Why I Don’t Do Much with Writing Groups

I’m about to commit an act of Heresy so get those torches and pitchforks ready while I pull up the drawbridge and have the servants not feed the alligators in the moat today…

I don’t have much use for Writing Groups.

Maybe it’s because when I was coming up as a neophyte writer, there wasn’t that many of them out there and those that were tended to be way outside whatever zip code I happened to be living in at a given time. Maybe it’s because other than the social aspect, I wasn’t getting any writing done while standing around sipping cappuccino and discussing great ideas that were tantamount to showing off how big your Writing Instrument was.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because when I would try to attend such things I seemed to hear the same old information being presented over and over….and over again…

I’m a very social person. I love to meet new people and Baby, I have french-kissed The Blarney Stone enough times to make some interesting conversations. But I never seem to have writing-related questions when I attend these functions. I know my experience isn’t the Universal Norm but it’s all I have to go with when that little voice inside my head tells me that I should be home at the word processor (remember those?) writing a great story.

Now the writing groups tend to be online and that compounds the problem because on top of blanking out in the face of the material, I now have to deal with private messages that are the electronic equivalent of “please hold my hand and talk me through writing my story because it’s dark and scary out there.”

Of course, I’ll help where I can but taking someone personally through a step by step procedure for writing a story is like trying to put training wheels on a motorcycle. You could probably do it but after a certain speed it won’t work and you’ll look silly in the process.

On the other hand, maybe I’ve just been attending the wrong groups. 😉


22 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Do Much with Writing Groups

  1. I would much rather blog, collect a nice circle of mutual friends who I genuinely take interest in, and then read each others’ work. Walking into a room cold with a bunch of strangers and expecting them to like, understand, or even care about my work is just asking for failure. In a writing group, everyone is there for themselves. At least in blogging, we can form relationships and truly root for each other. It’s like a writing group, but you get to weed out the people you don’t click with 😛

    I also don’t like that writing groups so often rely on prompt exercises and such. I don’t respond well to either. And I’m kind of a contrarian when it comes to common fads, and so many writers groups are obsessed with The Fad. Be it first person, dystopian fiction, YA, magical realism, deep POV, whatever the latest thing is. And it’s like, if you don’t go with The Fad, you’re the weird pariah. Some of us are weird pariahs just by the nature of being genre fic writers, although in other circles you’re a pariah if you aren’t 110% entrenched in genre tropes. I dunno, I feel like we both go a bit against the grain and need to figure our own paths out. I am certainly not against gathering advice from people – do your research, by all means – but writing groups have never seemed like places where I could fit in.

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  2. I like having a place to ask questions, but beyond that no one can tell you how to write YOUR book. We can have a virtual writing group right here. I’ll have a bourbon and you can ignore me! 😀

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  3. A little debate never hurt.
    Personally I can say that one particular group got me out of a dark place, and awakened something that had been dormant quite a while.
    I’m a neophyte writer myself, despite having dabbled for more years than I care to admit, those questions that get asked ad nauseum are part and parcel of the course.
    Of course there’s ruffled feathers, of course there’s a couple of squabbles… And one day I might outgrow the group, or stay and attempt to impart some of what I’ve learned to new neophyte writers.
    So far it’s been very supportive, yes there’s a little of the ‘good job’ backslapping… But there’s also the guidance of authors I respect (yourself included!) that has spurred me on to standing on my own, sans training wheels.
    Perhaps I shouldn’t be helping, perhaps I don’t know what I’m talking about… But I do know plenty about what not to do.

    I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with you…
    The prompts have spawned a brand new trilogy, with a captive test audience, workshops are hit and miss, more hit than miss…

    So I’m respectfully confused.
    Probably the best state to be in.

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  4. I don’t go to writer association meetings as they seem to be overviews of what I know and clogged up with socializing. However, I do an hour long drive, each way, every two weeks to spend face to face time with my writers’ critique group. We are highly structured and our time is dedicated to giving pointed feedback on each other’s chapters (we read and critique in writing between meetings). When I started with the group, none of us was published. Now we all are! I highly recommend critique groups, and if there isn’t one in your area, I’d recommend starting one. Like everything else, there are good ones and bad ones.

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