Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Writing Groups

No, not the kind where you sit face to face, read your material and gain insight through critiques on how to improve it. I mean those groups that spring up out of nowhere on Facebook and LinkedIn. Almost every day I receive invitations to join one or another. I've had great experiences and less than great experiences.

What I like about these groups is the variety of people who contribute. Usually, a question leads to a response arc where many different people contribute feedback. Some comments are helpful, others less so, as you would expect when six people try to create a horse and end up with a camel.

I've previewed short tidbits of one or more of my works with great feedback for improvement. I've announced the availability of my first published novel, Mad Max Unintended Consequences. I've received wonderful reviews as a result of those postings, both in public and through private messages. I've been contacted by people from my past, some of whom I'd lost touch with. This is the good kind of group. Not that it let me promote my book, because I received feedback for my efforts and encouraged me to promote other people's books.

I joined one group where the group leader informed everyone in the very first post that promoting your personal works was not allowed. The second post was from a writer who was promoting her works. Comments ranged all over the place and included several from the group organizer. What is a new member to think? If the group organizer likes you, you can promote to your heart's content? Or that you have to be a member long enough to be worthy of self-promotion? Do you have to comment daily to be considered worthy? I am so confused.

Some groups are lead by a veritable tsar. You will do everything my way. You will follow the rules or we won't let you stay. You will like and share all our posts even when you would never do so on your own. I mean, come on. I don't read heaving-bosom romances, yet fully 50% of the FB posts are to such works. I have my standards, after all. I can't promote something I don't read. Maybe I'm too snobbish for that group. I'm so confused.

Some members of groups cannot post a coherent message. Poor English. Lousy grammar. Worse spelling. I don't mind if I'm reading text- or tweet-speak, but when a post pretends to be written by a literate person, I expect not to have to decipher what it means. Again, I'm probably too snobbish for that group. I'm so confused.

I love to learn from different writers and readers. I posted a question in a new group on Facebook. I got back no fewer than 75 responses, all but three of which had nothing to do with my original question. I was serious, but I was attacked by those who were ever so much cleverer than I was. I was even more confused.

You might see yourself in this blog post. If you don't, count yourself among those who want to help writers without stifling their creativity and hopes. And who don't confuse me.

Can't we all just get along and stop playing one upsmanship?


  1. I confess that I haven't joined many writing groups, outside of real life anyway. The few I have joined were by and large positive experiences. Although, the last time I sought another critique partner quickly became disastrous. The only two respondents had a poor grasp of the English language and no concept of proper formatting. The quality of their work is a whole other topic. Maybe I'm snobbish, as well.

    It's an interesting world, writing oriented and otherwise. :)

    1. I agree that things can go wrong. I was in a face-to-face critique group that was going along fairly well, until one member had a meltdown and screamed, literally screamed, at me. Color me gone. I didn't deserve the verbal attack. I quit the group before the night was over...

  2. Dear Confused,

    I, too, am confused most of the time, but I attribute that to age, loss of memory and .... where was I? Good to see your posts, Betsy!

  3. Yes, for the reasons you mention in your post, I try not to belong to on-line writing groups. I teach a creative writing class (and have taught creative writing for over 20 years) and find this fulfills me wonderfully (and actually helps my novel-writing). I follow writing blogs to get ideas on publishing, self-publishing, blogging, etc., and I find people like you on Goodreads! If I do more than that, I'm wasting my time reading comments that don't help, instead of writing. Nice to meet you.

  4. I haven't had too much experience with online writer groups. When I started writing, I was thrilled to get feedback from anybody and his dog. I try to learn from reviews once a book is out, but during the writing process, I'd like to hear from people who are good writers themselves. I don't think that's being snobbish.

  5. Thanks for your message. Have you read lots of picture books? It's an excellent way to get a really good feel for what works. And it's worth checking out the recent ones (so you could go into a bookshop and read through lots of them -very carefully of course!). And if you buy some that you think are great, or get some really good ones out of the library, try typing them out and looking at them as manuscripts so you can see where the page turns happen and the shape of the story. That can really help give you a feel for it. I would really recommend joining SCBWI and there are all sorts of events where you can learn from other authors and editors and agents. We've got critique groups which can be extremely valuable in helping you make your story the very best it can be. My latest post is all about feedback on your writing, which might help (click on my name on the right hand side of the blog and it'll come up). And don't worry about your story not coming out perfect first time round: it often takes lots and lots of editing to get it right.
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