Writing Group Reflections

In high school I was passionate about becoming a teacher. When I heard about Future Teachers of America, I wanted to belong. Why? To be with like-minded people who shared my enthusiasm. I started a chapter, called a meeting, posted flyers and waited at the appointed place and time. And no one showed.

Decades later, when my passion turned to writing fiction, I had better luck. I am a member of not one, but two, terrific writing groups.

How does a writer find a writing group that fits? I consulted with Kevin Symmons (www.ksymmons.com or https://www.facebook.com/kevin.symmons), President of the Cape Cod Writers Center, who has facilitated numerous connections between writers and writing groups. Kevin suggested looking for a group:

  • Whose members share similar interests, experience, and writing credentials. Note: some groups interview prospective members and others request writing samples;
  • That meets at least every two weeks. Every week is better;
  • That consists of between four and eight writers. Six is best;
  • That encourages frequent sharing of work—a maximum of ten pages;
  • That encourages those receiving feedback to listen and take notes rather than argue point-by-point;
  • That meets in a public place to keep the focus on business;
  • That expects feedback to be given in a spirit of respect;
  • That doesn’t tolerate “intellectual bullies” who are loud, offensive or make derogatory remarks.
  • That has an up-front rule that group members do not critique one another’s philosophy, politics, religion or other deeply held convictions.

Kevin’s suggestions make eminent sense. I would add that advertising in the SinCNE newsletter and passing out flyers at Crime Bake helped me when I wanted to start a writing group.  Unlike high school, this time people showed up.

About Nancy Gardner

Nancy Gardner’s short stories have been published in magazines, anthologies and online. Currently she’s working on a mystery set in Salem Massachusetts and featuring a present-day Salem witch who uses her ability to walk into the dreams of others to learn their secrets and solve crime.
This entry was posted in Craft, Members, SinCNE, Uncategorized, Writers, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Writing Group Reflections

  1. edithmaxwell says:

    I’m in a great group that meets almost all those criteria except the public place one. We meet in one member’s home, and when she’s out of town we meet in my home. So we can have wine!

    • Nancy Gardner says:

      A glass of wine sounds mighty fine to me, Edith. Both my groups meet at different Panera’s. One group is very near a place where we can order wine and appetizers when we are celebrating–like our celebration at the recent completion of a novel by my friend, Paula!

  2. This is a really useful post, Nancy — thanks very much! I’m already sharing it with others.

  3. Helen Pike says:

    Interesting post, Nancy. What’s your assessment of mixed disciplines in a writing group: poetry, non-fiction, fiction (all genres)?

    • Nancy Gardner says:

      Hi Helen. One of my writing groups is made up purely of mystery writers. The other has a mix of fiction genres–both work for me–both understand the problems of writing fiction. I’m not sure about how poetry and non-fiction would fit in. Anyone out there with a mix that includes fiction, non-fiction and poetry?

  4. Judy C says:

    I, too, am in a cool group that meets all the criteria. We’ve been together for years, and members come and go with a core group of regulars. The good news? We’re looking for new blood. We meet at the public library in Wellesley on Monday evenings (weekly) at 7:00 p.m. We have 7 members but not everyone can attend every week. We are 3 mystery novelists, 2 memoirists, 1 fantasy novelist and1 mainstream novelist, Occasionally someone will read a short story. We will want to take a look at your writing. Interested? Email judy@copek.com and tell us a bit about you and your writing. We are split between published and not-yet-published. Everyone takes his/her writing seriously We’d love to hear from you.

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