Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Right Writers' Group for You

Around a Table and Online
            If you want to be a writer, you have to write. Simple. Right? But without deadlines, most of us fail to be consistent. For that nudge, I joined a writers’ group (6 years ago) that meets monthly. We have writing prompts, assignments and a schedule. Plus we share similar quirks, like hearing characters hold conversations in our heads.
            All the writers in my group have a passion for journaling. We share personal stories, encourage each other’s work, and question unclear prose. It’s a low-pressure group meant to stretch our literary muscles.
            In order to become a published writer, I needed a critique group that challenges me to write a marathon. As a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), I found writers dedicated to the craft of writing children’s books.
            Thus my online critique group keeps me on pace to complete stories and make them shiny. We agreed to accept picture book manuscripts through young adult.
            For picture book manuscripts, every syllable needs to be scrutinized and edited a dozen times. Okay, that’s me. But nothing written well is written once. Middle grade and young adult novel are a bit more forgiving. That doesn’t mean a weak plot or flat characters are acceptable to readers.

Organizing a Writing Group
1. How many members will you accept into the group? Consider how much time you wish to commit to the group. A writers’ group requires give and take from every member.

2. Will you accept newbies to the group? Or do writers need to have a work in progress? Or one publishing credit?

3. Whether your group meets in-person or submits online, maintaining a regular schedule is crucial. Like Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Of course you need to show up with writing tools and plenty of paper.

4. What age group and genres will your group critique?

5. What is the maximum a writer can submit each session? The submission amount could be a chapter or 10 pages. 

6. How much time may pass before critiques are completed each session?

I will discuss how to give and take a critique next time.