How many of you belong to a writers’ group? Why or why not? There are many kinds of groups, and it’s important to find the right one, or ones. Different locales, different purposes, different formats.
First, of course, there is the location, particularly virtual or IRL (in real life). You might not be able to find one IRL that’s convenient, either by time or day or location, so a virtual one would suffice. Or you might want both; the anonymity of the Internet is sometimes a good thing when it comes to support and critique, but IRL connections are invaluable.
Speaking of, do you want a critique group? Or a group that provides information and/or opportunities? Or one that’s mostly there for support and camaraderie? Pick one, pick all.
Just don’t get so carried away with group-joining that you have no time to write or do anything else.
For myself, IRL, I belong to the Saint Louis Writers’ Guild and the Missouri Writers’ Guild; the first is a chapter of the second. Virtually, I belong to a dozen—which seems like a lot, but I rarely even look at half of those, and only a few of the rest are set to notify me with new posts.
Why? Let’s start with virtual groups: they’re a good way to announce new titles, articles, or short stories or poems. They’re a good way to get a quick answer to writing questions or to bounce off ideas. You can also make some great connections for book events, venues, blogs, and interviewers and reviewers.
In some of my groups, I’ve got friends I’ve known for many years, and besides the friendship, it’s fascinating to see how far they’ve come in their own careers.
Personally, I think half a dozen online group memberships are manageable, which is why I rarely participate in most of them—however, I can always go check things out or maybe decide to be more involved from time to time.
Now, for IRL groups, here’s where the big push comes:
You should really, really join one!
I can only relate my own experience, and even that only from my own state—but there’s this thing called Google, ya know? J
Once a month, the SLWG has an open mic night, a meeting with guest speakers, and an author interview event with a Q&A. That’s a lot of activity, but there’s no pressure—you can attend all or none. They also have an active presence on social media, particularly a Facebook group, and they have other opportunities throughout the year as well, like Writers in the Park, a mini-conference.
The MWG turns 100 this year, and boasts past notable members such as Mark Twain. The MWG hosts and promotes many contests and conference opportunities during the year, particularly their annual conference, held in April. A typical conference includes speakers, workshops, agents and publishers for pitch sessions, as well as networking and readings and a bookstore.
Writing is such a solitary profession that I really encourage you to join both types of groups—everyone needs to get out of the house once in a while, and if you can hang with other writers, so much the better!