Writing Groups: Backyard v. Inbox

by Robin Lovett
published in Community

I love hanging out with writers. Sometimes in-person, sometimes online, and one of the best perks is that it’s not just social, it’s good for my writing too. Other writers aren’t just my friends, they’re my business colleagues. When I can, I’m writing with my local writing group, but when I can’t, I’m plugged in with my online buddies. There’s pluses and minuses to both. I’m a big fan of the combo.

Local Writing Groups:

  1. In-person contact: My local writers group has become my writing family, and I’m not the only one who’s had such a great local experience. I’ve gotten lots of positive comments about how much you all love your local groups. It’s been a pleasant surprise. I expected stories of frustration or bad experiences, but I’ve gotten none. Only glowing reviews of how much other writers love spending time with their local groups.
  2. Scheduled meeting times : Carving out weekly write time is hard with crazy schedules, and finding motivation to write can be as fickle as sand slipping between your fingers. Whether it’s a weekly write-in or a scheduled retreat, a local group forces us to enter a set time for writing into our calendars.
  3. Shared Knowledge: Other writers aren’t just friends, they’re work colleagues. Hanging out and chatting is a learning experience. I never know what I’ll get from my group whether it’s related to  craft or business or ideas for my writing. My group has been a font of invaluable information for everything from plotting to pitching. I learn things from them that I don’t even know I don’t know yet.
  4. Critique partners: I’m big on a “getting to know you” with my crit partners. It’s such an intimate relationship, not unlike dating. If I’m going to bare my soul and surrender my writing to someone, I prefer to trust that they won’t rip it to pieces and break my heart in the process. Getting to know another writer over weeks and months helps me feel safer when it’s time to share my writing. It also allows me to be a better critiquer in return. When I know a writer well before critiquing his or her work, I know what things  need highlighting and what things need more sensitivity.

  Online Writing Groups:

  1. Daily contact: I can’t meet with my local group every day, so for that I turn to my online community of writers. I love checking my email and forums for responses from my online groups. They give me daily support in my own living room. It helps me feel connected with other writers even when I’m home alone.
  2. Convenience: Sometimes getting out to a local meeting is not possible. Schedules, families, and location can make in-person contact impractical or impossible. Over email swaps, I have made great friends with writers online. Their messages in my inbox frequently make my day.
  3. Specific genres: Even if you do have a local group, it can still be hard to find people who write in your specific genre. Broader genres have niches these days. It’s not just fantasy or romance or mystery anymore. There’s genres within genres. Having a group who writes a variety of genres is a bonus for keeping ideas fresh, but online you can find others who write in your specific niche.
  4. Critique Partners: Though I prefer a “get to know you” period with my critique partners, I confess that I have posted my writing online. Sometimes it results in helpful feedback, other times not. The filter of the internet makes it easier to forget there’s a person behind the work. I’m guilty of forgetting too. I critique differently for a friend I know well, than a stranger online. When you don’t know someone personally, it’s a lot harder to know what might be offensive and what might be helpful. Hunting for crit partners online requires thicker skin. Though at times having the more objective opinion of a stranger is invaluable too.

Try a variety of groups, online and in-person. Shop around until you find what’s right for you. Remember, different groups can help with different aspects of writing, and if something doesn’t go well, give it another try. Sometimes it can take a while to understand a group’s dynamic well enough for it to feel like home. If it doesn’t work, try another one. There’s countless kinds. There’s probably one for you.

And if what you’re looking for doesn’t exist, there’s always the option to start one of your own. We’ll talk some about that next time.

Be brave, invest the time to find what works best for you. Your writing is worth it.

Sarah-Lovett-photo-223x300Robin Lovett, also known as S.A. Lovett, writes contemporary romance, and her debut novel, Racing To You, will be released July of 2016. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of the L. Perkins Agency and has a forthcoming series releasing with SMP Swerve in the summer of 2017.

She writes romance to avoid the more unsavory things in life, like day jobs and housework. To feed her coffee and chocolate addictions, she loves overdosing on mochas. When not writing with her cat, you can find her somewhere in the outdoors with a laptop in her bag. Feel free to chat with her on Twitter.

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