Our group is a bit more formal and structured than, say, a critique group (though we have a few of those who meet outside of our regular meeting times). The purpose of our group is to provide programming and resources to our members so they can be armed with the tools they need to get (and keep) writing. One of my favorite parts of my role in the group is scheduling our speakers. We've had a huge array of folks come and share their knowledge with us--we have a wide membership, so we try to include speakers for everyone and cover as many genres and aspects of the craft as possible. The majority of our membership are fiction writers, so most of our programming focuses on elements of writing fictional pieces, but we try to work in something for us nonfiction folks, too.
If you don't have a writer's group in your area, why not start one? There are a few other groups near me, and they follow various structures. Here are the most common types of writers' groups:
- Education-based. This is my group. Every month, we have a speaker who talks about some element of the art or craft of writing. This year alone, we've had speakers cover blogging, finding markets for your work, playwriting, writing creative nonfiction, and developing a plot. We also allot some time for one of our members to read some of their work, and the rest of us provide feedback.
- Critique Group. This is the group for you if you're strictly looking for feedback on works-in-progress or a push to get motivated when you need it. I personally haven't checked out any of the critique groups associated with our larger writer's group, simply because I haven't had time--most of my work is on deadline and I don't have time for lengthy editing sessions.
- "Open writers". The third type of group seems to be a combination of the other two. I know of one local group like this. I can't say much about their meeting structure, as I haven't been able to make a meeting. From what I can gather, writers gather and are given a writing prompt, and they either work on the piece right there at the meeting, or work on it on their own time and bring it with them to the next meeting. This seems to be a good fit for those who are just starting out or aren't that confident in their writing style and need some motivation.
As I said in my last post, I don't think I'd be nearly as successful with my writing efforts had I not gotten involved with the group and met other writers. I live in a very small community, and the literary/artistic types tend to be well-hidden, so our group has been a great way for more of our local writers to network, share resources, and learn from each other. It's the best feeling in the world to come home from a meeting with a particularly inspiring speaker, sit down at the PC, and jump right in to whatever I might be working on. It's been a great motivator, and I definitely think the meetings and my commitment to the group has helped me in many ways.
What other types of writing groups are out there? How have they helped you?