A few weeks back, I did a post about the need for good people to help you as you write your novel (or short story, etc.). And while it’s super important to have quality readers, some writer’s prefer a writers’ group. As with most things in life, a writers’ workshop group will have some advantages and some disadvantages. Here are a few things to consider when you think of joining or starting a group. If you’re already in a group, you may want to evaluate it based on these criteria.
KEEP IT SMALL: Most writers’ groups function in such a way that everyone reads (and provides feedback for) everybody else’s story. If you’re in a large group, you’ll likely spend more time reading and editing than you will writing.
KEEP IT CLEAN: Few things worse than having someone nitpick your story because they don’t like you. Groups should be composed primarily of friends, people who already know how to get along, or are at least professional enough not to be insulting in their critique. In the same way, give constructive feedback when responding to other’s work. Be specific. Not just, “This character sucks. They’re lame. I hate them.” Instead, “This character feels a little flat to me. I don’t know enough about their history to be invested in them. Can you spend a little more time bringing out their good qualities?”
KEEP IT REASONABLE: Make limits for yourselves. Agree to meet monthly (more than that might be too much to work into some people’s schedules). Also, set a maximum page amount. How much is up to you, but I’d recommend no more than twenty pages a month. That’s something most diligent readers can knock out in a day or so.
KEEP IT LIKE MINDED: If you’re writing fantasy, you may want to hook up with a few fantasy writers. Writing romance? Find someone else who pens love-heavy novels. This is not to say that romance writers have no place in fantasy writers’ groups (just that they may try to encourage you to have the orc marry the elf, etc.).
If you can start a group like this (or find one and join it), you’ll get some great feedback for your stuff. But if you hook up with a group that doesn’t follow these, be warned: you may not get the return on investment that you’re hoping for.
Would love to hear from those of you in groups, starting groups, etc. How are your experiences?