Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Writers' Wednesday: The Pros and Cons of Writers' Groups

So I've been thinking a lot about writers' groups the last few months. When I first decided to take the plunge and consider writing for publication, about 9 years ago, I looked around online and found a wonderful website where you could both take writing courses and join an online group. I took just one course (the intro one, I think), but I ended up joining 2 groups, and I will be forever grateful for the people I met there who helped shape my writing and my awareness of the writing world. There, I learned to take and give criticism, to do research about publishers, and to share beyond just the writing with a core group of fellow scribblers, some of which I am still in touch with today.

Then, about 3 years ago, I contacted my local RWA writers' group and found another support network, this time filled with local women who were writing in a similar genre - some published, some not. I continued to learn, to share, to socially interact with new faces - these in person instead of in cyber world, which was refreshing.

Now, however, I'm in the position of trying to decide whether I should continue my membership in the local group (my origial online groups disbanded a while back, sadly). While I am still a member of RWA, I attend the local meetings very infrequently (both because of my busy schedule and because I didn't feel I was getting out of them what I needed/wanted to). The membership fee for the local isn't much, so it's not the money. But I rarely attend meetings anymore, so I suppose I should consider why that is, and whether I'd be better served seeking feedback and support elsewhere.

I think part of it is that at the last few meetings I went to, attendance was super-low, and most of the discussion was either (1) gossip in small groups around the table or (2) critique that was decidedly biting. The former I can deal with; the latter, not so much. I am a huge fan of providing and gaining feedback - and indeed, for a while I attended critique group every other week (though it was an hour drive one way). I liked the camraderie, the laughter, and the learning. A couple of our members besides myself are published, and it's wonderful to hear their insight. But somehow over the last few months, it stopped being both fun and beneficial. This is probably more because of where I am in my writing pursuits - thinking about switching genres, published with a well-established small press whereas many of the other members are not published - than anything else. Still, I'm starting to think my needs might be better met somewhere else.

Absolute Write is a wonderful resource, and a place where I've been spending quite a bit of online time. I think what I most appreciate about it is that there is a wide variety of writers hanging out there, from the well established/multi published to those still learning the craft from the bottom up. I find that my questions are better answered, my writing better critiqued.

So what about you? What do you look for in a writers' group? Online support, or in person? Or both? Does it matter what genres people write, or the level of their experience? Or do you prefer to go it alone?? I'm interested - please share!


Liz said...

I've been struggling with this as well. It has stopped being fun. Though I did see some positive signs like a FB page or a group blog that might be fun, So I'm going to try 1 more meeting and see what the vibe is. I love what I call my Core 4 and we need to get together soon! I will check out that website.

Marianne Arkins said...

I started an online crit group with a couple folks from the old Timeless Tales, and some new writing friends. It's a little quiet in there right now (most of us have finished getting crits on completed mss and are doing edits), but we would really love some new "blood" if you're interested.

I missed having a strong support/crit group, and when WVU went through that message board fiasco, I just fell out of touch except with folks I "talked" too offline.