Be it for a need to socialize, for networking, or simply to recharge the creative batteries, writers often turn to organizations like writing groups or clubs, critique groups, associations, and societies. I can tell you from personal experience that when you find the right writing group for you that you’ll learn more by being in the presence of other writers than from a library full of books about writing. Almost by osmosis. Because, although the act of writing itself is a very solitary thing to do, writers are social creatures. Story tellers. It’s far more fun to spin a good yarn with an audience than without it. And critical feedback by colleagues is invaluable.
Originally when I sat down to write a post about what sort of groups are best for specific situations I realized quickly that this is a rabbit hole of a topic. There are as many different types of organizations and reasons for joining them as there are writers. Rather than recreating the wheel, I knew there had to be something out there on the web that I could refer to here and there for you all, and I was right; Writer’s Digest has a really great article posted in 2009 called “Choosing a Writing Critique Group.” I recommend you give this a read if you are just starting out. In fact, if you’re new to writing and are looking for a great source of information I recommend you bookmark the Writer’s Digest site and visit it often.
If I could impart a little advice, there’s something to keep in mind when it comes to writing groups – they’re nearly always lead and managed by other writers who are simultaneously working on their own writing careers. These writers volunteer their time and energy because they want to help others much like they were likely helped when they began writing.
While they bring to the group their own experiences and expertise sometimes what they’re interested in might not work 100% of the time with your own goals. This is not a detraction by-in-large – you can often learn a lot from authors of other disciplines and genres, but there may be some things you would need to fulfill your goals that can’t be met by a singular group. If you run into this, know you’re not alone. Many writers belong to a variety of groups at the same time since each one will offer something a little different. And with more groups come more opportunities to network in different circles. Many writers will even opt to branch off to participate in specialized or focused groups composed of peers who write in a similar specific genre or discipline. There’s no shame at all in this – no one would look at you for being disloyal for pursuing anything that will help you succeed.
The best advice would be to assess what your needs are, research what’s available, then attend meetings when possible. The perfect fit might be the first, second, or third group you try, or all three. You’ll only know if you get out there and try.