Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Worth of a Writers Group

For the last seven years, I've been a part of an amazing writers group, Authors Incognito. This group is made up of attendees of the LDS Storymakers Writers conference.



There are many things that make a writers group awesome. Here are a few you should look for:

Authors Incognito 2011
Common Interest

What links the group together? For Authors Incognito, it's the shared experience of attending the LDS Storymakers Writers conference. For other groups, it could be a certain genre, living near each other, or personalities that just mesh.


Experience

Consider what type of experience you want the people in your group to have. Are you okay with beginners who have never edited for anyone before or, if you are a seasoned author, you may want feedback from others who are published and know exactly what types of points to nit-pick about. I know writers who belong to multiple groups, each varying in experience so they can receive different point of views on the same manuscript.


Attitude

Are you and the other members of the group willing to take feedback? I'm not just talking about the "I LOVE this part!!!" feedback, but also the, "This just didn't jive for me and it needs a lot of work" feedback. Is there anyone in the group who's too sensitive? Because if there is (or even if it's you), they need to either grow thick skin and not be offended or search for another group. Did that sound harsh? I've been in a writers group where we all tiptoed around one person who only wanted to hear how awesome his writing was. It's not fun for anyone in the group - unless you happen to be the one person getting all the praise. So be willing to do the work and take the feedback. Have a good attitude. It's important to share the things you love about the chapter, as well as what you think needs to be improved. No bashing allowed. You should all be there to help each other become better writers and cheer each other on to publication.



Schedule

We all have busy schedules, which is sometimes what dictates which group you attend. My writers group here in Kansas meets on a specific day in the evening. The only problem is I'm so not a night owl. Personally, I'm a "Bed by 9 pm" person. Our group usually lasts until about 10 pm and everyone knows that between nine and ten, I start to yawn, blink, and snack a lot so I can stay awake. Some weeks I'm much better than others, but, thankfully, my group is awesome and willing to put up with my sleepiness. I know groups who meet for lunch once a week, or who email chapters back and forth each week, then meet in person once a month because they need to travel farther to get together.


Format

Super Edits 2011: My awesome online critique group.


Every writers group I've chatted with has something different that works for them. Some groups pass out chapters to be read before the next meeting, others read and review during the meeting. Some set timers to stay on time, others just talk and talk and talk . . . until they feel everything has been covered for that chapter. Some groups expect the author to sit quietly while his chapter is critiqued and don't allow for feedback from the author. Ahem - that's one I'm against. For me, talking with my group about points in the manuscript helps me to brainstorm what might need to be tweaked to make it stronger. No matter what "rules" are put into place, be sure they are agreed upon by all the members of the group.


Fun, Fun, Fun!

Writers group should be fun! Because if it's dreary, what motivation would you have to go back or to finish your manuscript? Enjoy each others works-in-progress, different point of views, as well as your friendship. I highly recommend celebrating together when someone finished their manuscript, gets a partial or full request, signs with an agent, or sells a book. Encourage each other and enjoy the topsy-turvy roller coaster ride of writing!


I would love to hear about your writers groups. Tell me what you love, what you wish was different, or if you don't have a group, what you're looking for. You never know who you'll connect up with!

4 comments:

kathryn_swinton said...

you said it sister! I love my writer's group!

Nisa said...

Lots of great things to consider! I couldn't view the video for copyright reasons. (Living outside of the US does have its downside.) Thanks for a great blog post!

Ted said...

I love writing groups. AI is my group. The challenge I have is finding time to do the face to face meetings, especially the critiques. I am out in Tooele and the only time they meet, I am busy with a church calling. Any suggestions? I am trying to rely on the AI Critique group.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Ted - Have you tried Christine's Critter's Ink group? I know they are in the process of reforming critique groups.

Another suggestion is to find one or two other people who would be interested in having a weekly virtual group. So you would send your chapters to each other via email - or even better, Google Docs. That way you can all add your comments to the same document. So much easier to reference! When you're on Google docs, they also have a live chat window. So you can all discuss AND see each other's comments on the chapter. So awesome. We use this function a lot for our Authors Incognito Exec Committee.

Hmm . . . this sounds like a good topic to explore for a future post!

Review Disclaimer: Sometimes a book I review has been sent to me for free by a publisher or an author. This in no way effects my review, which is my own opinion about whether the book was a good read for me, fit my tastes, and if I would recommend it to others. Other than possibly a free book, I am not compensated in any way for posting a review.