Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Friday, February 11, 2011

Is Bigger Always Better?


Once you’ve finished writing a chapter, short story or a section of dialogue, you need to make revisions.  Chances are your ass hurts from sitting for hours.  The computer has blurred your vision.  You’re tired.  You need to rest. 

A couple days later you return to your piece.  The hair pulling begins as you read through your writing.  You are too close to your piece to revise it objectively.  What can you do?  If you have a trusted friend to edit it, you’ve struck gold.

Don’t know someone who can edit?

Another solution: join a writers group.  A writers group is a community of writers provides support, encouragement and an objective set of eyes for your writing.  Submit your work and you'll receive valuable feedback to improve your writing.   

Remember, these folks are your readers.  They can lend insight to your writing: what worked; what’s missing.  Best part, it’s a symbiotic relationship.  The members provide free editing and revision services in return for your services. 

Can you join any group?

Researching different groups will ensure you choose the most beneficial one for you writing needs.  Location, focus and size influence the decision.  Where and how far you are willing to travel to meet up with other writers is a pretty straightforward factor, easily decided.  So is choosing a group to fit your genre of writing.  You wouldn’t submit erotica to a children’s literature group.  Again an easy decision to make. 
  
The more difficult question is: does the size of the critique group matter?  

Ultimately, it depends on you, but I’ve provided a few pros and cons for each group size.   

Small Writing Group
3-10 people
Pros
-       Submitting to a smaller group is less intimidating.
-       The small group allows you to get to know the members well.
-       It affords everyone a chance to submit every meeting.
Cons
-       There aren’t enough members to give a variety of revisions.
-       The feedback becomes stale.
-       Smaller groups might spend more time socializing.  

Large Writing Group
10+ people
Pros
-       A larger group provides a variety of perspectives during revisions.
-       You can see patterns of what is and isn’t working.
-       You meet a larger variety of writers.
-       Less pressure to submit with so many writers waiting in line.      
Cons
-       It can be intimidating submitting to a large group.
-       Larger groups have different personalities and opinions.  This can cause squabbles, leading to discomfort. 
-       Your networking skills lacking?  It can be more difficult meet people in a large group.
-       You might not be able to submit every month.  Depends on the amount of members waiting. 


A writing community provides friendship in this lonely writing life.  Your goal of writing a compelling and memorable story can be achieved by joining a writers group.  Do your research to find which one matches your personality and writing. And don't forget to keep writing!   


Do you prefer large or small critique groups?

7 comments:

Michael Offutt said...

I've never tried a writing group. I've wanted to and checked to see if there was one at a local coffee shop (I just figured that if there were writers, I might be able to find them on there) but there wasn't anything posted. I also checked Craig's List and didn't find anything. Basically, I came to my own conclusion that, unless you're attending a University (which I'm not) then you don't really have access to the kinds of writing groups that say, a Creative Writing class might be able to generate.

What was Penn State like by the way? That's the University that Dr. Sweets from Bones (one of my favorite series) went to.

Laura Campbell said...

I stumbled upon a website, www.meetup.com, that listed all kinds of groups, including writing, all over the U.S. You might want to check that out.

I love Bones! It's definitely in my top 10. I really enjoyed Penn State. Just wish I had a better idea of what I wanted to do with my life before I went. Luckily, my English degree afforded me the opportunity to leave teaching and pursue writing.

I hope you are able to find a group. If not, you can always start a group online. Let me know how your search goes.

Matthew Rush said...

Laura, you should associate an email address with your blogger account so that I can reply to your comments directly.

To answer you question Andrew followed my blog for about a month before I realized who he actually was. Then I finally found his blog and we interacted for a few weeks before I worked up the courage to ask him. He's actually really cool.

Laura Campbell said...

I'm not sure how to do that? I thought my email address was there when I signed up. I'll check into it. Thanks.

anvil said...

Hey Laura
great post. As you know, I've only ever experienced one writer's group - ours! So I don't have the range to 'prefer' one to another. I think, based on my personality, that I'd feel better in a smaller group. I like to build relationships and get to know the other member's work and style which is harder the larger the group. But I do think that a writer's group is only one part of a 'jobbing' writer's network. I put up a classified on Natalie Whipple's (between fact and fiction) page for a crit partner and someone quite wonderful found me. Not sure if it's going to work out, but I feel like I'm doing the administrative work of writing. And that feels good when the actual writing is driving me insane.

Laura Campbell said...

I totally agree Alex. I'm pretty turned off by the Philadelphia Writers Group. There's over 20 people showing up and some of the personalities just ruin the positive vibe. I'v completely fallen in love with our small group. I don't feel the same pressure when I submit and I enjoy getting to know everyone.

I did see Whipple's post. I thought it was pretty cool. Unfortunately, I'm nowhere near ready to show my novel to anyone. My short stories have no business being read either. But I digress. I hope things work out for you. Keep me posted. See you on Sunday.

Michael Offutt said...

Thanks for the link Laura and I'll definitely check it out. Your writers groups sounds like so much fun just from reading the comments here from people obviously in it /jealous >,<

Have a beautiful (and romantic) Valentine's weekend with the people you love :)

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