This post, by Jane Lebak, originally appeared on the Querytracker blog.
If your New Year’s resolution will be to join a writing group, you’ll want to learn from my horrible (and sometimes hilarious) experiences. I’ve belonged to writing groups since age twelve, but I didn’t start classifying their subspecies until I became the only member of a once-thriving group.
If you’re thinking of joining or starting a writing group, it’s best to have your focus in mind right from the beginning. The basic commonality is that writing groups in general consist of writers.
(Don’t you already feel enlightened? Well read on!)
Because that’s pretty much where the commonality ends. Let’s check out three distinct species of writing groups.
The first species is what I’d consider a support group. The focus is social: the writers gather to gripe about writing. They will perhaps come up with an organized topic of the day, but for the most part this group is about the snacks, the sharing, the complaining, and some exchange of advice. Its function is primarily to meet other writers and to get out of the house.
Some of the topics you’ll see covered here are how much rejection sucks, how hard it is to get things published, why is that particular crap in the bookstore when yours isn’t, what you think of the recent election, and whether there’s really a problem with that genetically-altered corn. You may also hear about places to search for markets.
If this group is online, then expect to read dozens of posts about everything under the sun, and whenever someone complains that the group is too cluttered, someone is sure to respond, “But we’re writers — this is what we do!” My first online group was of this variety, and I loved it. I learned a metric crapton about everything you can imagine, including some tidbits about writing.
My once-thriving group was also a social/support group type. Sixty local writers would gather, always with coffee and muffins, and sometimes they’d share a paragraph or two, maybe a poem or a letter to the editor, and everyone would tell them how lovely it was and suggest changing a comma in the second line. Someone might give a brief talk, at about the depth of an article in a writing magazine. There was a break in the middle so we could chat.