Last week we started the discussion about finding your own writing group by tackling where you might find the people who will help you grow as an artist. What we didn’t discuss, however, was how you know when you’ve found the right people to help you do this.
Who Are the People In Your Right Writing Group?
Believe it or not, even if you’ve found a writing group that is local, active, and meeting at a time and place that is convenient for you, it might not be the right group for you. In my experience there have been three essential criteria in the productive members of a writing group.
1. People who are are willing to read and critique the type of work you want to write.
A common mistake many new writers make is believing that the only people who can help them are those who write the same genre as they do. This is not the case. All you need is a person willing to read your genre or type of writing with a critical eye, respecting that your genre choice is as worthy of their time as any other.
2. People who understand how to give and receive constructive criticism.
I alluded to this in criteria #1, but it is absolutely imperative to your growth as a writer that you receive and give constructive criticism on the writing you are working with. Critique is more than saying simple things like, “I loved this story, please keep working on it!” or, “I am confused by your writing, can you fix it?” When you give a critique, you must challenge yourself to read closely and discover why a certain piece of writing appeals to you, or what about it confuses you. This is not to say you need to become a personal editor for the members of your writing group, but you should be an intelligent reader, and you should expect the same of the members of your group.
3. People who are serious about the reason for the writing group meetings.
I’m not going to lie, not every minute of my writing group is devoted to distraction-free writing and study of the craft (as I write this in one of our write-ins, one of my writing group members is entertaining my one year old as we wait for Daddy’s pick up!). It is only natural that you will become friendly and more than comfortable with the people with whom you share your most vulnerable words. However, the moments of unstructured dalliance are minor and quickly dispelled. If you find that your group is becoming too social, then make sure to schedule more social outings with this group where writing is not the focus in order to keep precious the meetings intended to help you grow as a writer. If you get the impression that someone is only a part of the group so that they can meet people — or if you find that is the only reason you truly want to be a part of a particular writing group — then it is time you reevaluate what you are doing with your writing group time.
Next week I will lay out the details of what you can do with your writing group to ensure you are making the most of the time you have with them.
But, before you go…. leave a comment!
Have you ever found yourself in an unproductive writing group?
What types of critique do you find most valuable when someone is reading your work?
Is there a particular genre or type of writing that you do not feel comfortable critiquing? What is it, and why are you resistant to working with it?