Writer’s Groups: What to Look For and Costs

Writer's GroupI wrote this about eighteen months ago. The points are still relevant. 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 exactly 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. Other’s say they couldn’t write without them.

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). The group charges $100 per year to be a member. That is only $2.00 a week.

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  in writing clearly defined goals?

  • 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?
  • 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 get 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.

6. Should I pay to attend a writer’s group?

  • Most writer’s groups in the USA are free and run by volunteers. Fee based groups are also common.
  • One of the most expensive writer’s groups in the USA is the The Original Los Angeles Writers Group™. The cost for new members is $475 a year while returning members get a break at $450. The is about $9.00 per week.
  • The Kansas City Writer’s Critique Group meets in ten week sessions with each session costing $65.00 ($5.50 per week).
  • I mentioned before the DFW Writer Group at $100 per year ($2 per week).
  • The Burlington Vermont Writer’s Group cost $12.00 per month.
  • I have attended pay and free groups. Most pay groups are very polished, professional, stay on task honoring the attendee’s time by starting and stopping on time plus having a set break. They are connected to educational institutions or a legal nonprofits with a constitution by-laws and elected leadership from the paid membership that manage / lead the group. They are not social in nature and have had an evaluation element. The leader in the pay group many ties receives your writing assignment in advance. They check your style, grammar, transitions, etc. as a proofreader / outside editor. They may lead you in structured activities within the group as well. Most paid groups last only 60 to 120 minutes with 90 minutes being the average. Again, select the group to meet your need.

Author: Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a full-time writer. He was born in San Antonio, Texas, to a career military father and stay at home mother. He lived in six states and attended eight different schools before graduating high school. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in History with minors in English and Military Science from The University of Texas at Arlington, Master of Arts and Master of Religious Education degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as the Doctor of Education degree. Before writing full-time, he worked as a US Army officer for 10-years, religious educator for 18-years, and as an IT software application engineer for over 20-years. He is a widower. He lives in North Texas with his cat Lacey.