guest post: how do you find the right writer's group?

One of the things I love about writing is that I can do it all by myself. I can be quiet and retreat into my own thoughts. I tend to lose all track of time.

Unfortunately, that aloneness can also be the biggest drawback to being a writer. It is likely that your friends and family don’t understand how your brain processes things or get the jargon you use to describe your work. And that is when you need to be in the company of writers.

I just finished volunteering at the Willamette Writers Conference, which I do nearly every year. I get a total jolt of inspiration and excitement when I attend. And I love being surrounded by people who know that WIP means work in progress. It’s such a great sense of camaraderie I can’t get anywhere else.

I was lucky in that I stumbled across Willamette Writers soon after my first book was published and I started devoting time to fiction. It was a good fit for me.

But it doesn’t always work out as easily for other writers, especially if you’re looking for a critique group, where fit is of great importance. So, how can you tell if you’re in the right group?

First, make sure the topics of discussion are suited to your career level.

When I interviewed J. Anderson Coats for Pacific Northwest Writers, one of the things we talked about was the group of writers she connected with online. They were all in the midst of getting their first book published, so they spoke the same language, were dealing with the same concerns, and had the same fears and excitements.

You’ll want to make sure that you’re working with a group of writers who can understand the career phase you are in so that you can all support each other and grow together.

Second, you must feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback. The type of feedback offered in critique groups can vary widely, from no-holds-barred editing to kind and gentle sandwiches of positive feedback – opportunity for improvement – positive feedback.

There was a scene in season 1 of Jane the Virgin where she didn’t read the instructions on feedback and wrote some feedback for one of the writers that didn’t fit with the goals of the group. There were madcap antics as she tried to take back the cards she’d written her notes on — and tears as the person receiving the criticism wasn’t emotionally prepared to hear what Jane had to say. Make sure you’re on board with the goals of the group so you can give and get the best critiques of your work.

Have you been part of a writer’s group? What was your experience like? Tell us in the comments below. 


Author Bio: Jennifer Roland is a freelance and marketing writer with more than twenty years' experience in newspaper, magazine, and marketing environments. Jennifer also works as a virtual assistant to writers, helping them build their online presence and connect with readers so they can focus on what they love — writing.

She loves fiction and writes that under the name Jennifer C. Rodland. She hopes to put all of the lessons she learned writing this book into getting more of that published.

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