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Online writing groups?

Discussion in 'Writing Groups' started by Gribba, Oct 17, 2016.

  1. Gribba

    Gribba Troubadour

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    So I have been considering joining online writing group (well, first, I need to find one).

    My situation is that I come from Iceland, I live in Denmark and 98% of what I read and write is in English. So finding a real life writing group here has not been successful, for some reason people in Denmark like writing in their native language. :p

    Any of you know where to start looking and what to be aware of and what to expect from such groups?
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    It depends on where you are in your writing. Scribophile is a good place to get feedback if you're just getting started. But if you're more developed and have something of a manuscript and you're at a place where you really want to succeed, you need to connect with people and look for the individuals who understand your writing the most.

    The challenge with writing groups is finding people who understand your style and who help you with what you're trying to do with your writing, instead of imposing their own style or the "rules" (which are perfectly reasonable on their own) onto your writing. It can be hard to tell the difference.
     
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  3. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    I'll second Devor, writing groups can be fantastic, but it takes quite a bit of "feeling out" and trial and error before you settle on a good one.

    In my own experience, I joined this (and a few other) writing forums just so that I could meet people and find other people with a similar mindset of mine. After over a year of posting on various threads and being an active member of the community, I built a small network of people I "connected" with. These were people who had similar views on writing and similar goals.

    There were a few times in the other forums where I thought I connected with someone, but after some time critting each other work it became obvious that we were not a good fit, and that is okay.

    Now I have a nice core group that I work with on a regular basis, but like I said, it took over a year of meeting people and trying different set ups.

    Good luck in your search!
     
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  4. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I'm a member on Scribophile, and while the concept of it is great, I advice treading with caution. Many of the critiquers there are beginning writers, and the crits/suggestions given on manuscripts are often not helpful. This is a common vein of tension there. My suggestion is to connect with other writers in their private groups area, and that depends on which genre you write in.

    Also, Mythic Scribes is a great place to find other like-minded writers to swap manuscripts with. I've made some good buddies here that have been a good fit for critique partners. Get to know some folks around here by posting and getting involved with the community. There's some knowledgeable writers here. :)
     
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  5. Gribba

    Gribba Troubadour

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    This is such a good point, thank you for that. I am not sure what to expect from such a group so that point is definitely going on my list of things to keep in mind as I look for a group! :)
     
  6. Gribba

    Gribba Troubadour

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    One more thing to add to my list, people who have similar views on writing and similar goals.
    Thank you, I like the idea of having a nice core group to work with on a regular basis.
     
  7. Gribba

    Gribba Troubadour

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    Thank you, I will try that as I am not looking for some hand-holding group.
    I want to find people that see writing as a process that never really ends even if you publish a book one can still learn and become better or redefine once writing.
     
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  8. Gribba

    Gribba Troubadour

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    So you that do have a group, how and what do you use the group and each-other for?
    I am still trying to figure out what I might need and expect but also what others might expect. So getting some idea of how others use it might help. If any of you are keen on sharing that kind of info? :)
     
  9. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    If you are near a university that runs a creative writing course, then they will probably have a Creative Writing group that is open to non-students and staff. But as others have said, you do have to find the right fit. The one nearest to me was fairly dominated by poetry. Nothing wrong with that but it didn't work for me.
     
  10. Gribba

    Gribba Troubadour

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    ahh unfortunately, no such thing anywhere close or even remotely close to me... I will keep looking... one day i will triumph!!!
    :D
     
  11. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I'm going to link two of my articles. One is about critique and gives a few things to think about when you are trading with other writers. The other is about writing groups, but as a sort of simple overview. Still, it might help you figure some stuff out and at least think about what your ultimate goal is.

    See...i've swapped with dozens of writers. Most all of them were good experiences, but also for most of those relationships we just weren't going to stand the test of time. First at the top of the list of why two people might not be a good fit, is experience level. I cover that in the article about critique. basically, you need peers who will be working on the same things you are working on, so you can have ongoing conversations about the topic. Just last week, I had a bit of personally confusing moment about why some books are better than others, and I wrote to my crit group about the subject that I was contemplating. I got back a very thoughtful email about the subject of what separated genre fiction from more literary work, and how it related to my personal goals. But see...I have a partner who knows my goals, feels similarly about them, and will help me separate the wheat from the chaff and find the truth of my odd contemplations. That wouldn't have worked so well if we weren't already intimately acquainted with each other's goals, style, abilities, knowledge, and experiences.

    Those are the hardest things to get to know about a fellow writer. In fact, when I sent this partner stories at first, she disliked them all. But we kept at it until we knew each other and had become friends, and established some common ground from which to build our relationship. It turned out that the things I thought were my best work were lame, and the things she liked about my writing were some of the things I'd been avoiding for years in an attempt to be more of what I thought was "professional". Since then, we've really developed together in a way, and I feel so fortunate to have not burned a bridge with those first weak stories.

    Second on the list is critiquing style. If you're looking for someone to tell you the truth, you need to look for someone who isn't afraid to crack a few eggs. I've noticed critiques usually fall into one of two categories on sites like Scribophile. Either you find that someone goes easy on you, or they rip you to shreds, seemingly for their own amusement (and this wasn't what happened to me, but I saw it enough that I didn't want to participate anymore because I didn't feel it led to the kind of results I wanted). With a consistent partner, you can talk back and forth. You can tell the other person what kind of feedback you want. Things like, "I know my dialogue is a bit rough right now, but can you ignore that for the time being and give me feedback on my descriptions and the overall readability of this scene?"

    A couple years ago, I did a critique for my best writing friend. I was brutally honest about some aspects of his story, mainly character lens things, where I felt he needed just a couple things to ground the characters in the reader's mind, so we enjoyed reading about them more.

    When he sent me an edited copy...it still felt lacking in that regard, and he told me he was a little disappointed that I hadn't noted any improvements, but continued to harp on the same things. WOW. Well, I redid the critique again, sending him a much more elaborate version of my feedback, including a multitude of suggestions he might consider to overcome the weakness I perceived, and told him that ultimately, I only feel like I'm doing my best job for him if he's SATISFIED with the critique, so NEVER should he feel bad about telling me I didn't do the job he needed. We're still best friends to this day, and he's pulled me through some really dark moments as a writer...and to think, I almost blew up that relationship by simply not realizing his expectations. If he'd just blown me off and faded away, no longer emailing me, neither of us would have had the benefit of the relationship we forged over that one botched critique.

    Communication and honesty are really important, and one setback could ruin a relationship. My best advice on this matter is to hang on through the rough "getting to know you" phase if you really like a person, their writing, and their theory. A crit partnership is like a marriage, in a way. It won't be all cupcakes and rainbows. We have to tell the truth, even when it hurts. We also must remember to firstly respect the hell out of our partners and give them our sincere support. But to do that, you have to locate a person who works in a similar way you do. For instance, I email everything, and use the phone. I rarely have time for crit partners who will not pick up the phone and call me from time to time. That's where I forge my relationships. So...a person who's picky about privacy or paranoid about theft and watermarks their documents...well, I simply don't have time for those people. Let someone else take on that train wreck.

    Third on the list is about the work itself. Regardless of genre, and irrespective of personal skill level, there's something innate and instinctual about a person's writing. That's not to say that you can't work with someone with a vastly different style, but put it this way...if your best friend is a sports guy, and you hate sports...if he's constantly talking about sports, the relationship isn't going to be easy. It's going to have some moments where it'll feel really one-sided and not fun for one of the participants. Same with writing.

    If you're mainly interested in character-centered short stories that explore human psychology and darkness within the soul, and your main goal is to inspire emotional impact within your reader...your writing buddy who's writing a group of world-hopping D&D players who crack fart jokes and make Star Trek references every page might not be the best fit for you. Firstly, perhaps you don't respond to his sense of humor, which makes his story tedious for you to read. Also, is he really the person to give you the BEST feedback on the things you're writing? Disclaimer: I've very rarely found another person's work unreadable, but I have certainly told people that I will give the best feedback I can, but feel out of my element. Anything CAN work, but sometimes it's just not a good fit for multiple reasons.

    Another biggie on the list is dedication. Let's say you found someone who shares your theories on writing. Is working on the same things you are, and likes your work, and you like hers. You loved each other's feedback on your first three trades, and you definitely know this is someone with which you can work well. Um...but then she says she wants to trade a chapter a week, and you know there's no way you can write that fast. You want to trade a chapter a month. Well...that's not going to work, in all likelihood. Either you're gonna feel rushed and stressed by the short deadlines, or she's going to feel like you take forever to get back to her...or most likely, one person is going to feel like their needs just aren't being met.

    The last thing I want to say about writing groups, is that they come in many forms. Some writers get together once a month and talk about theory and share hugs and emotional support, but never share work. Other groups are simply crit groups, where you aren't even personal with each other (as in knowing each other's lives and deeper issues...you only go writing-deep) and there is little discussion, only feedback.

    The trick to growing as a writer, for me, has been in finding people who fulfill all the things I need. I need the truth. I need them to point out my missed opportunities, where I could have gotten more impact in a scene/ sentence and missed the mark a little or a lot, and I need them to be my friend, to know ME, and motivate me when I need it, provide wise counsel when I need it, and push me to realize my potential when I get down about my lack of success. But that's just what I NEED. Everyone's different. Some people don't want to make the kind of commitment I do to my partners, and that's why you need to know what you want ahead of time, so expectations can be clear.

    Just like in a marriage, most crit relationships falter or fail based on expectations.

    Best wishes!

    Critiques: A How-To Guide

    Writing Groups 101
     
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  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Excellent post, Caged Maiden. I want to emphasize your final statement--expectations are really important. I know when I went into my first critique groups, I did not fully understand my own expectations, including a need to feel validated. Had you asked me at the time, I would've said that wasn't important. It was only after a few times of the group actually liking my writing that I realized I felt good when I heard that and was starting to hope for it the next time. There were levels of expectations going on I but dimly perceived.

    I suppose this the point where I say I grew out of that. Nope. Still needy, me. But I can recognize the symptoms now, and I can manage that, regardless of the feedback, and focus on the actual substance of the critiques. I know better what to expect, both of them and of myself. It would be great if I could learn this stuff ahead of time, but that's not me. I'm not a visual learner or an auditory learner or even an olfactory learning. I'm an experiential learner. I have to go through it, even if it's a wall.

    So, no helpful tips here. Read Caged Maiden's posts. All I offer is anecdotes. :rolleyes:
     
  13. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    @ Skip

    I totally understand. Just recently, my awesome group of really tough and honest critters told me how great things were going for me and how proud they were of what I had turned in.

    ...and I sort of freaked out.

    The expectation that I've formed over the last three years is that people are supposed to find fault, that they're supposed to tell you that you need to work harder and it's almost there but not really, and that you ought to try this other thing...

    So then my own expectations of myself took a dramatic turn. Where once I was comfortable with my expectation of failure...I suddenly had people asking for more. More ME. And I wondered whether I could pull it off.

    Expectations are a sonofabitch, sometimes. Even when they're low expectations.

    We all have expectations that we're aware of and those we're unaware of. The longer you do something (writing, in this case), the more built up some of those expectations can be. And the more practice you get at exploring your own expectations, say, with critique relationships that worked or failed, the easier it is to know what you want next time.

    Going back to the original post, it's not easy forming a group, and it's okay if the first few don't work out. Don't feel like anyone did anything wrong. It's hard finding writing partners like it's hard finding someone to marry. You do not have to settle, you can look for a good match. And that's not to say that the people who don't work out are in any way "wrong" or that you are. Sometimes chemistry just isn't there.

    My current group share the same theories about writing. We all have the same sorts of goals, the desire to always learn more, and a certain level of professionalism and humility. We also have a lot of the same beliefs about publishing. The best part is that the members have formed their own private relationships with each other too. So, we're not only a group that functions well, but we're individual partnerships when that's more necessary. And we're each unique and add flavor to the group dynamics, because it doesn't benefit anyone to find partners who are their long lost twin, who won't challenge you...because seriously, would you marry yourself? We each read differently, interpret differently, see things the others might miss. That's how a good group functions. Support and diversity, and genuine care for the other members.

    I like to get to know people. I feel like the more I know, the better my ability to help them. If I can tap into something that is inherently "them" I can make better suggestions that won't sound like "me" but will utilize their strengths to meet their goals.

    And the best groups are supportive when you're struggling, encouraging when you need some help, and genuinely happy for you when things are going great. But it's really hard to be those things if you're just meeting a person. It's almost like you have to fight in the trenches together for a while before you'll risk your life to carry them off the battlefield when they're wounded. Because that's sort of what it is. Investing time in other people takes time away from our own work, but it also helps us learn by being supportive. Anne Lamott said in her book Bird by Bird, that writing groups help make us better writers and better people, for having cared about the other members in our little family (paraphrased). If you're interested in forming a group, you could put a message up here and ask for members, or you can do what I did many times, send someone a private message after you read some of their work. I have found partners after challenge entries, after responding to their writing questions, and from people literally just asking who's interested in being my partner. I've even on several occasions just sent someone a PM that reads something like, "I really liked your challenge entry. Great job. If you ever want to trade and give feedback, hit me up."

    HA! But then I'm not shy, so maybe that's not something everyone would do.


    Best wishes.
     
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  14. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Maiden, you're absolutely right in that it takes some trial and error to find the right people to trade with. As of right now, I have 3 swappers. I believe we genuinely understand each other as people, friends, and writers. One thing though...I don't think it's necessary (at least imo) to have the same idea as a crit partner regarding publishing. It's hard either way you slice it (trade or Indie) where you need marketable books, patience, stamina, and a continuous desire to improve in your craft. But it's interesting that's something important to you (never considered that as a point, huh). Js you've made me think a little. :)

    But yes, it's important to partner up with the right people for us. I've had crits done by writers who weren't quite right for me and although I still learned from them, my manuscripts suffered a lack of depth from those readers, meaning their assistance didn't help me improve my work, which is the point of crit partners in general. So it may take a few times, a few trials and break ups. It's taken me several years to find my tight little group of partners, for which I'm truly grateful.
     
  15. Gribba

    Gribba Troubadour

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    Thank you Caged Maiden for taking the time to write all this... I have also read the articles that you linked to.
    This has given me much to think about and consider.

    I have read for other people and actually enjoy doing that. I am honest about what needs work. I point out all of it, plot, characters, inconsistency and I do point out few good things as well, so far the people I have read for liked what I did. One of them, had to sleep on it, as she felt it was harsh (but to my defense), her work was all over the place, PoV was often mixed together, her MC was just very unrelatable and all the bad guys had the same voice. In this case I was not there to hold their hand, I did stick to pointing out what and why some things needed a second look. These people I meet through a facebook group, not a give and take relationship.
    I did this because for some reason I seem to be able to see things (and remember) stuff from early to the end and able to see the things that have become disconnected from each other and I wanted to see how that worked for me when critiquing someone work. My brain is always looking at everything when it comes to reading and even when I see film/TV, sometimes it is no fun as I do not see film or read books like most people do but when reading a good book it is fun as the clues fall into place while I read.

    I do take my writing serious but I also have 3 kids, a job and a husband (plus my archery training) that I take seriously as well. So writing may not be something that goes fast, as you mention, I do not want to feel stressed by it nor that someone feels their needs are not being met.

    I can see I need to let go of a few things, I am a very private person, I can share a lot about me and my life but it is things I have worked through and have a little impact on me at this time. So when I share those things people tend to think I have shared something so personal but to me it is not personal anymore. If I am going to be in a good and beneficial writing group I need to take down those walls. So it will take some time to reprogram those settings... :eek:

    I do feel that all you guys have given me much to think about and I do believe using time on the forum and get to know people would be my best bet to find the people I am destined to work with in the future. :D


    I do have one question, how do I determine/find out the skill level, mine and potential group people?
     
  16. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    Ah, Chesterama, I'll clarify. Sorry, I think you may have read into that that I was suggesting we're all planning to traditionally publish and that being of a similar mind made us better partners. What I mean is that we're all moving forward from amateur quality work to professional quality work, and though some of us have perhaps stated we'd like to query...I know all of us have open minds because at the core of the "publishing" value we share, The Work Comes First. :)

    So, collectively, we are aiming for a level of effectiveness, professionalism, and a final product before we're pushing forward to publishing. And I think that's really important. I mean, way too many people (I think) have pressed the publish button too early. Before their work was really "ready" and it's hard to work with someone who thinks they're THERE already, but still has a long way to go. And, really...I can't be the one to tell them that's true. Basically, if they're happy...I'm all good. But when someone has moved themselves from the amateur team, onto the professional team...they sometimes become exponentially more difficult to reason with. I just don't have the time or energy for people who will present a challenge for the sake of it. I want to work with people who trust me and are still open to learning, as I am. I love my humble group of real people. I've meet too many people who thought their work was golden...when in fact it was just plain old lead. And I don't mean to say that like I'm looking down my nose. Trust me! I'm one of them. People would crit for me and tell em I needed more something, and I'd overdo it to an extreme and ruin a scene. Or they'd tell me they didn't understand my magic, and I'd go through the whole book and add in the magic rules about 25 times. I was probably a VERY frustrating crit partner for those people who met me years ago (thanks to you, BTW, I still love you guys).

    So that's what I meant about our similar views on publishing. We all think it's in our future, but our most important goal is to be the best writers we can be and learn all we can about ourselves and our stories...so that when the time comes to publish, we have a product that makes us proud and gives us the best chances, no matter the path we follow. And sharing that expectation of quality is one of the reasons I think we're so effective.
     
  17. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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  18. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    @Gribba..many people here have children (all 3 of us do) so finding someone that understands a steady slow pace is more probable than you think. :) Helio and Maiden are right about putting yourself out there. If you're doing NaNo, that would be a good way of reading people's snippets, building community, and seeing who might be a good fit. So...feeling the forums out is a good starting point. :D

    @Maiden, ah, ok. That makes a lot of sense. I don't think that I've ever had a writing buddy who thought their work was stellar when it wasn't, but I can see how that would be annoying if they fight you on suggestions, "oh, that's not what I meant!" sort of thing. Actually...come to think of it...there is one I can recall of many years ago before I joined MS. She was downright rude to everyone in the group and made me cry a couple times. Her harsh critiques ended up being the reason why I joined this community and focused more intensely on my craft. Rise from the ashes? :p
     
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  19. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I'm an archer, too! And a mom of four (aged 5, 6, 8, 10). So yeah...we can relate.

    Also, your English is excellent. That's something I wanted to mention before, but was hesitant to do so, in case it might not come out right and maybe be offensive? Anyways, we have a lot of members here from Europe or elsewhere that learned English as a second language, yet choose to write in English. That might be a very good reason to form a group that might really be able to relate to each other in that way. When I was young, my grandparents spoke German in the home, and though I was too young to really learn it, I have taken German in school...and I'm so sucky, I would never EVER have the confidence to try writing or even reading in German. I'm just astounded by the mettle of folks who write in English when it's their second or third language.

    I haven't found too many people who are super fast-paced critters. A chapter a week was the fastest I've ever gone, and that seems pretty quick as a partnership, and sort of breakneck speed for a group, when you have to read multiple entries a week. That works when people are trading already written novels, but usually not otherwise for any sustainable period of time.

    Regarding privacy, understand that I'm only talking about my preference. I want to know who my partners are in real life. I want to know their personal struggles, their hobbies, their core values. It helps me relate to them, understand who they are and what fuels their writing, and it also just helps me care and want to do my very best. I often give people stock advice when we meet, because it's all I can do for a stranger. But as our relationship gets rolling, I see THEM come alive a little and I cling to that and use their own personal experiences as fodder for my feedback suggestions.

    But there are loads of people who do not enter a personal relationship with their writing partners or groups. And there's nothing wrong with either method. You have to find what works best for you.

    Just personally, I decided a couple years ago that I'm not spending time on certain things. I won't read a watermarked text. I won't crit a read-only doc. I want someone's real name after a couple trades, or they go bye bye from my list (because it makes me feel silly to continue to call them by an obviously fake name). And if we're talking craft repeatedly and they want to learn more about the writing process from me...I want a phone number, because until I have an established partnership, I can't be spending three hours of my day two or three times a week to write long-ass emails. It's not fair to me and my other commitments.

    But as you gain some experience trading, you'll realize things you like and don't like, and then future relationships are easier to discern whether they're working or not. Again, like dating. You only have to date a few folks to learn some things you can't stand, and when you find someone you really do like, you can choose to marry them or not...get personal or keep some distance.

    Helios right. Start here! Ask around and send some PMs. you might find a few friends, or you might find some partners who will stick around a couple years. I've had people for years that traded with me off and on because they valued my opinion. It wasn't anything steady, but always a welcome sight to see an email about their progress, what they were getting published, or what they wanted me to have a look at before they queried agents. For the most part, everyone here is pretty approachable and willing to help.
     
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  20. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    I love the idea of swapping with a close-knit group of writers, but while I've critted for people before, and met people with similar styles and expectations, I've never really reached out for that purpose. (I go to a writer's group IRL, but it's mainly social and focused on freewriting prompts, not crit.) The main problem is that I'm just so awfully slow--not only slow but wildly inconsistent. CM, you mentioned the necessity of matching pace with each other. Have any of you ladies had experiences with partnerships where one person was writing less and critting more than the other, or does that tend not to work? Right now, I'm trying to focus on producing writing in volume and trying to have it edited before sharing anything. Seems like putting the cart before the horse to look for a writer's group at this point. But I'm worried about working in isolation and all the bad habits I'm encouraging. I'm probably just slightly hopeless.
     
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