Thursday, July 24, 2014

How To Form a Writer's (Critique) Group #amwriting

Many people argue that a writing group has been essential to their success. After all, where would we be without our beta-readers, our proof readers, and those other kindred souls who know exactly how hard it can be to return to the page day in and day out. For all of these reasons, I recently formed my first post-grad writers group, The Four Horsemen of The Bookocalypse—and it has made all the difference. Not only do I have the support of three other fantastic readers/writers but I have people who will give me a honest assessment of my WIPs and challenge me to take it to the next level.  But how does a writer form such a group? And should they?

1)     Decide that you do in fact want/need a critique group. Critique groups are a big responsibility. It isn’t just that you’ve roped a group of fools into reading/proofing your work at your beck and call. The street runs both ways. You have to be prepared to put in as much work as you get out of it.

2)     Once committed to doing the work, decide who you want to work with and what kind of group you want. I found my cofounder, Angela Roquet on Twitter. I read her book and admired it and thought it would be fun to work with her. Then we each invited writer friends who we thought would be a good match and who would benefit from the discipline of a writer’s group. Online works best for us because the Four Horsemen are scattered across America (Seattle, Missouri, Michigan, and Tennessee). If your co-writers are closer though, maybe you would prefer a group who meets face-to-face—goodness knows that coffee shops, libraries, and kitchen tables are available almost anywhere. If you don’t already know writers who you’d like to group up with—or hate the idea of reaching out to people you wish you knew—then consider checking here , here , or here  for possible group mates.

3)     Decide how big you want your group to be. The more people, the more work and possibly less attention—but you’ve also got more eyes floating around, which is to say there are pros/cons to any size group. Some people do well with big groups and some don’t. It’s totally up to you and your preferences here. But have a size in mind when you start/form your group and make that cap-size clear to everyone upfront, in case someone’s sister-in-law’s best friend’s cousin, who wrote a couple of poems in college, decides she wants to *try* her hand at novel writing and take you along for the ride. “No we’ve decided to cap the group at 8” is a good excuse to have for such situations. If however, you are joining a pre-existing group, then you’ll have little say in the matter—which leads me to number 4.

4)    You have your group mates. Awesome! Now make the rules.
Any functional group has rules that all civil participants abide by. But again these rules are dependent upon the group members themselves and should reflect your goals and intentions. For example, one of the things I needed most was discipline, so we agreed to submit pages every other week (two writers per week). Once you know what you want to achieve, design rules that will help you fulfill these goals. Rules are best kept if all group members are involved in their creation--which is why you may also want to have consequences outlined as well. (What happens if someone doesn't submit work on time? What happens if...etc.) . This might be a good read for ideas on where to start with your rules.