Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hangin' With the Cool Kids

A friend of mine wants to set up a writer's/artist's group in his area, as the only one he could find around him has been inactive for awhile. I was asked what the writer's groups I belong to do so he could be sure to include things people would be interested in. Though he is a screenwriter, he is thinking of making it for all artistic types.

Rather than just sending a list of things we do in the local writer's groups, I thought it would be good to get a little feedback from those that read on here. What is it you enjoy about the writer's (or other artistic) groups you belong to? Do you just gather to talk about artistic things, do you have speakers come out, do you critique? What do you thing any group like this should have? Is there anything you don't like or you think is missing from those you have participated in?

For me, the biggest thing is probably the aspect of talking to like-minded people. It is so great to talk to someone who knows what problems you might face, someone who has been there in that very same place. I also enjoy the courses and educational programs, as well as the resources provided. In groups like these, you can be as weird as you like. You can talk about the issues of whether your zombie likes brains or other body parts, what you should name this character's 90 children, which man your romantic lead should go for, whether your vampire should be able to walk in daylight, what trophies your serial killer should keep and whether this weapon is realistic in your murder mystery. You can talk about those things without someone thinking you're nuts. That's the beauty of it. No little white padded wagons will drag you away when everyone else you're talking to sounds just as off as you do. (And if they try, you will surely outnumber them).

In my Pen Women group, we have artists and composers, in addition to writers, but the topics usually come back around to writing, as we make up the majority. It is fascinating, though, to hear about a little something different, yet related. One can empathize with the artist who is having an artistic block, the photographer who can't figure out just what angle she's going for, or the composer who is about to present their work in the hopes of making it big. They may be different forms of art, but they are all artistic expressions, which puts them in the same family.

I would love to be able to pass along advice from all of you concerning what you would be looking for were this group to be forming in your area. I have plenty of opinions, but they are just my opinions. A group is made up of so many different types of people.

Please feel free to share in the comments!

Happy Writing!


  1. Hi, Shannon! In our local RWA chapter, NOLA STARs, we have monthly speakers who present different topics on characterization, plotting vs. pantsing, preventing sagging middles, etc. While these meetings are more formal than, say, a critique group, they are always enjoyable.

    A suggestion for a critique group, though, might be to bring a predetermined amount of pages (5 is usually perfect) each week/month/however often you meet (and make certain you make enough packets for each member of your group), have someone (other than yourself) read it aloud, then permit everyone to write their own comments/suggestions/thoughts. You'll be amazed 1)What a difference it makes, having someone read your work aloud to you and 2)How differently each person reads your work, what they glean from the plot, characters, etc.

    Just bear in mind, you don't ever have to take the suggestions. This is merely a good brain exercise as well as a helpful tool to strengthen your writing.

  2. I echo Alyssia because that is/was the goal of my writing group. I say was because I ended up being the only one of my group that consistently writes. All are amazing writers, but their lives and writing are still trying to connect. My only advise would be to find writers who are committed, because if they are, it's amazing, truly.

  3. Brenda, you reminded me of something very important: It holds you accountable! You must write. And if you don't bring something to group, shame on you; and if you do, and no one else shows the same courtesy, it's definitely time to move on.

  4. If critiquing is involved, then a schedule and guidelines are a must! It can get overwhelming without them. Also I think the rule of honest but respectful is very important. You need to offer helpful advice but you should never slam someone either.

  5. Alyssia, I learned firsthand at the writer's conference how quickly you can hear something wrong with your work when it's read aloud by someone else! What you do at your RWA chapter meetings sounds like what we do at PPW and I definitely enjoy it. Thank you for the feedback and the information on critique groups!

    Brenda, I'm sorry your group hasn't worked out the best, but great advice, thank you.

    Kelly, I agree that honesty is important in critiquing, as long as it is respectfully done. Thank you for your feedback.