Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Finding Writers' Groups

Every once in awhile, I'll get an email from a reader...and this pretty much makes my life worth living. (No, really. I'm not exaggerating. Other things make my life worth living, too...like chocolate and my dogs and my husband and good books. But strangers emailing me because they think I can actually help? Yeah. That's up there.) Recently, I've had a few people ask (in both emails and the comments) if I could give them some advice about where to find a good writers' group.

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.
  1. 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.  
  2. 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...
  3. 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.
OK, so those tips don't seem particularly riveting. I know. But every crit partner or beta reader I've had, I got mostly through luck or having interests in common, or because they sent me an email or I emailed them and just asked.

What about you? Do any of you have great tips for finding groups/crit partners?


  1. One thing that happened with my CP and I was she beta-read for me before we officially became crit partners. I already knew she'd be able to be critical (not just nice) and we just worked well together and her emails are extremely encouraging. It was nice to be able to go into it naturally.

  2. Jess - Obvs. :)

    Wendy - I agree! Almost all of my long-term partners/groups did a kind of trial-and-error, if you will, to see if we would mesh well together before diving in on a full-time basis. I think it's nice to get just a few chapters out together to see if you work well together and want the same things before committing to multiple 80K manuscripts.

  3. Um, yeah, the people I've found--you included!--have been through pure dumb luck. Via Absolute Write.

  4. I got invited to a kidlit writing group while attending a writing workshop. At first I didn't get much out of the meetings, but the group seemed to have a lot of potential. It took about four months of showing up for meetings and just trying to get to know people before I started getting useful critiques. So my advice is to not give up too quickly on a group that is somewhat shy (but RUN from groups that are mean spirited). Sometimes it takes time for a group dynamic to gel well.

    I was able to be patient with them parly because I was simultaneously involved in a different group I started with Simon of Constant Revision. That was a "don't be afraid to ask" group we cobbled together with friends we knew who also write.

  5. I love our group too!

    I found my IRL critique group through a big local writers MeetUp group. It took a while, about a year of going to meetings and chatting with different people afterwards before I found a really solid group, but it was definitely worth the time and effort.

    I think it's a really great idea to cultivate relationships with multiple groups/partners. I meet with my IRL group in person once a week and get great detailed scene by scene feedback, but I do a lot of my brainstorming with our online group and hope to recruit some of you guys as betas when I have a full draft ready. Getting feedback and bouncing ideas off of multiple writer friends really helps me.

    Not to mention, it's just nice to cultivate friendships and build support networks with other writerly types like me. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who likes to play with my imaginary friends and interviews herself in the car.

  6. Thanks for the tips! I need to find a good writing group. I've been in two online but they both fell apart.

    I'm signed up for Absolute Write and the others, but just can't get into them. Forums are just not my thing.


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