The Write Group
While writing is often touted as a solitary pursuit, the truth is that writing can be a very social activity. And except for rare individuals, it needs to be somewhat social. We are, after all, writing for others. The way many of us bridge the gap between the solitary and the social aspects is to join a writing group. However, finding an acceptable writing group can be tricky.
Skill Level – Currently, I don’t belong to a writing group, but over the years I have been in several. Some have tried to make sure that all the writers were at similar levels in skill, or in publishing experience, while others have accepted all comers. Deciding which is better for you will depend on what you’re looking to get out of the experience. If you are in a group of varied levels, this variance will certainly take up a good deal of time. That is to say that you will certainly spend some of your time helping along total newbies. The flip side to this is that it is useful to get critiques from many different levels of authors.
Meeting Type – In the past writing groups were, by default, face-to-face, but in the past few years online writing groups have become quite common. And of course there are many that occupy the grey area that exists between the two. The differences here are more drastic than with skill level, and they tend to relate to the types of critiques you will give and receive, and how quickly critiques will occur. Online groups tend to be much more responsive—if you need a quick critique because you’re getting a story ready for a contest, an online group is a much better bet than a face-to-face. However, it can be very difficult to stomach a critique delivered by email. When we give critiques to each other face-to-face, it’s easier to temper our criticism based on the reactions of the group or the author.
There are many more factors to consider when choosing a writing group–this is, at best, a cursory comparison. But the point in bringing it up is that if you are one of the those authors who needs a writing group, it’s important to decide what type of group you need to help you continue to grow as an author.