I'm sure they think I'm some kind of expert because my group is awesome, and I brag on them all the time. But the truth is, I stumbled upon my group pretty accidentally. I'm part of an online book club, and several of us participated in NaNo last year. We all created our own separate little forum, then those of us who were year-round writers decided to form a group together. We have a weekly online chat, and exchange emails via Google groups. I've met most of them in real life, and my goal is to meet all of them (I'm definitely on my way!)
OK. So now I know what you're thinking. "WTF, Heather. You're saying the only way I can have an awesome writers' group is if I happen to magically stumble upon one?" Well...yes. And no. The truth is, to find a great group, you have to be willing to put yourself out there a little. For example, I have a friend who lives in Birmingham who's a writer. I knew someone through Twitter who lives in Birmingham, and I knew my friend was looking to meet writers in her area. Both women were awesome, so I introduced them in a tweet. They met up, and eventually brought some friends along with them - and now they're part of a writing group together. So really, it's mostly about keeping your eyes and ears open and looking for the opportunities.
Here are more tips if you really want to find a good group.
- Go where the writers are. Chances are, if you're reading this post, you already know some writers. You at least know me, and you can check the people who post in my comments, or the other blogs I follow, then the blogs they follow, and on and on, to find a huge community of writers. You can also find others on Twitter - especially in organized chats such as #scribechat, #kidlitchat, or #YAlitchat. You should also check to see if your local library, SCBWI chapter, or other writers group has monthly or quarterly meetings you can attend. Hang out with other writers and you're bound to eventually meet someone you mesh with. You can also set up meetings on sites like MeetUp.com, or even try to arrange something with your local library, if you're looking to start something up in real life.
- Get involved in writing forums. Places like Absolute Write, the NaNoWriMo forums, Critique Circle, Writers' Groups, etc. are great for finding groups. It's really best if you go in just looking to meet like-minded people and start chatting, and eventually you will find that you click with a few people - then you can send them a message asking if they're looking for a group. The absolute worst thing they can say is no. Which leads me to my next point...
- Don't be afraid to ask. Again, the worst thing someone can say is no, and even then they'll likely be really nice about it. The best thing they can say is yes. Even if you know a writer has another group or crit partner, many writers welcome the chance to get out of their solitary bubble of writing and seek out a new group of peers to talk to. My best advice is to seek out people that you know are in the same stage of the process as you - if you see someone else has just started up their blog, or is complaining about revision pains the same way you are, they might be a good match for you. You can email or message people directly, or be bold and put out a call on Twitter or your blog - something as simple as "I want to start a writing support group! Anyone interested?" will get people interested. But if you put out a big call like that, remember that if you get a lot of interest or people who don't match exactly what you're looking for, you should be prepared to take everyone who responded, anyway. Also, be sure to ask your writing friends if they know anyone looking for a group or crit partner - if you have five friends (online or off!) who are writers, one of them may know someone looking to form a group.
What about you? Do any of you have great tips for finding groups/crit partners?