As anyone who’s participated in Nanowrimo knows, being part of a writing community is invigorating. Most participants wouldn’t win without the community standing behind them. I certainly wouldn’t have accomplished 300K in a month without the vibrant Nanowrimo community.
Unfortunately, ML’s don’t run events all year round and the forums slow down immensely a week into December, leaving you to create or find your own writing community. If you know other writers, you can ask around for suggestions about what already exists and what they might like to see created.
Today I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of different forms of writing groups, and next week I’ll talk about how to find the right one for you. It might turn out that you need to create your own, but if you’re hoping for something with a little less commitment than organizing everything yourself, try as many different groups as it takes to find the right one.
Take a look at these different kinds of writing group to figure out what’s best for you:
In person critique groups– these are typically small groups of writers who work in similar genres dedicated to making each other’s work better. Typically these groups meet once a week and the writers take turns reading their work out loud for critique.
- Gain confidence reading your work out loud
- Get valuable feedback from other writers
- Learn to give and receive critique respectfully
- Stay accountable to bring in your finished work each week
- Know local writers, not just those from online forums
- Busy writers may not have time for socializing outside the critique group
- Meetings are usually the same time/place, unfriendly to changing schedules
- Live critique makes makes it easy to get upset and sometimes burn bridges
- It can be hard to find local writers who work in similar genres
Online critique group– these groups focus on forum or email based critiques. Most use credit systems where you have to do a certain number of critiques to remain part of the group or be able to post your own stories. Group size, the genres they work with and how hard you have to work to join vary greatly from group to group. These communities also allow for different amounts of communication with the group outside critiques. Some, though focused on critique, even feature a full network of forums.
- You can contribute from anywhere at any time
- Most groups require a only a minimal amount of participation per month
- There are dozens to try
- Some groups have so many members it’s hard to form lasting connections
- It’s hard to judge what point writers in the group will be at before joining
- You don’t get to choose who critiques you
- These groups rarely hold you accountable to submit work of your own
In person social groups– these are groups of writers who get together to write or simply to socialize and exchange ideas with other writers. These groups gather in coffee shops, restaurants or sometimes purchase a co-working space together. Others share offices with different kinds of freelance professionals. Still others are mostly focused on social gatherings, but host occasional writing sessions or even writing retreats.
- These groups usually allow for more socializing than regular critique groups
- Active in person support and butt-kicking
- You can choose certain members to ask for critiques
- It’s easier to find out what stage writers are at before deciding who to grow closest to
- It can be very difficult to find a good one close to home
- Often these are less focused on similar genres, more on locale
- Sometimes gatherings that are meant to be productive end up purely social
- These groups often change quite drastically over the course of years
- There are thousands of these groups to choose from
- You can often put out very specific requests for critique partners or friendship
- Most have sections with writing exercises/prompts
- Some even offer free writing classes to members
- These communities usually have a lot of ebb and flow in activity
- The size of many of these communities is overwhelming
- There is often no standard to which critiques and members are held
- It can be hard to connect to the right person in a community that large
Online writing communities– most of these are forum based, and include space for socializing, brainstorming, research help and plot repair, as well as some space for critiques. They tend to be pretty large and can be overwhelming. They tend to be pretty large and change rapidly, so they can be quite overwhelming, but they’re also often a valuable provider of feedback and friendship.
I’m sure there are other kinds of writing groups, but these are the four most common. It might take a long time to find the right group, but don’t give up. A group that doesn’t fit right can do more harm than good, and the right group will bring your writing to levels never seen before. Make sure that you find the best group for you–and if you’re not satisfied with anything don’t give up–create your own.