Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In Which We Discuss Writing Groups

So at 4th street, the writing seminar this year focused on writer support networks.
Patricia C. Wrede said writing groups are broken down into 3 different types:

Critique Group
Support Group
Social Group

A crit group would be a group focused purely on getting everyone's stuff read and critiqued by other members of the group.

A support group is a group that focuses on commiserating about the difficulty of being a writer and supporting each other during the highs and lows.

A social group is a group where writers get together discuss gardening. Or movies, or anything they want as long as it's not really related to the business or craft of writing.

She went on to state that all writing groups have aspects of these three categories. You're not going to go to your crit group and get absolutely no social interaction or support, but it's not going to be the main focus of that group.

The key, she said, to being happy with your writing group, is to decide which one of those three categories you want and make sure you join or form the correct group.

If you want/need crits from people, you'll be frustrated by a support or social group. And if you want support, you may feel hurt if you join a crit group.

Regarding a crit group, Lois McMaster Bujold stated that it's very important to be in a group where there's at least one person who's better than you, so you can grow as a writer. But she also stated what most of us already know, that providing critiques for others also makes us better writers.

She said, in regards to reading someone's work who is way below you in skill/talent, or the work is just not good, the key thing to remember is to:

Be on the side of the story. To remember that there is something in the story that is worth being written.

And to focus on that if you're having a rough time with a rough MS.
And lastly, to remember that it is their story, not yours, so try to keep that in mind if you're thinking about all the cool stuff you could do with their MS.

So how about you? Are you in a writing group? And if so, which kind? Mine is 50% crit and 50% social, split right down the middle.


Summer Frey said...

I'd say my crit group is also a support group, 100% of each. :) If that makes sense.

Summer Frey said...

And social group? I thought that's what the Xbox was for...

M.J. Fifield said...

I just joined a new group in my little town. It's me and a bunch of older ladies writing their memoirs. Right now I think it's a support group with a strong social component. At yesterday's meeting, we talked a lot about quilting. Well, they talked about quilting. I know nothing about quilting so I just smiled and nodded a lot.

They're great ladies though and so far I'm having a blast.

Matthew MacNish said...

I'll go one step further, I think the best crit group is one made up of writers who are better than you at some things, and worse at others. That way your collective strengths can work together to make all of you the best you can be.

Mary Aalgaard said...

I've been in more of a support/crit group, but we're inconsistent in meeting. This is good analysis.

stu said...

I am nominally a part of a writers' collective, which I invariably forget to do anything with, though I do talk to the individual members of it on Facebook instead.

Teebore said...

Mine is 50% crit and 50% social, split right down the middle

And no support whatsoever. ;)

I do love how fluid our group is: we pretty much do all three at various times, depending on if someone's just finished a chunk of new pages or someone's just seen a really good movie or someone's in a funk.

Catherine Stine said...

I got a chuckle out of this. My longstanding writing group is a combo of all three, but we've had to weed out folks on occasion who really came to talk about their bad relationships or about recipes.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...


Summer - well it would be if more cool peeps besides you and me hung out there

MJ - hah! That sounds kinda badass

Matt - THIS. You speak true words, good sir

Mary - my group's pretty consistent, unless it's around the holidays. Then all bets are off

Stu - ahhh the siren call of the facebook

Teebore - well yeah, support's in there too, but that's not as prominent as the other two, imop. I always like how we take a good half hour at least to talk about movies and TV. good times

Catherine - ooh, how did you weed them out? That would stress me like crazy!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My three critique partners are mostly crit with support, while my blog is a mix of both. Sometimes a bit more on the social side...

Lindsay said...

I've not thought about it much, but I'd say my crit group is a mix of all three.

Lola Sharp said...

I love my CPs...Summer is right, though I'd confuse the math further by adding the social to it, at least with her.
But, we when we critique, we're all business (plus, it's mostly all done in writing in the ms), and when we brainstorm and/or give support, that's usually separate from the CP work...and usually over the phone, text, or via emails.
Anywhoodles, it works. I love them all fiercely. I miss them. I miss you.
I'm still away in Disney on vacation, but I bailed on husband and daughter (who are still in the parks) to come back to the hotel rom and hit the pool before going back out. But, I haven't made it to the pool, because I'm hitting a couple blogs first...I miss y'all.

I look forward to hearing more about what you learned.
(hey did a certain agent ever get those critiques back to you that she owed you from the contest win?) (shoot me an email and let me know wazzup)


Maria Zannini said...

My crit group is probably 70% critique. It's an online group due to our geographical limitations, and while the lines of communication might be quiet for weeks at a time, if one of us has news or information to share, everybody will come out of the woodwork to participate.

We try to stick to business so as not to take up too much of everyone's time.

The one standing rule we have in our group is that we critique the work and not the writer. Whenever possible we offer options rather than blanket statements.

Jamie (Mithril Wisdom) said...

I haven't joined any writing groups yet, though when I do I'll go for a crit group. I'd prefer the feedback that will make me a better writer.

Misha said...

We do do support, but my group is definitely for critting. :-)

All of this makes sense to me, in particular the part of critting books that aren't on the same level as your writing. I always have to try to keep in mind that style and voice will always differ and try to take that in account when I crit. The secret is objectivity.


Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Great advice all around! The key is knowing what you want out of a group, yeah? I don't do crit groups. I jsuth ave maybe 1 CP who gives me extensive feedback and a handful of betas. But I have a couple of writing support groups.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Alex - yeah i think support sneaks in everywhere, sooner or later

Lindsay - i'm sure most groups have some of all three in there somewhere

Lola - aww! We miss you too! I'll send you an email

Maria - i should give an online Crit group a try maybe

Jamie - me too, straight up.

Misha - very true. Objectivity all the way

Carolina - definitely. And sometimes it takes a little trial and error before we really know what we want/need

Elana Johnson said...

My live group is all of the above. We talk about our stories (Crit). We talk about the struggles of a writer, from submissions and queries, to balancing home life, to promotion, etc (support). And we talk about our real lives too. We're friends. So we're social as well.

I think there's room for all three in a group.

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