I've written before about receiving and weeding through someone's feedback, but it might be time to discuss when/if to join a Writers Group.
First, let's define what I am talking about. There are all kinds of groups out there. You can meet up to talk writing, you can join a profession organization, or join a critique group. Each one will come with it's own expectations.
- A Meetup can be a hit or miss. If you are looking for a place to talk writing with people, this might be it. Could also be a place where you learn about new genres, events happening in your area, or maybe just find a person to network with. Be careful though, you can waste tons of energy on people who may not add much value to your career or writing.
- A Profession Organization can be a huge boon. If you can find one you want to join, push the button. I belong to Romance Writers of America, and I find the amount of information I get from this one Pro Org far outstrips any other outlet I have tried. The chapter meetings across the country, online classes, in person conferences and workshops, all of this for less than I have paid for some dinners out.
- A Critique Group can be the last place you think you want to be. Who joins a group just to be criticized? Yeah, crazy writers. That's who. I looked for one in my area for over a year. No luck. I had one who wanted me to interview... Uh, no. When I couldn't find what I wanted, I suggested to a group I would make one. Boom! So far, it's working for me, and for the others participating.
When do you know if you are ready for a Writer's Group?
I knew I was ready when I had a finished work. I wanted others to read and give me opinions and options. I am not a grammar queen even though I have read Struck and White's all the way through twice. Not much of it sticks, and I don't know that I will ever be brave enough to use a ; Like EVER!
Is my plot working? Do I need more conflict? Do I have likeable characters?
These are the kinds of things I needed feedback on. I had a member remind me, "Writers Write and Editors Edit." Lord knows I will never put a copy editor out of a job, but I also want you to understand you need to be profession. If you can't use any kind of grammar properly, you look pretty sloppy. Having four or five people help you catch stuff rocks!
I am always cautious to make sure people understand the rules going into a group. All groups need some kind of layout to help accomplish and set the expectation of it's members. When you look at those rules, they should help you know if you have found a place supportive of your style of creativity and need for feedback.
Some folks just want to get together and shoot the breeze with other people who love words as much as they do. I am not much into poetry, but it doesn't mean I can't learn from a poet how to paint a beautiful picture with brevity. Try something on even if it looks like it might need an alteration. Members will move, or lose interest, or become ill, and new members are needed to keep things going. You might be the change a group needs.
If you have never written anything, or are just brainstorming, you might find some groups intimidating. It's very hard to edit and create at the same time. I have known zero creative writers who do it in tandem with any sort of passion. Most write and put it away long enough to forget it. They come back after weeks, maybe months, and rework the manuscript. It's like dough. You leave it to rise. If you are trying to create when you have never created, you might find the balancing act very very difficult.
But, I am also one for throwing caution to the wind and maybe that means I've flown to close to the sun a few times. Not stepping out there because you are afraid is going to leave you right where you are. Right. Where. You. Are. No forward momentum. You know all the cliches, if you don't try, then you have failed...all that stuff.
Go. Find your tribe. Create.
Are you in a Writer's Group now? What's working for you? What's not working? Please leave a comment below. I would love to talk.