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Not all writing groups are created equal and it’s important that you get hooked up with the right one to get the most out of it.
Three things to consider:
What is the purpose of the writing group you are considering joining?
Is it a critique group where you will pass each other’s work around, usually one chapter at a time, and give notes? If so, does the group have a specific focus? Are they expecting a copy edit of their piece or are they reviewing their work from 50,000 feet and looking at plot structure and character development?
These elements affect the general rhythm and speed at which a group works. Working on copy edits and line edits can move at a fairly quick pace, possibly multiple chapters per meeting. In contrast, if the group is analyzing character motivation or your plot structure, it will likely move slower.
How often will they meet and where?
This might be well-established if you are considering joining an existing group. Ask them if their schedule ever changes so you know if this schedule is set in stone or if there is a possibility that you’ll get into a Thursday morning groove and then they decide to change it to Saturday night.
Likewise, if you are starting your own group, you and your co-founders will want to sort that out sooner rather than later. If you are trying to get through an 80,000 word manuscript in 2 months with your critique group and they only review a chapter a month, you’ll find yourself frustrated with the process.
Location is important here. Will the group meet and offer feedback virtually? Or in a remote coffee shop that is 45 minutes each way from your house? Before you commit, decide if you are willing to make that trip every week, month, etc.
How many people are involved?
Too many cooks spoil the soup. Or at least it takes longer to make the soup. If there are too many participants, it can take hours and hours to get through the review of each participants work. You’ll want to know ahead of time how much time everyone spends on their critique of the group members pieces. Is it round robin style where everyone reads everything and then sits down and relays their notes? Or do only certain members participate each week, rotating throughout the month?
This matters because you might think that since your group meets every week they’ll fly through your work, but if your writing only comes around once a month, for example, you’ll still be moving slowly through your book.
Finally, if possible, meet all the groups participants before you commit. You may find a member of the group clashes with your personality style in the first or second meeting. Finding that out sooner rather than later can save you and the group valuable time.
Assimilating into a group can be a delicate operation and it doesn’t serve you or the group to join and then realize there are pacing issues, the drive is just too far, or there is a sociopath amongst you.
You might be wondering what to do if you find yourself mired in the messy dynamics of a toxic writing group. Come back on Thursday for tips to getting a dysfunctional writing group back on track. While you wait, look at these fantastic ideas for a reading room. Your blood pressure will thank you.
Remember, you want your drama in the story, not in your real life!
Bibliocrunch has some great resources for self-publishing. Check out these FREE (until mid-February) publishing guides and ensure your post-writing process is streamlined.
Auburn Seal enjoys zipping through life in the lovely Pacific Northwest where she finds herself surrounded by a great family—one super-cool husband and three awesome children—and gorgeous scenery. She is a fair-weather blogger (it’s possible she has commitment issues), and has a unique ability to weave the dead into her stories. Auburn graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Student Loans. Oops, Justice Studies. Note the irony. Still, Go Sun Devils!