1-What is a writers’ group? A writers’ group is a group of writers that meets regularly to critique each other’s work to improve it
2-What type of writers’ group are out there?
- Cold readings: Each writer brings a piece they want to share in as many copies as the number of participants. In turn, each writer reads their work out loud. At the end of the reading other writers express their opinion on the piece (at every level, someone might comment on grammar, someone else on structure, plot and characters). Pros: fun, engaging. Cons: time constraints, often you can only ready 1,000-2,000 words at the time
- Pure critique: writers share their file before meeting and then meet to discuss them. Pros: you can get a lot done Cons: dry and a bit boring
- Paid groups: Most groups are free. Sometimes an expert organizes one and you might have to be a paying member to partake. Pros: the advice of an expert. Cons: you have to pay, duh! Also they might be overcrowded. The quality will very much depend on the personality of the expert.
I personally like cold readings, because it’s so much more fun and it’s helpful to learn to read better in public.
3- How do I find a writers’ group? Google your town and writers’ group, browse local newspapers, browse meetup
4-What to expect: a mishmash of people and genres. From erotica to church sermons, from illiterate writers to nobel laureates. Either way you will learn a lot if you allow yourself to! Most writers’ groups go from three to about ten writers.
- Never interrupt a cold reading, avoid shuffling, fidgeting and going to the restroom unless you really have to
- Be respectful when expressing your opinions
- Warn the group if you are about to read adult content that might irk some people (sex, violence, language)
- Be honest, you do no favor to a writer telling them their chapter is great if it sucks!
- Take nothing personally. Yes, your book is your baby, but you can make it better and that’s why you’re at the group.
- Don’t defend your book. Let everyone talk and then decide if taking or leaving their advice. The only reason to respond to a critique is if someone asked for an explanation
- Listen! This is not your mom telling you you’re awesome. This is a taste of the real world. Treasure criticism. It hurts, take it like a writer; let it sit, masticate, and regurgitate a better book.
- Don’t be offended by other people’s writing. Some characters might be racist, ignorant, and evil. That does not mean their author is. If you feel that the writer comes off as any of those things, let them know without sounding threatening or offended
- Vocalize only major criticisms, mark typos and grammar mistakes (unless recurrent) on the paper you will return to the writer
- Avoid repeating criticism already been mentioned, just say you agree
- Never keep somebody else’s writing without permission. Duh. In fact I think it's a bit weird when people ask.
- Don’t destroy a first timer. Be considerate, it takes a lot of courage to come out of the writing closet. By all means be honest, but criticize in a positive way. If you are too harsh you might cause the person to never come back or worse, quit writing all together!
6-Things to watch out for:
- Big egos: some people just love the sound of their voice and will talk forever. Find a group with a good moderator or you’ll never get work done. I had to try three groups to find one I loved. One of the other two was so boring I felt like I was in school and ended up texting during it (never text in school O_o)
- Leeches: people that will take a lot and give nothing. Learn to say no, you cannot write somebody else’s book