If you truly want to be a writer, it’s important to find, try out and eventually, join a writer’s group. I think the key part of this is to ‘try out’ a group. Despite the designation of one size fits all, it really doesn’t and this goes for writer’s groups just as much as it does for a T-shirt or a pair of sweats. Each group will have its own personality, coming from a combination of the genres being worked on, to the location of the meeting, to the people who are doing the critiquing. Finding the right fit between yourself and a group is imperative to improving your writing.
Some groups are more for socializing than for writing and critiquing. If you bring a piece to your weekly or monthly group and receive nothing more than “I really liked it” or “I wouldn’t change a thing”, it’s likely that your writing skills will not improve. While these comments may be flattering, what are you learning? If you enjoy the company of the people you meet and in particular, the after meeting get-togethers at a coffee shop or restaurant perhaps, then a social group is right for you.
Try to attend a few meetings before joining. Perhaps, the group you’re attending is into memoirs only or childrens books. While both are worthy groups, it might be difficult to gel with this group if you are writing thrillers or romances. I’ve found that it’s not so much the genre as the length. Short story writers do better with other short story writers just as novelists tend to do better with other novelists independent of the genre.
A critique group critiques, but this doesn’t mean they rip your writing to shreds for the fun of it. If someone seems to enjoy inflicting pain or find their witty barbs more amusing than a genuine critique, this may not be the group for you. If there is only one like this in a group, it’s easier to ignore, however a group with two or more people like this should be avoided. Writing is much like parenting. After a long period of growing your story, the last thing you want is for someone to call your ‘baby’ ugly just because they can.
As a writer, you will get your feelings hurt. You will get discouraged. You will develop a thick skin and eventually, you will realize that a critique is not a personal attack. A critique is a constructive bit of advice that does not have to be used. That decision is up to you.
Try out several groups including online sites. It takes a brave soul to put themselves and their work out into the world for the first time. Be proud of yourself for taking that step. Learning is growing and sometimes when we grow, we skin our knees or bump our heads, but we learn from it and move on. Writing is the same.
Now, get out there and bump your head.