I have total faith in writing workshops and reading how to write/get published books but do writing groups help? The answer is both yes and no. This, of course, depends on the individual writing group situations and that you are not trapped with a bunch of brainless zombies.
The problem with writing groups is they can help us be inspired but we can’t always expect an editor. Even if some of the members write well there is a different hat to wear for editing. Writers who critique other writers in the meet-ups sometimes give advice on how they would write the book instead of how to edit it for publication.
One of the worst times I had in a writing group was after I read a story about two people trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Several of the other writers didn’t say much, just complimented the work even though I knew it was far from being good by any means. Don’t be polite! I want to get published, I want your true feedback and your constructive criticism. I respect other’s opinions and I will use them if I think they will help pull my audience in.
The worst critique was when a writer started telling me how to write the book. She said things like, “Zombies are over done. You should really get out of the sci-fi and fantasy market and do mystery instead. Why not make it a murder mystery with those characters?” True story. So the problem here is she is not critiquing my story, she is telling me how she would write the story. I don’t want to know how others would write my story, I want to know how to get the story published. Their is a difference in critiquing the story and rewriting the story to another writer’s taste.
Even though I love support and being around people the biggest question asked, do writing groups help? Not all write groups are negative. This can also be a place not only to help inspire us to write but there are people there to help us edit the story to publication. Do writing groups get you to write? Absolutely. If you have trouble forcing yourself to sit down and write those stories a writing group helps move you forward with deadlines.
The best advice I can give to people who are in or want to start a writing group is to let them know what you want. Tell them in the beginning that you want them to put on their editing cap and help the book get published. Explain that they do not need to be afraid of critiquing the work as long as it’s not attacking the book. If the group truly understands what you want then you have found yourself a writing group worth staying with.
A great way to start a writing group is start with friends you trust. The best groups are made of other writers trying to get published, especially if they write in the same genre. If the other writers know your genre than they know your audience.
Also if you don’t like someones criticism or ideas you don’t have to take them.
Remember this is your story, no one else’s. And keep writing!