October 27th, 2004
Writers Groups, the good, the bad, the ugly…

I went to my local romance writer’s meeting last night. We had a couple of great speakers share their knowledge and I had a little time to visit with some friends.

As I was sitting there I started to think about writers/critique groups in general. How they can be helpful or hurtful depending on the group dynamics. I’ve heard horror stories from other authors who’ve ended up quitting writers groups over the hostility within. I’m fortunate that my local chapter is supportive over all, but there was a time a couple of years back when they were heatedly divided by the paperback vs epub controversy. Thanks goodness that appears to be over.

I have firsthand experience with a critique group falling apart. It wasn’t pretty. It ruined a friendship that I thought was strong. The whole thing still makes me sad and extremely leary of entering into any kind of group critiquing situation.

I know the knowledge that I’ve gained from being part of the Romance Writers of America has been invaluable, but what about the smaller groups? Do you all think critique/writers groups help or hurt a beginning writer?

8 comments to “Writers Groups, the good, the bad, the ugly…”

  1. Still new to the critiquing scene, I’m not certain how, in the long run, it will play out. I’m inclined to think I’m in a good place because I didn’t join an existing group of critiquers, but created my own, made up of friends. I also chose women who are blunt and to the point, they give it to me straight. Sometimes it’s hard to take, but because we’re friends they know I’ll get over it, that I don’t take it personally, that I’ll still rely on them for advice. The downside to my group is that only one other writer writes historicals, but the basics of the craft permeate all genres and they catch those things. I’ve debated joining the Orange County Chapter of the RWA, a huge group that attracts big name authors as speakers and boasts an impressive roster of members. But I’m not an outgoing person in new situations and I think the painful process of making friends in an already established group is keeping me away. I do think I’m missing out on valuable market news and networking though. 🙁

  2. Sylvia, I agree that I believe you are missing out on a great networking opportunity. I know the head of publicity for EC is a member of the Orange County Chapter. Even if you don’t talk to anyone, I’d go for the speakers alone at the OC chapter. They pull in some big names, not to mention they have big names who are members. I think you’d gain A LOT from this group. You’re on the verge of selling. Reconsider joining. Nudge, nudge, nudge. And remember, most romance writers are NOT outgoing people. You’ll feel right at home. 🙂

  3. Don’t laugh but believe it or not I’m painfully shy. I actually left a larger local chapter for a smaller one. Unfortunately I haven’t made a meeting in months because of babysitting concerns but my hairdressers daughter has taken up babysitting so now I just need to get “on the ball”

    As to crit groups and new writers, yes I believe they can make or break you, but even if it’s a bad experience (you survive) you end up growing as a writer.


  4. Cece,

    Shy? Hold on, my sides are hurting. 😉 Sometimes a smaller group is better, but I think you should try the larger group first. There is a lot of knowledge floating around within them. Get yourself a babysitter girl. I do disagree with you slightly about if a group is bad you get over it and grow as a writer. I’ve heard of people quitting writing for a while over a critique group’s toxic nature. It’s taken me a long time to not feel anger over my old critique group. Hard feelings still linger when I see any of its members. Also, like I said in my post, the sadness over the loss of a friendship still stings. I’m fortunate that now I have a lovely critique partner. At some point, I’ll probably add another, so that a fresh set of eyes can look at my work.

  5. LOL yes Jordan it’s true. I am.

    I hate that you had such a bad experience. I had one too with an online group and came this close
    )( to becoming one with the borg 🙁 but I’ll say it made me a stronger writer :

    I have a great group of CP’s now and I don’t know what I’d do without them. =)

  6. I’m not a member of the RWA, so all of my crit groups have been online. As a beginner, it was so awesome to know that there were tons of people like me out there, and that we had a place to talk about writing. But as my skill level, as well as my emotional level when it came to writing began to rise, alot of the crit groups that I’d joined had begun to become boring and tedious. Yes, I was a beginner once, and I was giddy and clueless, but there is a time when you need to move onto groups and/or people whose skills correlate with yours. Not to say that one separates themself from people whose skill levels aren’t on the same level or to ignore them, or act superior, but now I see why some authors choose to opt out of groups. But I am fortunate for the good things that I got out of my groups as a beginner and hope that my now empty spot will be filled by someone whose future is bright. I have had one negative experience, but thankfully, it wasn’t so negative that it crippled me in regards to my writing.

  7. This year I found a great site for writers of all genres. There is a lot of information for all aspect of writing. Many of the members are published, but just as many are not. A small group of five, have created a crit group this year. One of the members is a web designer, and created a chat room for us. Once a week we get together and discuss one the the members WIP. As a new writer it has been a great help. Two of the members this year have been published for the first time, so the rest of us are encouraged.

    I’ve also heard of the horror stories of crit groups, but so far I’m lucky with mine. I don’t think any of the group members are highly emotional people.

    Like most things, there is good and bad.


  8. I’d love to find a reliable, knowledgeable circle of readers that could give me well-considered feedback on my work, but they’re incredibly hard to come by. I had such a group about ten years ago. They met regularly, and I always came away with useful things to chew on, but they’re long gone, so I do my work with only my wife as a second opinion.