SO, writing groups. What are they and how can you get one?
Writing groups are a little like a workshop without a teacher. Of course, the easiest way to get feedback on your work is to sign up for a writing workshop (or if you are just starting a career, a writing class.) Thing is, workshops cost money. Always. And parents don’t always have an extra $300-$1000 lying around.
Sorry, just made myself choke on my coffee. the things I would do with an extra grand…
Anyway, writing groups. These groups of 3-8 writers make a professional commitment to meet on a regular basis and to read and critique each other’s work. Some groups are small enough that everyone gets read every single week. Most take turns—some allow one writer to have a whole book critiqued, some have a maximum number of pages. Many writing groups are online – you submit and crit via Yahoo groups or some other private message board option. Even Facebook Groups can be set up to accommodate, especially if people use Google Docs to share MS pages.
Regardless of the format: if it is a well-run group, there will be guidelines, the people will be vetted in some way, and the critiques will be presented in some kind of orderly manner. My group is in-person, meets every other week (because we all have jobs and/or families) and all of us are published and or award-winning writers. You are never “too good” for a writing group – though you may want to leave after a while once you internalize the representative critiques.
Or once you have a professional editor who is waiting for your pages.
Writing groups give you a connection to your readers, so chose wisely: if you write romance novels don’t join a writing group of men writing historical nonfiction. You want a supportive group that “gets” what you write. That is hungry for it. You also want the other writers to be well-read in your field, and hopefully, at least one of them will have actual editing experience and be able to catch the grammatical and spelling errors which spellcheck has missed. The critiques of your peers will definitely improve your writing, but what’s possibly even more important to parents – the deadline for needing to submit something to the group can keep you motivated when everyday life drains your very will to live. Wait, did I say that aloud? I meant, when everyday live makes it difficult to feel creative.
If you live outside of an urban setting or university town, it can be a little harder to find a group that will be suitable, but check industry publications for groups seeking new members. People do get publishing contracts and leave groups all the time—look for postings on bulletin boards, in church bulletins, anywhere. Make sure you interview the group first (and don’t be a pompous prick, no one likes a stuck-up writer) to ensure your personalities mesh.
If in-person critiquing isn’t possible given your situation, find an online group. There are many. These groups often form privately after attending a colony or conference together, or after graduate school. In general, going to a colony or taking a class, really any writing class will do, can give you the energy boost you need to get yourself back on the horse and in your creative space. A lot of time, all we need is a readership and the ideas flow like magic.