Looking for group? I’m actually not. I have found a group of fellow writers that I can call friends, a group that makes my writing better and, more importantly, a group that makes me a better person. So to the would-be writers and the people slaving away on WIP’s… what should you look for in a writing group? Here’s a list of things I think are really, really important:
1. People that you enjoy to be with. You don’t have to be a circle of best friends, and naturally, you can’t know how well you’ll get along with people before you meet them, but why spend time sharing pieces of yourself and reading pieces of others if you don’t enjoy the company?
2. Find people who are diverse. I am not part of a “fantasy” group. Our group spans from alternative history urban fantasies, to paranormal werewolves, to memoir, to literary fiction, to action adventure… And you know what? The collective eye and understanding of this group of readers provides me with a depth of comments I couldn’t find in a “fantasy” group. If they all instinctively leap to Harry Potter when comparing and critiquing and offering ideas, that’d suck! I’m glad I get suggestions from all directions that add to who I am as a WRITER.
3. Find people who read your genre. While the above paragraph is true… it may be hard to get great feedback if no one in your group understands the horror market or dives into steampunk. I love being a part of a group that’s even more well-read than I am. When they compare my novel to a book I haven’t heard of, it gives me more to look at, more to learn. They know my market, they know my genre, they know what is typical and what isn’t. It’s makes a different.
4. Find people who want to write as much as you do. It’s no fun to be the only one submitting new material, to be the only writer pressing forward with their work. I take great joy (and am often challenged) by the regular submissions and dedication of my group members. It really feels like we’re all working toward the same goals.
5. Find people who aren’t afraid to point out the flaws. My writing has improved so much over the course of a few years. The reason? Sharpening. When Keith points out that I’m relying on prepositional phrases again and Emmalea diagnoses the inconsistency of my protagonist acting a certain way… It helps. I learn. My first drafts are stronger. My revised drafts are lightyears of improvement. Iron sharpens iron.
6. Find people who aren’t afraid to tell you what you’re doing WELL. Don’t overlook this. Serious writers DO get tired of family and friends just saying, “It’s good! I enjoyed it!”… We want feedback, but we also love people celebrating our hard work. My group really does that well.
7. Consistency and depth… Try to find a group that isn’t a revolving door, that involves the same people. Our group is right around 7-8 folks. We’ve definitely said “See ya later” to a few friends and welcomed new writers… But I’ve been with the same nucleus for a while. And you know what? They KNOW my main character as well as I do. The feedback they give on account of this is just wonderful.
These are just a few things… and if I had the time, I could probably think of hundreds of other good rules that my writing group embodies… but the point isn’t rules. It’s about taking steps to become a better writer. How are you doing that? If you have NO ONE looking at your work, that needs to change. Be bold and be willing to improve through the lens of other people and personalities. It’s totally worth it.