02 July 2011

The Writing Group Conundrum

So far, you’ve been writing in your cave for a while and decided the time has come to venture out to find others of like thoughts and processes. Books and articles exist on the subject, explaining about finding the right match, the perfect group. They also mention that it takes time to meet and understand the people. I won’t argue against the people who did their research.

What I want to do is add to the concepts that they put forth.

Many of the articles that I’ve read, in addition to the books on the subject of writing groups, suggest that someone needs to pay attention to a factor, or maybe two, when selecting a group. I’d say that each group can be placed into a three-dimensional graph. One axis will hold a continuum of people from social gatherings to professionally structured groups. A second axis will hold a continuum ranging from general writing to genre specific writings. The final axis holds a continuum running from basic writing/chit chat groups to pure publication preparation.

Another way to look at this is to think of the red-green-blue sliders available on many televisions. Where the slider sits on each bar affects the image that you see. In the same way, the group falls onto the three sliders and affects how they operate. This breakdown can make a large difference to someone trying to find a place where the person might feel comfortable. A social fantasy writer who just wants to gather with other writers won’t feel comfortable with a group that is dedicated to a professional structure, with determined publication preparation of their romance novels. Any more than a person looking for a professional, literary fiction, publication prep group would be happy with a humor-based group writing for the fun and social atmosphere.

Remember the earlier post where I told you that I didn’t care what genre you wrote? It’s different here, because it makes a difference for your writing group.

As you seek the group that is the best fit, start with deciding what you seek in the group. Are you interested in preparing your work for publication? Are you interested in learning new things about the writing business? What structure are you seeking when you join a group?

Many of the previous points I bring out because I have experienced a little of each of these groups. During November, there is a month long event known as National Novel Writing Month. Those who experience it shorten it to NaNoWriMo. (It’s still a mouthful, I know.) This entire concept is to write, to get that first draft on paper. They hold writing groups throughout the month, but each group has its own dynamic. Some groups will gather and share space, but all they do is write. Some groups will gather, discuss plot points, and try to marshal people along the pipeline. One or two rare groups will gather, settle down with drinks (normally non-alcoholic) and just relax their strained fingers. Whether any of these groups prove useful depends on the attendee. This mad dash writing shows a microcosm of the writing world. The desire to write, the gathering of like minds, and the hope to have a finished novel at the end of 30 days all show a compressed timeline to what some writers take years to accomplish. Personally, I enjoyed my five years I did it, though I stressed all of November. Other writers I’ve spoken with find the entire endeavor useless. It’s all about perspective.

All of this leads to narrowing down your choices. A fourth slider also exists for someone to consider, but it holds a lower ranking for me than the others. This one deals with choosing the amount of time the group spends on line (be it web based or email based) to how much time you spend meeting in person. Some people prefer face-to-face meetings. Others live with their computer and online works fine for them.

Just remember that as writers, the more we experience, the richer our writing can be.

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