Finding legit writer's groups?

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Amanda Elizabeth
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Finding legit writer's groups?

Post by Amanda Elizabeth » May 22nd, 2012, 1:49 am

I live in Los Angeles and now that my manuscript (YA fantasy) is complete and I've moved onto the editing process I want to get feedback from people. I have book-loving friends but I don't think they'd be honest with me when it came down to the nitty gritty. I googled Los Angeles writer's groups and of course I got a bazillion results, but I don't know how to weed out the good from the not-so-good ones. Any suggestions?

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polymath
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Re: Finding legit writer's groups?

Post by polymath » May 22nd, 2012, 5:02 am

The more choices you have, the greater likelihood you'll find a writing group that suits your aesthetic, your sensibilities, and your needs as a writer venturing upon the Poet's Journey. I think some window shopping is called for, since there are so many choices to choose from.

Writing groups that are open to new membership, that permit auditing before committing to the group are generally more conducive to creative processes. They're just more open to new ideas and new blood for the sake of individual growth. A closed or restrictive group is set in its ways and probably hidebound, will dictate express conditions for creative art and impose undue expectations upon a writer's creative vision. They tend to write the same story over and over, with the same shortcomings, expect new writers to write the same story, and offer little possibility for growth, let alone breaking out of a rut of mediocrity, with little insight into how to move forward.

Look for a group or groups that are open to several genres, that don't pounce upon presupposed notions of creativity, accessibility, voice, craft, and mechanical style issues. If a group focuses on mechanical style, they're grammarians, not creative writers. Run, don't pass Go, step out immediately and excuse yourself graciously. If a group focuses on craft aspects, that's moving in the right direction. If a group focuses on voice, that's better yet. If voice and craft, that's ideal.

Particularly effective ways to evaluate the caliber of writing groups is whether the commentary and response weight between what's working and what's not is balanced, whether commentary begins with what's working before getting into what's not, and finishing with artful features that are working most dynamically, that particularly stand out. Although as writers we seek insight into what's not working, focusing on what is working most proactively builds writing skills. Not to mention, we all could do with a healthy degree of audience approval, like we are welcome and wanted and respected writers. C'est la vie d'escritur.
Last edited by polymath on May 22nd, 2012, 5:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Hillsy
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Re: Finding legit writer's groups?

Post by Hillsy » May 22nd, 2012, 5:06 am

I seem to remember them mentioning this on a writing excuses episode once.....

...unfortunately I seem to remember their advice being basically - try it and if it isn't working, leave. Which isn't the best system, naturally. Other than that, I think they suggest just make sure the group "rules" align with what you want to do.....so check the frequency they attend, the genres each writes (a thriller writer is more likely to be a thriller reader, and they are more likely to find an epic fantasy too slow for them than, say, a bunch of epic fantasy readers), the word count they expect to have submitted each time....the obvious stuff.

That's my only source of reference though. I've never been in a writing group - I'm currently in the process of starting one up from this community for fantasy writers which will be my first forray into feedback....nervous!!!...lol

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=4818&start=15 (If you're interested)

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Re: Finding legit writer's groups?

Post by Sommer Leigh » May 22nd, 2012, 8:37 am

This is tough because not all writing groups are created equal.

One resource you might check out is meetup.com . I've had good and bad luck on there, but one nice thing is you can kind of tell the dynamics of the group and how active they are in one glance without spending much time on them.

You can go one of two ways:

1) Pick a group that focuses either on your audience (Children's/Middle Grade/YA/Adult) or genre (Sci-fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Horror, Thriller, etc)

2) Pick a group that is diverse in audience and genre

This is a personal preference. I personally prefer my group to be similar in audience (YA) because I found non YA readers/writers got hung up on audience specific things they didn't understand. Mixing up genre doesn't bother me, but I do find I get better critiques from other people who write YA sci-fi or YA fantasy. But, again, personal preference.

The group should be up front with the following things:
1) How critiques work. Do they review a full manuscript at once or do they do one chapter a month from each member, etc. Not having this important information could tell you the group is not well organized. If they critique a full manuscript at once, you might not get a chance to be critiqued for a long time.

2) How often and how many words are you going to be expected to critique in a week/month? Can you commit to reading 3,000 words for 4 other people every month? Do you have that kind of time?

3) Are they very prescriptive on how a critique is done, or are they loose about it? This is a personal preference, but usually ones who have a system in place are more well organized and you are more likely to get your fair share of critiques done. That's not necessarily true, but it's a good rule of thumb.

4) Do they have a set limit on group members? Is there a process for being accepted into the group? It might sound a little scary, but this is a very good thing! A group that limits the number of members understand your time is valuable and they don't want each member critiquing more than they can honestly handle. Likewise, they are looking for a good balance and group dynamic. NOTHING is worse than having one jerk in the group who's mission is to tear down any would be writer who sits at the table. If they control the personality balance, and they accept you into their group, you're probably going to end up getting along with them really well. These groups tend to have staying power. The smaller the group, the better, too. 4 is the sweet spot, 5-6 is a little big, 3 is ok but on the small side. More than 6 and you'll probably go longer periods of time before being critiqued and your submissions will probably be smaller.

5) Treat meeting critique groups as an interview for both you and them. Be on your best behavior, learn what you can about their critique styles, be honest but kind, and if at any time they make you feel uncomfortable, are too aggressive, negative, demeaning, or mean, leave and don't come back. Don't settle. NEVER SETTLE.

6) That being said, they do need to be honest. Sometimes they'll say things you don't want to hear, and that's fine. If it's a good critique it'll be honest but fair. Their style of critiquing should never be about telling you how you should write your book, but telling you how they felt reading it. I once tried out a group who did this writing exercise where they rewrote pieces they found to be lacking. I was horrified. No group should rewrite your work or tell you how you should fix your work (suggestions are OK. Requirements are not.) The group should never require you to implement their feedback.

7) Finally, how often do they meet, how do they exchange samples, what time frame are your critiques expected back within, etc. Make sure your time constraints match up with theirs.

After you weed out the ones you know you won't do well with, it's just a matter of meeting and observing them. Most critique groups should be open to allowing a potential new member to sit in and observe.

And if all else fails, there are awesome online groups you can form or join. No one says you have to meet in person to be an effective group.
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wilderness
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Re: Finding legit writer's groups?

Post by wilderness » May 22nd, 2012, 1:36 pm

1) I'll second Sommer's post for meetup.com. I recently moved cities and found it a great way to meet other writers. Also, I've even formed some sub-groups of people who are available at different times and locations than the "official" meetup. I imagine if you go to a bunch of them, you'll find one that works for you.

2) Your local chapter of the national writing groups can be great for finding a critique group: RWA, SCBWI, SFWA. If there is a regional writing conference going on, that can really be a great way to network as well.

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CharleeVale
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Re: Finding legit writer's groups?

Post by CharleeVale » May 22nd, 2012, 5:47 pm

My writing group formed through twitter, so maybe feel out some people on there?

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Amanda Elizabeth
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Re: Finding legit writer's groups?

Post by Amanda Elizabeth » May 24th, 2012, 1:03 pm

Thanks so much guys! I did find one on meet up. Some of the others charged a membership fee and I was kind of not cool with that.

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