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TMCan
02-12-2014, 08:58 PM
A friend and I are looking to start an online writing group, but I wanted different opinions on what makes a good writing group. We would want to attract writers that are unpublished and published (both self and traditional). Do you have any suggestions on what definitely needs to be part of the group?

troutkitty
02-12-2014, 10:25 PM
The only thing I could say is try to keep a writers group and a critique group separate. Beginners who join a writers group that focuses on critique start out writing by trying to please a committee.

There's a world of difference between a writer who is writing with access to the knowledge of a committee and a writer who is writing to try to please a committee. I've seen really awesome stories sanded down to pablum as beginner writers try to include what everyone is trying to tell them to do. It strips off all the parts of the story that are emotionally moving and leaves them with the least offensive story.

Until a writer has developed their own voice, they should stay away from people trying to tell them how to write. I've seen beginners give up because they brought their first babies to the table and had them completely and utterly shredded.

Working with one ideal reader/mentor is so much better than trying to work for a group when someone is still trying to find their voice.

veinglory
02-12-2014, 10:31 PM
To show the diversity, I would say the opposite. Invite all, focus on knowing each authors goals (specific, with deadlines) and directing any critique towards those stated goals. Seeing there are diverse opinions will empower the author to make their own choice and not mindlessly adopt critiques.

No matter what you do: those interested in your group's approach will stay. Others will pass through.

Fruitbat
02-12-2014, 11:09 PM
I started an online group once. On a certain day of the week, we'd each send a certain number of pages to everyone, and everyone would critique them during the week.

In the end, I just didn't get enough back to keep it going. I've had better luck with the large "public" online forums. They have a constant supply of writers to form critiquing relationships with and share tips etc. with rather than just a few. And you're not locked in with those who have a very different participation or skill level, or who you just don't care to invest in an ongoing connection with, for whatever reason.

Karen Junker
02-13-2014, 04:57 AM
I've started and been a member of several online and in-person writing groups. Most of them have dwindled in attendance as people improve their writing, get published and then settle down with select betas or crit partners. I wish you much success! It takes a lot of work to keep a group going!

sussu
02-13-2014, 09:51 PM
I started an online group once. On a certain day of the week, we'd each send a certain number of pages to everyone, and everyone would critique them during the week.

In the end, I just didn't get enough back to keep it going. I've had better luck with the large "public" online forums. They have a constant supply of writers to form critiquing relationships with and share tips etc. with rather than just a few. And you're not locked in with those who have a very different participation or skill level, or who you just don't care to invest in an ongoing connection with, for whatever reason.

Ditto. Same experience here.

Maybe focus your group on only one specific genre and level of expertise; that will work better .
You also need to let people know in advance how many pages a week.
People are usually already part of different groups and just want to come when they feel like it.

So, my advice is be very specific and let everybody know you expect serious attendance (which will chase everybody away, LOL)

I'd love to find such a group, but the problem is I need to love their stories too (which is another problem).

DeleyanLee
02-13-2014, 10:40 PM
The most important thing about starting any group is to have a clear focus on what the group's purpose is. There's social groups (get together, talk--not always about writing--some groups I've been in have been all about getting away from the computer and doing interesting things, like fencing lessons and such); discussion groups (pick a topic and have--hopefully informed--discussions, sometimes with reading How-To books/articles; and critique groups. I once belonged to a group that met monthly to simply do writing exercises, though that's the only one of that group I've ever heard of.

There will be some amount of social in every group, mind you, but I think it's essential to pick one and specialize in it. If the group isn't focused on commentary, then that has to be an outside the group thing. Though I have seen groups where one month's meeting was social, the next was discussion, the next was commentary, repeat onward. (We all wrote novels, so there was usually one novel finished among us every 3 months. This also gave us 2-3 months to read and write up commentary)

It's important that all members of said group understand what the group's focus is and are willing to work toward it. It's easy for that focus to become unfocused if all members aren't agreeable, which can make the group pretty pointless, if not detrimental to the members. It will mean that not all the cool people you know or will meet will fit into the group, but once you find a group that works, I'd caution against bringing new people into the mix anyway. Finding a group that works really well is a gift beyond price and it needs to be treasured and guarded, especially if it's a commentary-focused group (the trust and knowledge level of that kind of group is very fragile, IME).

My tuppence from participating in and founding writing groups (some successful, some not) since 1981.

DeleyanLee
02-13-2014, 11:08 PM
Oh, and one more word on commentary-based groups. IME, the most important thing about the members isn't that they're "close to the same level" or even writing in the same genre. It's that they all share the same honest goals for their writing.

People who just want to write and don't care if they get published, but still want to write well are great in a group together. A group who want to produce good indie books are great together. People who want to hit the NYT bestseller list are great together. People who just want to get that contract or an agent are great together. People who want to improve their fanfic are great together. But when you start mixing these goals in the same group, it gets really, really hard to comment because you're not as focused or knowledgeable on what will help make that goal. It's natural to fall back to your knowledge, which is reasonably focused on your personal goals.

For instance, in one group, there was a wonderful lady who was writing her memoirs of being a child during the Great Depression. It was wonderful, delightful stuff and we all enjoyed it. However, her goal of publication was printing out a few copies and giving it to her children and grandchild. Thus, any advice on how to make it more dramatic, more marketable, more whatever was pointless because it wouldn't help her achieve her goal.

Another example: A different group I was in had a guy who could only write when he had "literary orgasms" (not kidding, that's what he said), and was devoted to penning fantastic prose first and foremost in order to tell his tale, even if it took years, even decades to get it right. The same group had another member who normally penned 3-5 books a year. They were both published, both nominated for Hugos (different years), but their goals were seriously not the same. (That group was very dysfunctional, kinda destructive if you didn't fall into one of those two writing camps, and didn't last long.)

Something to consider, at least.