Friday, February 8, 2013

Writing Groups 101

When you're a writer, or in any sort of creative field, it sometimes feels like no one understand you. They don't get the drive, the triumphs, the letdowns, the exhaustion of opening your veins on a piece of paper (Or computer screen. Whatever) etc etc.

The crazy thing, there's a lot more writers out there than you might think. And sometimes they get together in groups and commiserate and share ideas and even give feedback to each other, real honest feedback. And these magical conclaves are called writers' groups. They meet monthly, weekly or perhaps every couple weeks, and they are full of - you guessed it- writers.

(note: no one my writing group looks like this- especially not me)

I've attended writers' groups and run a couple of my own. I've even tried some online groups. So I think I can say I know a bit about it.

Where can you find a writers' group of your very own? Start with libraries and bookstores. I've run a group at a library, one at a bookstore, and currently attend a library group.

And here's the thing: going to one meeting doesn't mean you're stuck. Try as many groups as you need to find the right one. You'll need a group where the majority of members are on your level: if you are looking toward a professional writing career, you need feedback from people with the same goal. If you're writing fanfic, you'll want feedback from people also writing in pre-created worlds. If you're writing family history meant to be seen only by your progeny, it's helpful to have advice from people in similar projects.

But not everyone needs to be doing what you're doing; it's helpful (and fun) to get feedback from hobby writers, or published novelists, or creative nonfiction authors. So a variety pack is a good thing, as long as it's skewed toward what you do. It's also useful (and fun) to read things you wouldn't normally read, in order to provide feedback. The people in my group are writing a pulp novel, SF, memoirs of fighting in the Vietnam War, poetry, a series of funny family stories, and a Supernatural fan script (this one is really fun, because we all take parts and read the script aloud. Last time I got to be Sam).

If you can't find a writing group near you that fits, make your own. Go to the library and ask how to start one, or the bookstore. Most places have an area you can reserve for meetings. Then advertise. On Craigslist, the bulletin boards of libraries and shops, anywhere writers might happen to pass. Before your first meeting you have to decide how you want to run this thing; as a pure feedback group, or do you want to do writing exercises and brainstorming as well (having done both, they're all fun and useful but right now a pure feedback group fits my needs better). And don't be discouraged if you don't attract a lot of members right away; writers by nature tend to be solitary beasts, and it takes them some time to emerge from their lairs and interact.

So good luck in your search (or organizing)! And don't be afraid to share with the other writers in your group. Trust me: no matter what we write, we all get it.

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