This is part 2. Part 1 was posted on Wednesday.

Types of Groups

A writing group can be as extensive or limited as you want your group to be. The simplest group would be a basic writing group. You and your friends get together once a week (or however often works for you) and you spend an hour writing. This is useful if you’re starting out and need help consistently writing. 

But a writing group is more than simply writing; it’s about critiquing and bettering your writing. Mold your group’s expectations to the goals of the group. 

For example, do you need help finishing your story? Set goals such as write ten pages by the next meeting or write the next chapter. 

Are you stuck on a plot point or character motivation? Discuss it with your group. Sometimes discussing your snags helps unravel the problems. 

Writing groups have long been part of the literary tradition. Many a famous author has at one time or the other been part of such a group. While you might not be able to discuss craft with your favorite authors, all aspiring writers can partake in the same literary tradition. 

Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Groups

Do – Determine the purpose of your group. 

It’s easy for a writing session to turn into a gabfest if you don’t create guidelines. Do you want to spend your groups as communal writing time? Do you want critique and criticism? By setting guidelines for your group, you’re able to recognize if your group is really helpful, or simply a hindrance to your writing. 

Don’t – Spend your time talking about ‘stuff.’

The purpose of your writing group should be to discuss your writing. If you spend the first fifteen minutes deciding the name for your group, followed by thirty minutes of discussing the latest episode of Downton Abbey, suddenly you only have fifteen minutes left to write and/or critique. At this point, you don’t really have a writing group; you’re just hanging out with friends. It is so easy to get lost down the rabbit trails of procrastination. Watch out for this. 

Do – Be Kind, Be Honest, and Be Helpful

Anytime you’re critiquing another person’s work, remember this is something they’ve worked hard on. They’ve put their blood, sweat, and tears into writing. Good criticism points out errors, confusing sections, and what doesn’t work, but does so in a way that helps make the writing better. Give positive feedback along with your constructive criticism. We all recognize criticism can be hard to accept, but it is one of the best ways to improve your writing. At the same time, don’t be afraid to point out errors because you’re afraid you’ll hurt their feelings. Being too gentle isn’t any help either. 

Remember, treat others how you want to be treated. 

Don’t – Don’t Talk

When the other members of your group are critique you’re story, no matter how much you want to, don’t talk. Listen, take notes, and remember you can’t stop by every reader’s house and explain a tricky section. After everybody else talks, it’s your turn. At that point, you can explain how the issue will be resolved later in the book or brainstorm ways to fix it. 

For More on Writing Groups

On Finding a Writing Workshop:

On Writing Groups:

About Alpha Readers:

13 Tips for Writing Groups:

Bethany McGean
Author and Proofreader