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Wrting Groups May 29, 2013

Posted by nrhatch in Mindfulness, People, Word Play, Writing & Writers.

Tiggers-R-UsWriting groups are not for everyone.

What I enjoy most about writing is its solitary nature, with nothing between my thoughts and the page but my pen. Writing “by committee” holds no appeal.

Some critiques “bash” the motivation out of would-be writers. Other critiques probably aren’t critical enough.

Due to loyalty, or fear of future reprisals, members may say what the would-be writer WANTS to hear, not what s/he NEEDS to hear.

7dwarfsMeetings are time consuming and often a waste of time ~ social niceties, feigned friendship, and pats on the back (warranted and unwarranted) eat up LOTS of time.

If you’re in the wrong group . . . you hear the wrong advice.

If you hear any advice at all.

When we first moved to Florida, I attended a few meetings of the Gulf Coast Writers.  The group gathers once a month to read their writings to each other amid a smattering of polite applause ~ or deathly silence.

Occasionally, an outside speaker appears to elucidate writers in the group about how to get published  or self-publish their words.

The meeting time, mid-day on Wednesdays, ensures that most members are retired from the workforce . . . with an average age of 73.1 years.

At the second or third meeting I attended, the group discussed holding a Writers Forum on the island.  Excited, I attended the next meeting only to learn that a consensus had been reached to do nothing more than the group was already doing ~ acting as a polite audience for once a month readings.

At that point, I lost interest in the group, and I haven’t bothered to scout out another for the reasons cited above.

PC-CatThat said, if I stumbled upon someone and LOVED how they wrote and they agreed to read my WIP and give me an HONEST critique and it was HELPFUL and we started to share more of our writing with each other and . . .

That might work. ;)

Aah . . . that’s better!

What say you?

Have you ever participated in a writing group?
Did it help or hinder?

Related post:  Writing Groups: Yea or Nay? (Eric J. Baker)

Quote to ponder:  The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it. ~ Leo Rosten


1. SuziCate - May 29, 2013

I belong to a writing group and it doesn’t give me what I want. It’s a place where we meet once a month, do a writing exercise, hear a speaker, and get a prompt for the next month. They don’t critique. It is held in a church and the emphasis is on religious writing which I am not a religious writer; however, I do like the people in the group and receive good information and enjoy some of the speakers. I seldom go anymore though because I get more pertinent info from reading and better support from my blogging world. I also enjoy the solitude of writing. If I want a critique I have a writer friend who we email our work back and forth, text, or call one another. I do have a blogging friend who is in what I’d call a phenomenal writing group…they not only helped her organize her book, but each read and wrote review to go up upon her launch day on Amazon…now if I had a writing group with that kind of support I’d hang onto them!

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

Your friend has the “right kind” of writing group for sure . . . that’s great support for a launch on Amazon.

Your group sounds like the Gulf Coast Writers. Nice enough folks to hang around with, but not likely to advance each other’s writing.

2. Jodi - May 29, 2013

I’ve been in the same group for the past three years and have found the support and feedback very valuable. This group, like many, tries hard to always be constructive and often is overly polite. While this is great for the ego it doesn’t help with writer growth. Luckily I have a few friends in the group that I can trust for an honest critique through email.

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

That also sounds like the Gulf Coast Writers . . . except that you found a few friends in the group you can rely on for honest critique. Perfect.

3. Maggie - May 29, 2013

The only writing group I was ever in was my fiction writing class in college, so of course, the feedback had to be helpful so our grades would be good. 🙂

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

That sort of writing group sounds quite helpful, Maggie.

4. Arlee Bird - May 29, 2013

I can relate to this. I joined my first writers group a little over a year ago and my experience has been much like yours. I’m 62 and one of the young people in the group. About half our group can’t hear well which provides for some sadly comic situations. I think I’ll be looking for another group to join or maybe even consider starting my own.

The group I’m in now is kind of a dying enterprise with little vision for the future.

Wrote By Rote

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

The hearing issue was an issue, for sure. Starting a group of your own makes sense . . . so you can lay the groundwork. The Gulf Coast Writers were quite “set in their ways.”

5. theonlycin - May 29, 2013

I tried it once and found the members, for the better part, quite arrogant and it scared me off ever going again. I’m glad your new person is proving beneficial.

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

Yes! I found a few of the writers to be quite arrogant. One suggested a word change to another writer’s poem. When I said that I liked the original wording better . . . Ms. Arrogance shot me a nasty look, “how dare you!” 😆

6. Susan Rowland - May 29, 2013

Yes and no. I’ve been in several and most (not all) caused me to lose sleep. Usually I find too much underlying competition reminding me of high school cliques…and too much arrogance. Sometimes the shared information is good. Speakers are fun. Honest critique is rare, and oh….that “deathly silence. ” Help!

I think it’s great if you are the rare person who finds a cohesive and truly honest group. Maybe they exist. Ever hopeful.

I don’t understand why people, not just women, don’t support each other back. I wrote reviews and blurbs for other writers and NEVER got return support. One person I asked four times. Never again! I find too many people are downright deceptive.

In one group, the teacher was a Phd, published author, who claimed to have won a prize winning article. When she sent the link ( it never worked) to the eagerly awaiting class (which cost hundreds of dollars), it was a weird link to a girly site. Her work was NOT there. After two more requests for the proper link which was not forthcoming, I stopped asking. There’s more but I refrain.

Maybe Dr. Phil was right. You can’t give people the benefit of the doubt anymore. People have to prove themselves to me first.

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

The “deathly silence” resulted when several people wanted to read and were only listening so they could have a turn at the podium. In other words, they weren’t really listening at all.

Your teacher’s “missing link” is interesting . . . in an ironic sort of way. I would find it hard to trust her “claim to fame” after that.

7. katecrimmins - May 29, 2013

I am such an undisciplined writer that I have feared groups who may expect me to write something specific. I would love to have a couple friends for honest feedback but I think if there are too many people it may not work. However, I really don’t know as I’ve never done it.

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

Jodi’s solution seems a good one . . . find a group and hook up with one or two writers who provide support “on the side.”

8. colonialist - May 29, 2013

I was in a Writers’ Circle, once. It seemed set on ruthlessly removing every trace of originality in style, and of squeezing all the members into identical packages. I found my preferred creations broke most of their ‘rules’, so I let them get on with it.

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

That’s the real reason I lost interest in the Gulf Coast Writers . . . most of what they wrote (i.e., their memoirs and/or poems) didn’t interest me much. I expect they would have said the same about what I wrote, if I had bothered to share it. 😉

Forming your own group of 2-3 like-minded writers might work. Especially with Skype.

colonialist - May 29, 2013

That is certainly a thought.

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

Someone I “wrote with” on WEbook formed an invitation only group that Skyped together once a week, then paired off to give one-on-one critiques to each other during the week. The members of the group seemed to enjoy the set up.

Another group I knew Skyped together once a week (but, given the personalities involved, I suspect that the meeting consisted of largely unwarranted Ego Stroking. :mrgreen:

9. ericjbaker - May 29, 2013

As you know (since you linked back to my piece), I am not big on the concept. I’d never tell anyone not to join once if he finds it beneficial, but it’s not for me. I suggest a couple of trusted beta readers and a good editor. A good editor will aid your writing immensely. By “good,” I mean someone with the professionalism to edit without bias toward subject matter or genre. Good editors cost money and writing groups usually don’t, but you get what you pay for.

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

That’s great advice, Eric. A good editor is a great asset when we’re looking for honest critique.

10. diannegray - May 29, 2013

I was in a writer’s group once about 20 years ago and hated it. I’m definitely a ‘loner’ (and maybe a snob! LOL) 😀

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

Some writers need to counterbalance the solitude . . . writing groups fill the bill. Others, like you and me, savor the solitude and find it the BEST part of writing. :mrgreen:

11. Susan Rowland - May 29, 2013

Thanks for the feedback. I enjoy groups and I need the criticism. After a while I can’t “see” what I am writing anymore, so the need for others’ minds and opinions is crucial. What I was trying to say is that there are good people out there in writing groups… and then are people who are not honest. I’m still willing to try because writing is hard work.

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

Good luck finding the right group for you, Susan. That’s key.

12. Catherine Johnson - May 29, 2013

I love my new critique group. The last one was not on the pulse enough and didn’t seem to give worldly advice. There were also too many in it and very infrequent posting. Progress = great critiquing.

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

That’s awesome, Catherine. So glad that your new critique group is a winner. 😀

13. EllaDee - May 29, 2013

It holds the same for any type of group or class – book club, meditation, adult education, writing… it’s a dynamic. If you are persistent, and lucky you may find a group that suits you. Over a quarter of a century in several locations I’ve been part of less than half a dozen good groups, 4 fantastic groups plus 1 memorably awful group.
I’m not a writer as such, I enjoy writing and have now found a comfortable niche in blogging but before that I found day workshops suited best…

nrhatch - May 29, 2013

Thanks, EllaDee. Looks like your “good” and “fantastic” groups far outweighed the bad. That’s favorable odds for anyone interested in joining a writing group.

14. yogaleigh - May 30, 2013

My best success with writing groups has been when a few friends–all of whom were pretty decent writers–started meeting regularly. We were always nice to one another, even in criticism because we were friends and because we were all on the same level there was no need for scathing critiques. The best one had four of us who all wrote in different genres. It turned out to be helpful to have readers who didn’t know the genre give feedback.

nrhatch - May 30, 2013

That’s great, Leigh . . . like having built in Beta Readers to look over your shoulder and provide feedback.

15. jannatwrites - May 30, 2013

I haven’t been in a writers group. I thought about trying one, but the meeting place/time wasn’t convenient. In a class I took a couple years ago, there was some swapping and ‘critiquing’ of work. I ended up reading a piece that I would say was soft porn. So hard for me to provide constructive feedback on something like that.

I’m not looking for a writing group now because I’m okay with writing alone. I’m learning to trust myself more and believe that I can write a story without gaping plot holes. (Um, yeah…first I have to get around to actually writing it :razz:)

nrhatch - May 30, 2013

Ack! I wouldn’t enjoy critiquing soft porn either, or hard porn, or horror, or most future world dystopian fantasies, or . . . picky, aren’t I? :mrgreen:

Like you, I’m okay writing alone. And when I need a 2nd pair of eyes, I recruit BFF to the cause. If I got “serious” about publication, I might hire an editor to give it a good going over.

16. kateshrewsday - May 30, 2013

Writer’s groups. Hmmmm. Not a fan myself, though of course there are many groups who must have performed a similar function; the Inklings, the Bloomsbury set, and so on. That said, I married a journalist and I am one, and my children appear to be going the same way, and Dad is a poet of sorts. I have my daily proof reader, Jan, who spots the 101 errors I make. I rarely publish without someone qualified having read my post. So perhaps I’m being a mite hypocritical.

nrhatch - May 30, 2013

I’m with you about Writing Groups. Did Alex Haley, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Aldous Huxley, Stephen King, or Frank Baum join a writing group? I doubt it. I expect they relied on their own sound judgment while writing before bouncing a few plot ideas around over tea . . . or something a tad stronger.

That said, if you lived near, I’d recruit you for MY writing group, Kate. Every group needs someone who is hyper critical. :mrgreen:

Oh, wait, that’s not what you said . . . or what you meant.
My bad. 😉

17. William D'Andrea - May 30, 2013

I think that webook.com, in which you and I are both members, is an excellent writers group; along with other writers websites. We post our writings for anyone to read and give feedback, whenever we and they have the time. There are who knows how many thousands of us on that website, who come in all shapes and sizes, as do our writings. While there are many problems with that site; I find it much more useful as a writer, than any of the small, exclusive writers’ clubs, which you and others here are complaining about.

nrhatch - June 1, 2013

WEbook is a great place to meet other writers. Glad you’re enjoying it, William.

18. Three Well Beings - June 1, 2013

I have been a part of one writing group, but it exhausted me, quite frankly. There were people who monopolized and were needy, and I think in the end I really didn’t care enough what others thought of my work. I think you write because you want to write. If a person has talent it will be expressed, and I’ve read plenty of “critically acclaimed” that didn’t do a thing for me, so there’s something a bit mercurial about the whole process anyway. I have at times taken advantage of some on-line, anonymous groups, and they were probably more fun than helpful, but fun is good, too! 🙂

nrhatch - June 1, 2013

Yes! Yes! Yes! I love every part of this comment, Debra . . . from needy members who monopolize discussions, to not caring what “they” think,” to wondering how some books ended up in print, to ENJOYING ourselves by finding the FUN.

Write on!

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