#AuthorToolboxBlogHop · creativity · writing

The Right Writer Group for You on #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

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Welcome to the January edition of #AuthorToolboxBlogHop! As always, check out the main link for other writers with actionable, terrific guidance on all things writing.  Special thanks to founder and generous Raimey Gallant for her leadership, initiative, bracing support for writers!

Before we get started, let me state right now that I’m new to writer groups. I don’t have any great wisdom to impart, no life-changing list of essentials for a writing group, for a writer community, for anything writer. If that’s what you’re looking for, this is not the post for you. You might want to stop reading and find something that works better for you. I sure would.

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However, if you do go on to read this, you might find yourself sparked into action, frustrated that there’s nothing useful here, or amused. Everything is material — as Hollywood screenwriters and others have famously declared. Nothing is ever a total waste. Even my post, even if it doesn’t work for you. See, there’s some material for you right there.

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Not knowing much about writer groups, I already have learned that writer groups can be incredible. If you are lucky enough to join the right band of intrepid individuals, you could well be shocked.

These are people who know your struggles, joys, sorrows, disastrous and funny moments. They will get you at your most favorite, secret, special core. You won’t be alone anymore in your daunting art. They will answer your questions promptly, with generosity, detail, and powerful support.

Most writers have heard of disastrous groups, ones that criticize and backstab and demean others (especially successful writers). These groups seem devoted to moaning about how difficult writing is, tearing one another to pieces, exulting about the hottest new guru who has changed their writing although it has yet to transform into words on the page. Members in bad groups find themselves under personal attack for what they write from characters to plot to setting to the way they dress. Some writers never recover from bad groups. These poor writers assume it’s them, that they are not real writers, that they deserved disrespect, eye rolls, and useless critiques.

I am now a member in several writing communities — some large and well-established with published writers, others smaller and on their way, still others that are a mixture of both published and unpublished.

What unites us is story.

What we offer to one another is whatever we have.

One member has a book, article, piece coming out? Others read the work, early in development or later on when publication is set, post reviews and comments where requested, spread the word among friends and other communities, offer support as the author wavers and doubts, celebrates, and questions. The rising tide lifts all boats. One member’s success generates more success for everyone in their group.

Someone finds a worthwhile resource? They share it.

A member shares a funny cartoon, video, something that will bring a smile or outright laugh to the others in the depths of creation, revision, space between work. We are human with one another, caring for one another as we would like to be cherished.

Recently, I was traveling and lost track of dates. My daily posts were gathered strangely, appeared at odd times. A member of my writing group wanted to know where I was, what was going on that I didn’t post regularly. I felt seen, known, understood by a person that I’ve never met in real life but who noticed and asked.

We read drafts, offer suggestions, ask useful questions, wonder out loud. We are respectful, curious, and kind.

In the best of groups, members take big risks, in what they write and in what they do with it. The community encourages the risk, supports without question, rejoices that the group is a place where trial is never total error.

There’s enough negativity, obstinate insistence on following the rules no matter the cost or the loss, and bullheaded ignorance in the world. We don’t need it in the writer communities that we create, join, and participate in actively.

Another thing that I’m learning is accountability, participating consistently and well. I make sure that I write, that I stretch and bend and get into excruciating messes, because I know that I need it as a writer and that my group is with me, either in the experience or waiting at the next threshold, urging me onward.

If you are reading this and you are a member of one of my writing groups, know that this is for you. You mean everything to my writer self — and I hope to provide the same for you.

For writers who have not yet found their community, keep searching. Be diligent in the search and choosy in joining. Do not hesitate to leave if the group does not support, does not bolster your courage, does not help you advance your work. When you do find a good community or form one of your own, participate with respect, with candor, with wholehearted enthusiasm.

Writers unite in story — and that’s a marvelous place to be.

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29 thoughts on “The Right Writer Group for You on #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

  1. I say with certainty that you know more about writing groups than I do. What a fantastic post Louise! I’m scared of in-person writing groups for the reasons you’ve mentioned. When I’ve come face-to-face with authors in my own city, I felt like I was an outsider, perhaps because they all seemed to hold their noses a little higher than mine. I’ll try again one day. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know that I know more…have just tried a number of them, including critique groups, small writer groups, writing partners in different as well as the same genre. I don’t tend to gravitate to groups, either — just landed with a merry group that writes all genres, all types of work….a subset of a group that formed last May (that I would never have found had I note done the Author Toolbox Blog Hop)…..One member has a book coming out next week: Anna Sabino with YOUR CREATIVE CAREER. Other members are poets, journalists, flash fiction story writers, and then there is me with women’s fiction. We are all different ages, nationalities, you name the distinction, we have it. What unites us is profound respect and commitment to the written word and one another. This comes YEARS after trying different writing relationships….

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  2. What you say truly resonates. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, books need support from the right kind of people to be written. Luckily, I have never met anyone in a writing group with a tendency to tear down other’s work. Though I did meet an online classmate from a fiction writing course once who was overly critical of the assignments we used to post. However, I don’t think he meant to be malicious – he just lacked tact.

    Sadly, I can never maintain regular interactions with the writing circles I enlist myself into but, there, the fault is my own. I envy others their enthusiasm to engage but lack the social stamina to follow suit. But I guess, as with any exercise, it needs practice to persevere.

    I have never found your counsel immaterial, btw. I believe you have always shown great insight in your posts and comments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for writing to me. It’s such a personal thing, how much and how we participate if at all. I’ve gone in and out, been in several at a time, done in person and virtual — right now have a virtual group I’m very tight with and an in-person one that I attend now and again. I so appreciate your reading my work — feel the same about what you write!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting insight, sounds like you’ve found a good group for you 🙂
    I’ve not yet found a writers group that suits me. In a small town, the pickings are slim. I might set up my own with a couple of writer friends instead, as I think there’s a lot of value to be found in being a member of a writers group 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re absolutely right! I’ve got a mix of virtual and in-person going right now — and the right blend shifts constantly. A wise writer friend told me that you have to keep on asking yourself if the group is helping you move toward your goals or not.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve taken a few writing classes and I always liked the atmosphere of sharing work and collaborating to make a story better, but it’s hard to maintain that outside of a classroom. And I’m in a Facebook writing group, though honestly I don’t use it as much as I should. I’ll try and check out more writing groups in the future; it sounds like a very fulfilling experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you. It can be fulfilling — or a chore/bore/yet another darned thing to clog up the day and keep you from writing. That said, it changes with time…there is no perfect, single, right way. Depends on whether you’re moving toward your own goals with a group or not.

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  5. I’ve never been in a writer’s group but I’ve often thought I might benefit from it. Of course, I’m definitely nervous about finding one where there’s too much negativity, but you’re right, I can just walk away. A writer’s group should feel organic and supportive. Maybe I will start trying to seek one out. This is very good advice and I will keep it in mind during my search.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the marvelous thing…you can try it out…see what works and what doesn’t for you…change it up….Have done several at once, dropped out entirely, resumed virtual and in-person groups, which is what I do now. At all times, keep asking yourself if participating is moving you toward your own goals.

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  6. I’m actually supposed to be at a writer’s group meeting right now, but I’m not. It’s one I’ve attended a couple of times and not got much out of (not my genre, not my age group).

    But I am part of several vibrant online writing communities, including Australasian Christian Writers. I’ve formed true friendships through the group, helped by the fact many of us attend an annual Australian writing conference. I like the blend of personal and virtual contact.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wonderful! Vibrant is the only way to go — just had a bracing conversation with a writing coach who insists that you support yourself and your work, in finding the community that fits, that moves you toward your goals. I have a blend of in-person and virtual going right now myself.

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  7. I completely concur with everything you have said. I have found a couple writers’ groups in my area that are amazing, and they have truly helped me stay dedicated, motivated, and inspired. It was part luck finding such great groups and part work. I joined a bunch at once and then stayed with the ones that fit me.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve found that writers groups come in 3 flavors; those that want to write on site, those that want to share their work with the group and receive feedback, and those who want to discuss and develop their understanding of writing topics like “plot”, “themes”, and “what makes for a good character”.

    Eventually, when I found myself between groups, and all the ones I could find were full, I opted to create my own and try for a combination of the 3. No one is required to share, since many are not ready, or able to maintain regular productivity, but everyone is required to provide feedback should anyone choose to share.
    Each time we spend 10-15 minutes writing based on a prompt, and give people a chance to share, and spend the remainder discussing whatever writing topic has been requested or seems interesting at the time.

    There are definitely times where I wish we could be more robust, but the reality is if I imposed more strict expectations, many would not attend. And, at the end of the day, it has to be a choice. Many want to learn, but lack the conviction to go full throttle. In some ways it reminds me of one of my college professors. She used to say “I can’t teach you how to write; I can only coach you. And before you ask, the difference is I can’t tell you what to do, I can only encourage you, and let you know when you’re getting closer.”

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    1. The group you created sounds marvelous, a wonderful community that is both challenging and collegial, structured and accommodating. With the approach this group uses, all can be part of the writing community, at whatever point they are, and go further knowing that there is support, encouragement, in-person feedback.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. That’s most kind of you to say, though so fat most other serious writers have preferred groups with more formalized requirements, including that everyone must share a piece regularly, but I feel that writing is and should be a self imposed requirement.

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  9. I love that quote “the rising tide lifts all boats”, it’s so true and something we easily forget when we’re striving to succeed and feel like others are pipping us to the post sometimes. Your writing group sounds like a fantastic, supportive bunch, I’m really happy for you that you’ve found your tribe 🙂 Thanks for sharing your insights.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your detailed response — I am lucky. I know that. Fully celebrate and roll around in the wonder of it all — too aware that it’s such a transitory, fragile thing and thrilled that it ever showed up at all….

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