Whoever said a writer’s life is a lonely life was right. You write by yourself, you research by yourself - you don’t even need to talk to another person to get writing work. So what’s the problem? The problem is writers need other people to get feedback or support for their writing.
Writing groups are a great way to get writing support but you may want to ask yourself a few questions before joining:
Question #1: What is the goal of the writing group?
The writing group may want writers to bring new material to each meeting, to keep meetings fresh and interesting. Maybe the writing group does “table reads” once a month and discusses business matters the other days (how to get your manuscript published, has a guest lecturer or a field trip to a movie studio). Maybe the group has a mission statement and they choose to stand by it. The downside is that if the group does not have a clearly defined goal, you won’t either.
Question #2: Does the writing group embrace a particular type of writing style?
If you’re writing your memoir or write non-fiction, then a writing group that focuses on romance or science fiction may not be the most beneficial to you. It’s not that you couldn't’ learn a thing or two, but it may be that the other writers may not understand your style. Remember, you’re looking for support, not interrogation. Try to find a group who is open to all types of writing genres.
Question #3: Does the writing group dive right in or do they take their time sharing work and giving feedback?
Remember, your time is precious and you may even have a writing deadline. A well run organization will get down to business and not waste any time. It shouldn't take the group more than a half an hour to roll up their sleeves and start discussing that week’s topic (which should have been clearly defined in that week’s agenda schedule – if the group doesn't have an agenda, then you may want to reconsider joining the group).
Question #4: Does the group have any “rules” when it comes to sharing feedback?
The group should be able to critique the writing work, not the writer. A good way to lay a safe foundation is to start with positive reinforced feedback. Then if readers wish to criticize the work, then suggestions for revisions should be encouraged. Criticism is easier to handle when it follows positive statements. Plus, readers shouldn't take any more than 10 minutes to give feedback. Remember, this is a group organization, the more voices heard, the better.
Question #5: How long has the group been intact and have the members changed a lot? In other words, are the members friends or is there a high “turn-over” of members?
Why is this important - because if the members get along and respect one another, then they’ll most likely respect you and your work. If all the group does is complain about other members and how someone writes, then the group is probably not ideal. You’ll want members to be able to give constructive feedback, but you also want to feel comfortable in your space. Since you’ll be the new kid on the block, go to a few meetings and see how it makes you feel. If you feel like you can learn a thing or two, stay with it and see how it helps your writing.
Luckily for writers who live in and around Chandler, Arizona, there are several writing groups who claim to be open to all types of writing. If the writing group is a meet up group, then check the number of members (and see what kinds of comments members have left). You can also read their group reviews.
If you’re not sure if a writing group is a good fit, try them out. Contact them to see if you can participate in one or two meetings. See if you learn anything and get a good vibe from its members. Chances are you’ll at least see writing in a new way. If you have experience with a writing group, please leave a comment and share you experience with other readers.