On Writing Groups

On Writing Groups

Over the years, I’ve been a member of a number of writing groups that provide me with understanding, support, and most important, feedback on my work. Feedback helps me notice places to improve my writing that I’m too close to see myself.

If you’re looking for feedback, you could try a writers group. Ideally, the members would be writers who are at the same level or above you in skill. They’d be kind and aim to make one another better writers, but they’d also be able to see and tell you about flaws in your work.

People sometimes ask how to find a writing group, and the best answer I can give is to hang out where writers are. That can be online, in classes, or at conferences.

Online

Because I write fantasy, I early on found the Online Writing Workshop. You post a story or chapter and other members critique it. There’s a small membership fee, but you “pay” for the crits you get by giving some. The quality of writing and critting varies, but I found it useful, and after a while, a woman I knew there invited a half-dozen of us to join a spin-off online group for novel writers.

Novels present a particular problem for critting because they’re so long. It’s hard to ask anyone to read 80K words. In the OWW, you did it chapter by chapter, which was useful, but critters couldn’t see whole book issues such as pacing or character development. This spin-off group allowed you to submit an entire novel at one time. The group was small enough that the amount of work wasn’t burdensome.

I liked this group and got a lot from it, but after a while, it felt as if I was giving and getting the same crits over and over. I’ve since found this is common in writing groups. I know I commit the same writing sins over and over. Maybe most people do.

A second online group I joined was Absolute Write. This is a site for writers of all genres. It’s mostly a place to get advice, chat, and support other writers, but once you develop relationships in this group, you can often ask someone if they’ll read for you. As with OWW, someone from AW eventually organized a more private, invitation-only group that I’ve since found very supportive.

Face-to-Face

Another place I’ve found writers is in classes. The local art center in my town ran an 8-week class for $45. I figured I couldn’t go wrong at that price. I found a nice group of people, mostly hobby writers, who wrote a variety of genres with a range of skill. We brought pages each week for one another to take home, read, and talk about the next week. With a little prodding, they turned out to be good readers who gave me their honest reactions to the chapters they read. I liked this group and was sorry when the art center stopped running the class.

I recently moved and it turns out a writing workshop meets in the library next door to my building. This workshop has been meeting weekly for something like thirty years. Anyone can join for a small fee, and these people turned out to be good writers and critters. It’s the first group I’ve belonged to that didn’t submit pages ahead of time but read them aloud for on-the-spot feedback.

Last September, I published The Wind Reader with Inspired Quill. That book features three street kids with one of them, Doniver, serving as the point of view. Inspired Quill also has a book about a second kid, Jarka, that they’ll bring out in late 2020. My current writing group is helping me work through the book about Dilly, the third kid, and boy, am I grateful.

Conferences

Writers also hang out at conferences, some of which run workshops as part of the event. I attended one at WisCon several years ago, got feedback there, and was eventually invited to join a crit group the workshop leader belonged to. This group’s members were great writers, but eventually we kind of burned out, partly because we lived far apart and could meet only once a month at most.

How have you found feedback for your work? Or maybe you’re not a writer but enjoy analyzing and critiquing writing on a review blog? How do giving and getting feedback work for you?


Finders Keepers (Zharmae 2015) by Dorothy A. Winsor is available in e-book and paperback.
Amazon      Barnes and Noble      Indiebound

Earthquakes? Fires? Plague? Twelve-year-old Cade tries to ignore how they’re increasing as the new year approaches while he and his sixteen-year-old brother search for their missing mother. But there comes a moment when he has to choose who or what he’s going to save.

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