Tonight I got off work at 6:00 PM. I drove through twenty-five miles of rush hour traffic to get to my writer’s workshop. Dinner was missed to attend the meeting. While the meeting started at 7:00 PM, it was 7:20 before I arrived at the meeting.
People have a variety of viewpoints when it comes to belonging to a writer’s workshop. Some authors like Dean Koontz abhor them. Many writers cannot stand them. Some say they will cause you to quit writing or destroy your writing style.
I belong to the DFW Writer’s Workshop. The group has been around since 1977. Over the years members have had over 300 traditionally published books. The workshop also sponsors an annual writer’s conference (DFWCon).
I had published over two dozen magazine articles before joining the group. I credit the group with keeping me motivated and moving to completing my first novel. The group caused me to look at my writing at a level I didn’t know existed. I provided encouragement in seeing fellow members get published.
Here are some thoughts on selecting, joining, and attending a writers group.
1. Does the writer’s workshop have a clearly defined goal, preferably in writing?
Does the group know where it is going? Does it meet regularly?
2. Does the group start on time and stay on mission?
My group starts on time. It begins with a large group session. We recognize guests, ask them what they write, and how they found out about the workshop. We next ask for rejection followed by asking for submissions. We then ask about acceptances. After the large group session we break into small critique groups where member read and get critiqued. The reading is generally about 10 minutes and the critique about 5 minutes. We have a monitor for the group who times and moderates the reading/critique.
3. Does the group have an interest in your type of writing or is it just a niche group?
Is it a first amendment group allowing freedom of expression or does it require you to filter your writing through the scope of the group? For example, you would not want to attend a Christian writer’s group if you write erotica
4. Are there any rules for people whose work is being criticized to follow?
Again, this is essential. People get very defensive when others are telling them what they did wrong. Their first impulse is to be defensive. The critique-ee needs to have rules to follow. We have them listen with no response or rebuttal. You need to listen to what people have to say about your writing and learn from it.
5. Does the group allow you time to network and develop relationships with others in the group? Do the group members like each other? Are they happy to see you and urge you to take part?
Does the group assimilate new members? Does everyone have an opportunity to read? If the group members spend more time telling you how great they are or what they hope to do instead of staying on schedule and mission, find a different group.