PDA

View Full Version : Writing Groups



Mandy-Jane
10-19-2006, 05:49 AM
Do any of you belong to writing groups? (Other than this one of course) I helped to set up a group in our area and it started off really well, but lately, numbers have dropped right back. At our last meeting we had only three people turn up.

Can anyone think of any ideas or things that might make a writing group more attractive? We get new members from time to time, but no-one seems to come along consistently anymore. I know we're all busy people, but it's like a couple of hours a month - surely everyone can afford that much time?

Recently we asked the group what they would like to see in such a group. Without exception, they said they wanted information on how to get published, self-publishing, etc. So we organised for a publisher from Melbourne to come and talk to them, but guess what? Hardly any of them turned up.

I don't know if we're not providing them something that they want. Or if we need to be doing something different. I just don't know. So if any of you have any ideas as to what would be attractive and entice you to go along to a writer's group, it just might work with ours.

Any ideas would be great. Thanks.

cree
10-19-2006, 06:49 AM
Maybe those who are missing figured out that writing is real work, getting published is hard work, and they moved on to scrapbooking or stamp collecting.

Weeding out those who aren't serious is valuable. A half dozen serious writers is a whole lot better than a room full of people who have no real desire to be a writer.

Maybe you should stay small and find value in that.
Besides, what what the goal? Mini-seminars?
Most of that info in available on the intranet or thru usenets/AW.
Just MHO.
To me ---if writers take time away from real writing to get together, it's either got to be for critting or just getting some human contact over a glass of beer.
But others will def. disagree with this :)
Good luck.

veinglory
10-19-2006, 06:59 AM
I am about to try another one -- Genre Writers of Indiana meets for the first time on the 11th. I was in a mildly successful on in Edinburgh but then moved. I didn;t worry about making the group attractive. 3-4 members is enough and better to stick with that than have a lot of half-hearted hangers on

RhinoMom
10-19-2006, 07:05 AM
I'd rather be part of a small, but serious writer's group (which I am), than one with a lot of people in it.

It may take awhile to build up a core group of serious writers who are there for the "right" reasons, but it will be worth the time.

My group provides me with companionship, common experience, support, honest feedback and motivation. There are just 3 of us total, but the positive impact is huge.

Debbie

smiley10000
10-19-2006, 12:08 PM
My group is about 7 women and we get together once a week. About half of us are serious about getting published and we are there every week the others come when they can but we don't push it.

The companionship and critiquing is the most important part of our group. It is great to have other writers cheering me on from the sidelines.

I think the best thing to do would be stick with your group of three and see how it blossoms. There are a few sites on the web that talk about setting up a writer's group. http://www.6ftferrets.com/groups-content.html This is one that has a lot of info.

I have a friend that went to a writer's conference last year. I asked how it was and she said she left after the first day. "They all were only there because they wanted to get published," she told me. It sounds like a WELL DUH! But the truth is many people are interested in journal writing and hobby writing but when push comes to shove they don't have the desire to really step up and do the work. These are not the people you want in the core of your group. They will tell you they are interested in getting published but like cree said they don't really want to put in the work.

Compare them to the people that dream of being spotted on the street and turned into an actor instead of putting in the work of acting classes and auditions.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun!
:D 10000

Mandy-Jane
10-19-2006, 04:19 PM
Thanks everyone

I guess there is value in just having a few serious-minded writers than a heap of half-hearted ones. I never thought of it that way. Personally, I'm not that good in large groups either, so a small group is definitely beneficial for me. I guess others will turn up when they're ready to.

I must admit, there is one other person in the group who motivates me no end and is also ready to listen and provide genuine feedback. Luckily she's one of the serious ones, so if we stick together, we should be alright.

Thanks....

spike
10-19-2006, 09:02 PM
I belong to the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (http://www.glvwg.org/). I don't know how many members we have, but we get about 30 at each meeting.

If you go to the web site, you'll see a sample agenda of the meetings. There is always a speaker and a program. Sometimes there is an afternoon program too. But the best part is when everyone is socializing and eating before the meeting. We also have a monthly writer's Cafe at the local Borders. It's an informal meeting to discuss a topic and an opportunity to read your work.

Personally, I attend because there is great energy in meeting with other writers about writing. I feel like my Chi batteries have been recharged.

K1P1
10-20-2006, 01:40 AM
I've never been part of a writers group. I'm sure there are some around here. I get the impression that they are most appropriate to people writing fiction and poetry. I mean, I can't imagine reading a chapter of my new knitting book to people who were writers, not knitters. What would they get out of it?

So, my question is, what do you hope to get from a writing group?

Kate Thornton
10-20-2006, 01:49 AM
I belong to the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

I go to maybe 2-3 meetings per year (they meet monthly) but I participate online and go to nearly all the book signings (I am in 3 of the 4 chapter anthologies) I also know the chapter president, Sue Ann Jaffarian, socially and have lunch or dinner with her about every other month or so.

I enjoy the group- they are a great bunch! - but writing for me is a solitary pursuit, and getting out and about (beyond work) is hard. So I draw what I need from them, give back what I can, and don't sweat it.

Tracey
10-20-2006, 02:29 AM
The only writing group I've ever been a part of was an online crit group. It was helpful trading ideas and critiques but it depended on the members. It was hard to keep everyone motivated enough to participate regularily. I've never met other writers in person. How does one go about finding a writing group in their area?

Mandy-Jane
10-20-2006, 04:28 AM
Thanks again.

Spike - your website is fabulous! I would love our group to be run the way yours is. I see what you mean about energy. I felt enthusiastic and recharged just reading about your group. It's definitely given me some ideas about what we may need to do.

Maggie - in answer to your question, I think I joined this group because I reached a stage where I felt I was moving into another phase of my writing life. It was like I needed some validation that I was a "serious" writer, and somehow being part of a group like that, said to me that I was. A bit silly really, but just sitting at my desk working away on my own seemed like it was just something that I did when I had time. Not something that I really wanted to make a huge part of my life. I also didn't belong to any other groups that were just for me. It was like "this is my thing." Maybe that's the wrong reason, looking back on it now.

Kate - I find it hard to get out and amongst other writers too. Although when I do, I feel really good. I guess what you say about getting what you need from them and giving back is good. You don't have to go to every single meeting. You just do what works for you.

Tracey - It seems that keeping everyone motivated both online and in person is hard. I always walk away from our meetings feeling motivated and inspired, but I don't think they all do. I don't know how you would find a writer's group in your area. I found this one because I joined the FAW (Fellowship of Australian Writers) and they have branches in all parts of the country.

smiley10000 - The link you sent me was great. I like when it says "a core group of dedicated members to keep it alive." I wonder if two people constitutes a core?

You've all had such great ideas. I love the idea of making it a social thing as well. I think we'll just keep struggling on. Who knows? It may build up again.

janetbellinger
10-20-2006, 04:33 AM
I've been in a writing group since 2001. We mostly just write together from prompts and then read aloud what we've written. Sometiems people bring a section of their WIP to read in order to get feedback from the group. I really write best alone but I enjoy the energy of the group and it keeps me writing.

louisgodwin
10-20-2006, 07:14 AM
I belonged to a small group my freshman year of college. I was one of a trio. Of the other two, one was a serious literary fiction writer and the other one seemed half-hearted about making any actual stab at improving her writing or striving for publication. Mostly, we just sat around, smoked cigarettes, drank and laughed a lot. We spent more time watching television and than actually discussing each other's writing. But there were times we would turn off the t.v. and read each other's stuff out loud and offer gentle critiques. We lasted about 6 months.

KTC
10-20-2006, 02:09 PM
I belong to an umbrella group www.wcdr.org which is about 200-250 people strong. It's the best thing I ever did, joining that group. They've been incredibly supportive. We have once a month breakfast meetings with a guest speaker...two months ago it was Joy Fielding...incredible! We have regular contests and workshops. The more experienced writers are always there to help the fledging writers. Just an incredible group. They changed my life.

Within that group there are several writing circles that meet on an ongoing basis. One of those groups is a critigue group of 8 people who meet in my house. I was looking for someone to critique my novel and all the other writing groups in the area were full. (And there are many...this area is on fire with writing groups!) So I started my own group. We meet once a month. 4 people hand in 8 page excerpts to be critiqued at the next meeting...the cycle just continues. We have a round table discussion on the 4 excerpts on the block and then the 8 writers hand back the pieces with critique notes attached. All 8 of us have come to love this once a month group so much it's hard to believe we lived without it!

I also belong to an on-the-spot group that meets every other week in the library. We write in ten minute increments...with a prompt. After the buzzer goes we go around the table reading what we wrote. This group is electric! Amazing stuff is read there. Nothing is critiqued, because it's written in the moment. The group has about 30 members, but about 10-15 show up per meeting...it's kind of show up when you can and there's always enough people to make it work.

If you want to pick my brain, feel free to send me a PM. I have only ever been involved in successful groups...I don't know the formula, but I can tell you what we do as groups.

Maryn
10-20-2006, 07:59 PM
{Grrr, AW ate my first, lengthy reply.}

I've been a member of 13th Precinct, a mystery and suspense critique group, since 1992. At times we've had a dozen members, but during most of its existence it's been around six or seven active members who attend virtually every meeting. All the original members were unpublished when we began, and all have since been published.

For us, what's made it work well is
Genre-Specificity. We all write in the same genre, and are well-read within that genre. We agree we are not qualified to offer meaningful input in genres we don't read.
Shared Goals. While there are many valid reasons to write, we all seek paid publication.
Similar Standards. We all expect high quality from one another. While we praise effort, difficulty does not excuse poor work.
The Work Stands Alone. No spirited read-alouds can elevate our writing, nor monotones diminish it.


A few years ago a rift formed when one member's work was not within the genre and she more or less demanded we expand our focus. We did not, and the group split up, with hard feelings all around. 13th Precinct is now three people--but we are all writing novels and it's going well.

Maryn, whose group doesn't have a website, just a yahoo group

K1P1
10-22-2006, 06:12 AM
Maggie - in answer to your question, I think I joined this group because I reached a stage where I felt I was moving into another phase of my writing life. It was like I needed some validation that I was a "serious" writer, and somehow being part of a group like that, said to me that I was. A bit silly really, but just sitting at my desk working away on my own seemed like it was just something that I did when I had time. Not something that I really wanted to make a huge part of my life. I also didn't belong to any other groups that were just for me. It was like "this is my thing." Maybe that's the wrong reason, looking back on it now.

I don't think it's the wrong reason. I've found that whenever I move from one stage of my life to another, it's very helpful to find a yardstick to measure myself against. It helps to validate your sense of self-worth, along the lines of, "If those people think what I'm doing is worthwhile then I guess I'm not complete off base."

I've never known a writing group that wasn't directed at fiction or poetry. Are there any?

Gwenzilla
10-22-2006, 06:30 AM
I found my creative writing classes really valuable while I was in university, in terms of getting thoughtful critiques from people and meeting other people who were interested in writing. From time to time, I'd develop friendships with individual writers from those classes, but none of them have lasted through the *mumble* years and multiple physical moves betwee here and there. Now, I'm at a place where I would like to start getting together with serious writers once again on a regular or semiregular basis, but I don't know where to start. I am curious as to how people find physical writing groups. The only one I've attended recently was a thrown-together group of people at a recent WorldCon, and it was a disaster.

ORION
10-22-2006, 06:38 AM
I agree with kate. Writing is solitary. I go to a yearly retreat/conference and participate online with a group gathered from the last retreat I attended. I do not have the time for weekly or even monthly meetings but the yearly conferences/retreats give me stuff to work on the rest of the year. I find it is most important (to me) to keep on writing. Even these message boards can suck me in - I have to limit myself or I accomplish nothing.
:)

Linda Adams
10-22-2006, 05:38 PM
I don't know if we're not providing them something that they want. Or if we need to be doing something different. I just don't know. So if any of you have any ideas as to what would be attractive and entice you to go along to a writer's group, it just might work with ours.

Not necessarily. What you're experiencing is very NORMAL for groups. I was a member of a Toastmaster club for many years, co-writer is a founder of a BNI club, and we both co-founded a critique group. Across the board, every single group is the same way--they shrink and grow in cycles. In fact, we went to a Small Groups Night (a fancy name for our regional writing organizations recruitment session for critique groups) and recruited something like eight people. One never showed up despite initial interest, one showed up for two meetings, and just hasn't come back, four more came for one meeting and haven't come back, and two are still here. We also have a member who keeps saying he'll be back, but he's been gone nearly six months.

But maybe this is something that will help. I was a guest blogger and wrote something up on leading groups: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/KarenDionne/



Can anyone think of any ideas or things that might make a writing group Recently we asked the group what they would like to see in such a group. Without exception, they said they wanted information on how to get published, self-publishing, etc. So we organised for a publisher from Melbourne to come and talk to them, but guess what? Hardly any of them turned up.


I'm not surprised actually. We got tired of hearing "So-and-so author did this. Why can't I?"--missing the point that an author with multiple books can do things that an unpublished writer can't, like write a trilogy--so we actually got a debut novel of a newly published author. We encouraged everyone to read it (or another debut book) to see what the first time authors are actually doing. No one touched it. Not a one. We had one guy who was writing a fantasy novel that could have been published in the 1980's but would not be sellable today because of the way the market has changed. When it was pointed out that he should be writing for today's market, he huffed about it and said that he hated today's fantasy. So he was going to write a book he couldn't get published for a genre he hated?

Is there an easy answer to getting people to come? Not really. Co-writer says that people stop coming when they've learned all they can learn. Sometimes that takes a long time; sometimes it's after one meeting. Just keep recruiting new members.

Norman D Gutter
10-23-2006, 06:01 PM
I'm a member of a weekly writers critique group, but have had to stop attending regularly due to the busy-ness of life. We have 10 members: 7 retired ladies, 2 ladies who work parttime, and me. None of the others have ever tried royalty publishing. The book writers are all self-published, two through Publish America, five through other vanity presses. Two others write only press releases or personal essays. One woman also writes poetry, the type typical of someone who does no study of the craft.

So, I'm rather down on critique groups. I've been a member/moderator/administrator of several on-line poetry critique groups, which have proven valuable but time consuming. Administration is not conducive to critique.

NDG

soloset
10-23-2006, 09:45 PM
Can anyone think of any ideas or things that might make a writing group more attractive? We get new members from time to time, but no-one seems to come along consistently anymore. I know we're all busy people, but it's like a couple of hours a month - surely everyone can afford that much time?
I think you're looking at it from the wrong perspective. You don't want people to "afford that much time". You want them to "can't wait for next time".

The first thing to do is decide what you want out of the process. You're the business owner. The one who is staking time and effort and (sort of) money. Everyone else is a customer (metaphorically speaking!).

So, what do YOU want? A safe, comfortable time to discuss the writing business with others in the same field? An opportunity to get your ms in front of fresh eyes? Whatever you're going for, you have to know so you can be sure to get it. If you're not happy, nobody will be.

Set a specific and consistent time and date for the meeting. Every Sunday, every other Tuesday, whatever works for you and your core members -- but once it's set, don't change it. Having an alternate date in case of Christmas is one thing; rearranging everything because Bob's nephew is in town is another.

Ask those who won't be attending to let you know at least a week in advance; don't expect them to actually do so, but always, always repeat that request when meeting times are discussed. It implies they'll be missing out on something, and people hate that. ;)

Have a set schedule of events that you follow for each meeting. Figure out what you want to get from the experience and plan the two or three hours accordingly. Schedule time for everyone to BS beforehand, or have a "soft" start time and a "hard" start time. Try a "homework assignment"; hand out a writing exercise or how-to excerpt at the end of the meeting that will be discussed next week after the catch-up chat to get you all in a writing frame of mind.

Provide for snacks. Some groups do this on a revolving basis, but we're (my seven-years-so-far weekly non-writing group) on a "bring your own favorites and I'll make cookies" system. Always have at least two beverages in the fridge or cooler, ready to go. People like to have something to do with their hands while they're waiting for their turn, and drinks fit the bill.

Make time for praise. Every successful group I've ever been part of has included at least a brief time for sharing successes and congratulating each other on achievements. The feeling of being appreciated for your successes is a powerful one, and addictive.

Create a website or blog. A very simple web-forum using Vanilla or a similar system is cheap and easy. Use it for posting the time of the next meeting, any important changes regarding the meeting, and any reminders or upcoming events. Keep it neat and updated, to show that there's a driving, dynamic force behind this group. And to have a place to point potential members to so they can see the rules and get a feel for your group.

Be positive and be exclusive. When new people ask about your writing, mention your group proudly. If they sound interested, give them the information but warn them it's for serious writers only. You're already getting what you want out of it; they're going to have to show what they can add to your and your members' meeting experience.

Be accessible. If someone takes the time to show up and they're not fully hooked, pay attention to them. Don't fawn or lie, but be welcoming. Even if they decide not to stick around for any of the thousands of reasons people don't, they'll tell other people what a great group you've got going and those people will approach you.

Pat~
10-23-2006, 10:18 PM
I've never known a writing group that wasn't directed at fiction or poetry. Are there any?

I'm a member of the Dallas Christian Writers Group; we cover nonfiction as well as fiction. Our numbers fluctuate at times, but one of the things that seems to keep the members coming back each month is that we spend an hour or more critiquing at each meeting (unless there's a special guest speaker). Most of the core group come with written work and are hoping for regular feedback. There are a few 'rules' involved in this process, to guard against wounded egos, or running over time constraints; PM me if you want the specifics.

Another thing that might help is not to get into too much of a rut doing the same thing each meeting. Even if we don't have a guest speaker (author, publisher) lined up, we often do in-house seminars where one of us will share with the group about a specialized field of writing (I'm giving one on devotional writing this month). And when individuals go to writer's conferences, we always have them share with the group about the experience.

Mandy-Jane
10-24-2006, 01:27 PM
You guys are fantastic. I wish our group was as enthusiastic as you all are. Thanks for your links, your advice and all your ideas. It's given me so much to work on. I'll let you know if things improve.

Viola
10-24-2006, 09:58 PM
I belong/belonged to 3-4 groups.

1. I run one by default. No one else wanted to do it and the leader abdicated leaving me in charge after going to only one meeting. We keep it small. We're all pretty dedicated and professional which is what makes the group work.

2. I 'auditioned' and was accepted into a pro group filled with huge name authors. Good feedback, weird social dynamics. I learn the most in this group but constantly feel as if I'm seconds away from being skinned alive. I think maybe they hate me, but I'm not sure why and don't understand why they let me in if that's the case. I can't figure them out.

3.I run a small yahoo list. I go to various conferences and invite people who impress me or strike me as on the ball to join the yahoo group. Membership is by invitation only and you only get invited if a member has personally met and vetted you. We do crits and share publishing info--query letters, gossip, inside info etc... I really like this group and I think it's one of the better ones I'm a part of.

4. I attended a public group run by the local university last year. The leaders are great (although they don't read or like SFF which made their crits mostly worthless for me despite their PhDs), but the members were a little weird. A few egomanics. A couple people who lacked an internal firewall. One guy would stare at me anytime the topic of sex came up ( I was one of the few women). Half the group only used typewriters, they were so golden they'd never used a computer.

The thing was, this was an open access group. Anyone could come, anyone was welcome whether they'd just come from the methadone clinic (I exaggerate, I think) or their computer/typewriter. No one had to stay, there were no obligations. So we got people who showed up only when they had a story. They didn't reciprocate etc... Higher than usual levels of egocentric narcissistic behavior. (They're not just late to the meeting, they interrupt a crit in process to conduct a lecture on the 4' x 4' painting they brought with them--I kid you not. This actually happened.)

I think the stats are 80 some odd percent of the public wants to write a book. Not very many of them are serious.

Writing groups are like wine. Be selective about the ingredients and the longer they last the better they are. :)

V

Shadow_Ferret
10-24-2006, 11:01 PM
When I first started college out of the Navy a fellow writer convinced me to join this writer's group. I did but I never attended any meetings or had anything to do with the group.

I'm shy.

But I did carry around their membership card sort of as a badge of honor. "See? I'm a writer. Sez so right on this here card."