This Friday, the last Friday of the month, is the day the Morris Writers’ Group meets, and, as they usually do, the members invited my husband and me to join them. While Glenn and I don’t belong to a writers’ group anymore, we have been members of many. I met my one time critique partner and now good friend, Jan Day Fehrman, when she and I got together to form the Okeechobee Writers’ League, a group which continues to this day. At one point in my writing I found the writers’ group in Okeechobee useful. I think many beginning writers do like being part of a group and using others’ input to help develop their own writing. Sometimes it’s just a comforting feeling to know other people who are struggling with the craft and being able to share frustrations. And I think it’s important to identify as a writer and get to know others who write.
Some writers love writing groups; others hate them. I thought I’d share some of my experience on Friday to give you insight into how one writing group operates.
Sometimes the amount of food brought to the group is a bit like attending a church buffet. They’ve tried to cut down on the eating, but struggle with this because they, like me, like to eat. Food at a writing group is not something I recommend, but if it’s there, eat it!
The group is a motley crew of folks. Several are published, but most are not. The goal each has set varies from one to the other as do the genres represented. One writer has published a book for the young audience, but he chose to read from his adult novel prefacing his selection by saying it might be too gross for some of us. It was pretty gross and surprising for someone who writes so well for youngsters.
A published writer, new to the group, read from one of his books, while several others chose selections from stories or novel length books they were writing. To give you an idea of the breadth of the group, one is working on a cozy mystery, another writes amusing travel anecdotes from her past, and a third is presently taking an online course from the University of Iowa to help her complete her novel in mainstream literature. The individual who seems to serve as group coordinator/manager read another excerpt from his droll detective piece. Another newer member who recently moved to the area and who has completed a YA novel read a story he wrote the night before. The story with its focus on a Christmas party took the group back to food and the possibility of a holiday get together. I confess I raised the possibility even though my husband and I will not be here for the holidays (I hadn’t eaten lunch, so I was hungry!) Glenn and I shared some of our works in progress.
While this group has its own dynamic and its own loosely organized set of guidelines, it obviously works for its members. It has existed for years, and the members attend faithfully. The feedback is respectful and can be critical as well as encouraging.
As I’ve said, I’ve been in a number of writing groups, and all were unique. While I have my own preferences, group members should decide for themselves what they want and need and how they will go about it.
At Sleuthfest last year, Glenn and I organized a workshop on writing groups and collected materials which we put into a handout. If you wonder what you should look for in a writing group and where, you will find this handout useful. Contact me via my contact button on this website and I’ll send you a copy.