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How to Find a Writer's Group
How to Find a Writer's Group
Most writers are starving for feedback. They write and write and write and don't know if what they are writing is terrible or wonderful, or what they need to do to polish up their work for publication. Finding a Writer's Group is an important step in the development of a writer. Taking your immortal prose and handing it off to others, to beat at it with sticks and red ink, is a vital part of developing as a writer. But, finding a good writer's group can be a real challenge. Just because a group exists is no reason to assume it is a good one. How do you find a writing group that can support your growth as a writer, and help you achieve your professional goals?
If you have some money to spare, and are willing to invest in your talent, a writing conference is a great place to find feedback from people as committed as you are. Organizations all over America exist to help writers get the feedback and networking opportunities they need to succeed. Many will often bring in agents and editors to meet with, and critique writers. Search your area for conferences. In some places, these are run through organizations that rent out hotels and conference space, like the NYC Writer's Conference. In other areas, Universities are the place to go for Writer's Conferences. Residents of the Dakotas should look to the Writer's Conference at the University of North Dakota, for instance. Wherever you are, there is certain to be a conference to suit your needs within a day's travel.
Your goal at the conference is to network among writers, and locate people who share your goals. Together you can form critique groups, and writing groups that may meet locally or virtually to offer feedback to each other.
Many writing groups organize their meetings and reading lists through Meetup.com. Sign up for a free account and search for groups in your area that run writer's critique groups in your preferred genre. Meetings for quality groups tend to fill up fast, so don't hesitate to jump on board early, and show up on time, ready to go.
Finding writing groups on-line is great, but you often can't get a good sense of the people in the group until you show up, unlike at writer's conferences. For this reason, don't hesitate to abandon a group if you don't feel it is right for you after a meeting or two. You have to focus on your career, and you don't do anyone favors by holding a spot in a group where you can't contribute meaningfully and receive good critique for your own goals.
Ask Around Among Local Colleges
Often colleges host Creative Writing Programs that produce a whole new crop of serious-minded, committed writers that graduate every year. You don't have to join a program to reap the benefits of one. See if you can find out if any graduating students will be continuing to get together to critique writing, locally. Ask if you can attend.
Often, these will be some of the best groups, with the most committed writers who will be working hard to earn back all the tuition they spent improving their craft. You can benefit from that passion and drive. The ones who continue to want to workshop are the ones who will be committed to writing for years to come, and are more likely to succeed.
There are websites dedicated to the sharing and critique of writing. Websites like AbsoluteWrite are famous for their forums, where newcomers and old hands search through the forums to read and critique each other. Critters.org, as well, specializes in genre fiction, and has produced more than a few successful writers. Look around the internet for a website that serves your genre, and see if you can find good feedback on your writing without even leaving the house! You could be part of a critique group with writers scattered all over the world!
Now You've Found a Writing Group, Now What?
Once you've joined your writing group, always remember to punctual, polite, and respectful of others. Scathing critique is not as useful as precise critique. Be sure you can back up anything you say with fact that is rooted in the text in your hand, not in something that isn't part of the manuscript. Nothing derails discussion faster then a debate about what an editor wants, when the only way to know what an editor actually wants is impossible for people who haven't published with that editor to truly know for certain.
Be generous with your skill and editorial eye, and others will be generous to you. Always do what you say, and mean what you say, and never allow personalities to get in the way of discussion.
And, have fun! Writing is often a solitary life, and writing groups are a great way to get out and meet like-minded people, who can form lifelong friendships!