Challenging Yourself: Writing Groups

Challenging Yourself: Writing Groups

Like many writers, I’m in a writing group (sometimes called a critique group). I checked out a couple of writing groups before joining my current one. The first group I tried to join didn’t want to take on another genre writer.

This is what I’ve wondered for a while, as a general query: is it bad for a writing group to favor genre authors, as opposed to those who just write mainstream (or literary) fiction?

Obviously, some groups will devote themselves to a certain genre. You’ll have romance writing groups, mystery groups, fantasy groups, etc. Those groups will immerse themselves in the ins and outs of a certain genre and work to get published (or keep getting published) within that genre.

I hope it’s not like this… (Image copyright Drew Myron)

For a more general group, however, is there a tipping point when you have too many genre authors? I don’t know. I can see that each author has to know how their genre works, what the expectations are, what the market is, etc. The other writers in the group will probably not know that information. If I were in a writing group with a romance writer, I couldn’t give her a very deep critique. I could talk about the style, word choices, and technical things like that, but I know nothing about the genre (and I would argue I shouldn’t have to). My advice could be the opposite of what she really needs to know.

So, does this mean writers who write in a genre should only join a writing group that focuses on that genre? I don’t think so. I think being exposed to different genres allows you to spread your wings as a writer and a reader. Let’s use the romance critique from before: I don’t read that genre, so my ability to critique it is limited. But reading it takes me outside of my comfort zone. What I should now be thinking is how I can apply something I saw in that submission to my own writing. Even if what I write is pretty far from romance (and it is), that doesn’t mean the writer has nothing to show me. And it shouldn’t mean I have nothing to say to her.

Stepping out of your normal reading and writing comfort zones can be a good thing. I would encourage anyone to find a good writing group. You can check with your state or local writers’ associations or look here.

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