) and if the group meets too much, it will become a burden and you’ll soon drop out. Likewise, if the group barely gets together, if might not be worth your time at all.
And as far as locations go, some writers are perfectly okay joining an online community, but others might prefer interacting with other humans face-to-face. Do whatever works for you, but if it is in person, try to keep it close, so you’re not spending too much time on the road.
Format of meetings
What’s the format? Are you simply sharing your stories or poems? Are you reading in advance and critiquing each others’ work? How many pages will you be required to read each week? To write? Consider all of these things and make sure that 1) The format of the group matches your writing goals and 2) It’s not too much for you to keep up with.
Finally, remember, joining a writing group is something you do to not only improve your own writing, but also to make friend, make connections, and help other writers do the same. And, of course, to have fun.
Are you currently in a writing or critique group? How is the experience and how did you find your current group? Let us know in the comments section!