Choosing a Writing Group for Optimal Success

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 23 2016

Recently a writer commented how writing groups aren’t always beneficial to writers. While certainly there are many who really work with a writer to make her stronger, there are others who are too afraid to offend to really give anyone the advice needed to succeed.

When choosing a writers group its imperative that you are making a decision that you want to be challenged and you want to be challenged honestly. That means listening to some harsh criticism if necessary. Of course, it also means choosing a group whose harsh criticism you can trust.

Most importantly, it means being willing to leave. I’ve heard a lot of writers say over the years that they are in a critique group with a “great group of people” yet none of them are published or moving forward toward a career. They might be great, they might make the best pies around, they might be good for laughs, but if no one in the group is taking the next steps toward a career, then the group isn’t working.

A critique group isn’t always going to be for life. Sometimes, you’ll need to move on to find those who can push you to the next level in your career.

9 responses to “Choosing a Writing Group for Optimal Success”

  1. Avatar Bobbi Romans says:

    So, so, so true. I’ve been in a few. Some good, some bad. I always have to remind myself (and did a soon coming guest blog post about) open your crit, scan, walk away and review again later. This is how I feel about crits (and what I put in my blog piece) “What initially may appear shocking, tends to make a lot more sense the next day. PLUS do you want good work.. or sugar coated crap?”

    Great advice as always Jessica.

    (In have my coffee to your posts. Passes large mug over.)

    • Avatar Branwen says:

      I totally agree about giving yourself twenty-four hours to process feedback. Sometimes it takes even more, especially if it’s about part of your work you’re very attached to.

  2. Very well said. Many times we stay in the group not to offend but, if the motivation to aspire higher is not there…then the engine needs a lube.

  3. Avatar Sharon says:

    I’ve been in many, many critique groups. Some disbanded on their own. Some turned out to be more a social thing than a writing thing (which I was fine with. I just had to find a writing one as well). Some I left because there was way too much patting on the back and not enough true critiquing. It’s tough to find the right group but when you do it’s golden.

    • Avatar Bobbi Romans says:

      *Smiles BIG* at Sharon! She was my first big critique. About six years or so ago. I won her auction during the big Brenda Novak fundraiser. I’ve never been so excited. She was real, said the truth, but in a most encouraging way.

      Thank you for that Sharon!

  4. Groups are good at different things. My first was tough and I learned a lot. My next one didn’t understand my genre for one, and people submitted “Hot off the press” without revising, proofreading, etc. I don’t have time to wade through errors they already knew how to fix. But those that attend find value in it.

    In my area, there are a lot of writing groups, but I find the most useful at this point is an online group through an association who write the same genre as I.

  5. Avatar Hollie says:

    This is what I need to find, a crit group.
    Everyone says not to allow friends and family to see your work. But my hubby and mum are both my biggest supporters and my greatest challengers. Neither will say “oh yes darling it’s perfect, aren’t you brilliant.”
    I’ll get told what works for them and what doesn’t. They are both fussy readers, they expect a standard. But both would rather they make me cry than me find out from a stranger I wrote garbage.

    Having said that, they are both readers and I think input from a more “professional” area might help also.

  6. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    I’ve been in a variety of crit groups, and am now in a group with some amazing ladies (published and unpublished). We all got to know each other over a few years before forming the group and we trust one another completely. We are able to be honest because we all know we’re wanting the best for each other. If someone makes a comment they are making it to try and make our work the best it possibly can be. We all live in different parts of Australia, but thanks to Skype we chat regularly. I know my writing has improved thanks to this group.

    Hollie, definitely get a crit partner/group. Family will try and be honest, but they still won’t want to hurt your feelings – they’ll never say ‘that is rubbish’. You need someone who understands craft to crit your work!

  7. Avatar Jessica Miller says:

    Years ago, I was in a writing group that crushed my spirits. When I found one that was uplifting, smart, honest, and driven, I held on tight. One by one, we’ve gotten short stories published, and are finding agents. Last year, our motto was one word: “Momentum.” When you can find a group with that, hold on!