BY NANCY KAY CLARK
editor/publisher of commuterLit
Copyright is held by the author.
1. It’s more of a social than a working group. It’s fun to hang out with people who love talking about character development and imagery as much as you do. However, if most of the chatter during meetings is not about the work at hand, but your personal lives, it’s not going to help you become a better writer.
2. You come out of meetings depressed or unchallenged. Good writers’ groups balance support and encouragement with thoughtful, detailed feedback. It’s equally unhelpful to you if all you get is wild praise or all you get is vicious criticism. Neither will motivate you to work harder.
3. It’s become someone’s fiefdom. Yes, all groups need facilitators, but if your official or unofficial leader usurps meetings to bestow favours, punish challengers and keep the discussion on his/her work alone, move on. You don’t need to be back in high school again.
4. Questions you have about your work, go unanswered. You can predict the feedback each group member will give you. The discussions never go past a certain superficial level. No new ideas or suggestions are offered. You’re the only one who’s really serious about publishing or self-publishing. If you recognize any of the scenarios, you’ve outgrown your group and it is time to move on.
5. The format doesn’t lend itself to long-form work. It can be very frustrating reading half a chapter per session and if people miss a session, you spend 10 minutes catching them up. Instead, perhaps think about gathering a smaller group of beta readers you can email great chunks of your novel to, or search for a mentor who is willing to read your manuscript and give you some feedback. Alternatively, you can use a manuscript evaluation service.