A Writing Community

November 18th, 2009 • Kate

Circle_of_writersI’m having lunch this afternoon with fellow Denver literary agent Kristin Nelson, who’s one of a several other Denver Literary Ladies I see regularly. And, well, my forthcoming lunch got me thinking about community, and what that means for a writer.

One of the biggest adjustments for me in starting kt literary was going from working in a department of eight people, in an office with forty or so colleagues, to working by myself, all day. Having Intern Jenny coming in two days a week now is great, but for a long time, before she started working with me, the way I kept my head together was by keeping in touch with other local literary folks, as well as other agents online.

I’ve talked before about the importance of having a great critique group, and now I want to know a little bit more about yours — or about the literary community around you, if you don’t have a critique group, per se.

Is your critique group local? Where do you meet? How often? Or is your social and supportive network mostly online? How do you work together? Email, phone calls, forums — or does anyone use Google Wave yet to facilitate a critique group?

Let me know if and how you play well with others in the comments!

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21 Responses to “A Writing Community”

  1. Cheryl Mansfield Says:

    My writing group started out six years ago as a plotting/brainstorming group, but we've become so much more.

    For each other we offer critques, kicks in pants when needed and advice. We are the cheering squad that is genuinely excited for each person's successes and feel each others pain.

    But we are not just writing support, we are life support. Together we've supported each other through cancer, surgeries and other illness scares, parental deaths, births, job loss, and other life interruptions.

    Personally, I could do any of it without them.

  2. Sara Raasch Says:

    My critique group is mostly online, with one exception being my cousin, who lives fairly close. I love my critique group to death; I wouldn't trade them in a heartbeat, even for ones closer. They're supportive and clever and always know just how to make my story better. I feel like one super-blessed writer chick because of them!

  3. parametric Says:

    My local writing group meets every week. I should really enclose writing group in inverted commas, because we don't actually do any critiquing any more – we got together during Nanowrimo two years ago, and owing to being a bunch of slackers, our impetus kind of petered out. Now we just hang out. We're geeks and we like to geek out together in our geek social circle.

    For serious business, I go to AbsoluteWrite. That's where I critique and get critiqued, learn about publishing, and share the ups and downs of writing. Good people, good friends.

  4. Tami Says:

    I'll be watching the comments with interest – I don't have a 'real' critique group (I have my ego pillow of 'people who love me', but that's not the same thing) and the finding of a good, solid crit group still seems somewhat mystical.

    Sadly, there are not handy ten-step online guides for using black magic to obtain a great critique group for my writing.

    The lack of an arcane solution suggests the existence of a mundane one (luck and hard research, perhaps?).

  5. Becka (Fie Eoin) Says:

    I have two writing groups: one online made up of people that I know personally that have moved away (or that I have moved away from) or that I found on various writers websites. They are there to help me out whenever I need a suggestion or a pat on the back in quick time.

    Then I have my local writer's group that developed out of NaNo a few years back. We meet every two weeks for editing and send a chapter a week before the meeting, then spend that week reading/editing other people's chapters. When we get together we go over each person's chapter and tell them what we really liked and what we think could be stronger (or taken out completely).

    I've found that meeting people in this way has helped in a completely different way then the online groups that I've joined. For one, you have to read and edit the material you are sent. So you are guaranteed at least 4-5 people's opinions on your story, whereas online I may only get one or two opinions. But the online people are great because they can give me answers/ideas right away when I'm stuck on something without me having to wait until the next meeting.

  6. Amy Says:

    I don't really have a writing group, but I do have a couple friends I see often in person, and we spend tons of time discussing our WIPS and emailing back and forth either just with general thoughts or actual chunks to critique. I met them at a YA Q&A event at my local indie bookstore (I love you, Skylight Books!), which is where I also met a few published YA authors who've been incredibly motivating and encouraging and other good adjectives. Seriously, thanks to attending one event I went from having no local community to feeling quite supported. (And to think I'd originally written the date wrong and nearly missed it!)

    My regular critique partner is actually a friend I've known online for over ten years now (oh god I'm old) who was starting to write YA when I was, and it just was organic for us to start exchanging work on a regular basis. I trust her to a crazy degree, and know I've made huge progress not just with my books but as a writer in general thanks to not just her feedback, but the extra pressure of having to send in my work to someone I really respected.

  7. Beth Cato Says:

    I need to join a critique group, and will probably join OWW or a similar group in January. An in-person group would be nice, but childcare will be an issue when my husband resumes shift work.

    I do have a great group of supportive writer friends on LiveJournal. I especially love the folks on Nanoljers; it's a community based on NaNoWriMo, but remains active all year long with prompts and a build-your-own goal effort called Writo de Mayo.

  8. A. L. Sonnichsen Says:

    I love my critique group. We are all aspiring authors, scattered over the U.S. and Canada, but we're all computer savvy enough to make it work. We've nicknamed ourselves The Fast and the Furious because we critique each others manuscripts so quickly. It's really a dream group to be a part of.

  9. Suzanne Casamento Says:

    My critique group is local. We meet face to face, monthly. But when someone has a question or needs to work out an issue mid month, we'll readily do a quick read and offer suggestions.

    I also have some other SCBWI friends who I trade manuscripts with. The more writer/readers, the better!

  10. Kathleen Says:

    I have a small writing group, which is my sister and a friend. I have a few readers lined up to read my manuscript when it is finished. One of my readers has read for a few published authors, and I usually send the manuscript to him last.

  11. Karen Coombs Says:

    In 1987, I attended the national SCBWI conference in LA, my first since moving to California. My goal was to meet other writers from my area and form a critique group like the one I had sadly left behind in Utah. Barbara Williams, Gloria Skurzynski, and Ivy Ruckman were members of that group and I knew what a wonderful support system I was losing. (That was in the days before e-mail and the internet, when I could easily have continued to participate from afar.)

    Two writers responded to the note I had placed on the bulletin board at the conference: Edith Fine and Judith Josephson. We got together as soon as we returned home and founded our critique group. That group, which, collectively, has had dozens of books published, has met every two weeks for the past 22 years, with members coming and going, but the three of us still hanging in there. Without the group, I'd have been tempted to give up when life's challenges got in the way of my writing, and I'm certain other members of the group feel the same way. But with my critique/support group there to bolster me, I'm again writing full time and enjoying it as much as ever. The group is not only helpful, it's vital. It's the family that "gets" you when the outside world hasn't a clue why you're so interested in learning that a reindeer's knees click when it walks.

  12. Donna Gambale Says:

    I found my critique group (we call ourselves the First Novels Club) in a Writing for Children class. The four of us clicked so well that we decided to continue critiquing beyond the class. Two years later, we still meet every 3 weeks, and we even started a blog (linked to my name above) chronicling our journey. We live in the same area, so the "middle" is only a 30 minute drive. We've met at both Starbucks and Panera, but now we meet at a Barnes & Noble cafe. If you aren't lucky enough to find a group near you, I'd advise you to start lurking around and commenting on writing forums and blogs of aspiring writers. If you find that you click with someone, suggest exchanging your work. It's important that you trust the person, though. Like Sara Raasch, I adore my crit group and wouldn't be even 1/3 as productive and happy without them!

    Also, I actually wrote a post today on critique groups, if anyone's interested in reading!

  13. Rissa Watkins Says:

    Just last week I wrote about critique groups on my blog too.

    I have a group of Beta readers online as well as a critique group in person. I did a search for writing groups in the area online and found a great bunch of writers. I have gone to 3 meetings so far.

    We meet every 2 weeks. Last week was the first time I brought chapters of my novel in for review. I am so happy I did. The feedback I received was invaluable. I made changes and feel that my novel is so much stronger because of it.

    After meetings I feel so empowered to write. Last week I was hoping for a red light on the drive home so I could write down ideas.

    A side benefit is it gets me out of the house and socialized a bit. I quit my full-time accounting job to write this year and will go weeks without interacting with people aside from the kindergarten pick-up.

    I love my critique group.

  14. Stina Says:

    I'm another member of The Fast and The Furious mentioned above. We were lucky to add a new member a few months back who I met through Absolute Write. She's fantastic with her feedback, and isn't afraid to let you know what isn't working. She's helped me push my writing to a whole new level. Like A.L. Sonnichsen said, I love my group and wouldn't trade them for anything. I also have a beta reader/writer friend who I met through Absolute Write, and she's also great with her feedback. What more could a writer want? (That was a rhetorical question, by the way.)

  15. Kristi Says:

    I'm a member of two critique groups, both of which I found through SCBWI. I wasn't prepared for the application process to join a critique group, however, one of my groups consists of mostly published authors so I feel lucky to have made the cut. Both groups are supportive and encouraging, yet also give amazing feedback which has enabled me to grow as a writer. Although they are on-line groups, I'm in contact with writers all over the country via Facebook/Jacketflap and one of my groups started a blog. By chance, I met one of my group members in person at an SCBWI Conference which was a wonderful experience. If you find the right group, they are an invaluable tool for your writing.

  16. Jamie Harrington Says:

    I have a few online critique partners–and they are greatness. I've actually tried a couple of online crit groups, but they ended up fizzling out.

    The thing I REALLY love is my in person writer's group that meets once a week. There are 50 of us… we split up into rooms of 6 people, you never know who you are going to get in your room–you read for 15 minutes and then they critique you for five. I learn SO much from this format. I listen to other great reading, other really bad reading (which sometimes gets the best crits that really helps me to improve my own stuff) and after we all go out for pancakes.

    mmm…. pancakes.

  17. S. C. Green Says:

    Four or so years ago I started taking Creative Writing classes at my local community college. In those classes I singled out people I thought had talent and creative drive. We started meeting every other week to go critique each other's material. Each of us have a particular angle we're better at from structure and setting to plotting and character dimensionality. Together we cover all the bases.

    We still do intensive workshops to continually hone our craft, but I'm finding it's becoming less and less needed.

    Writers think and act different than the norm. It's beneficial to spend time with people of a like mind.

  18. Northwriter Says:

    I'm in an online critique group. We can submit twenty pages twice a month. Unfortunately, the group is dissolving as I write this.

    Luckily, I have a few other YA writers that I trade manuscripts with, and a couple of great beta readers. But I'm always on the lookout for other writers, especially ones who write realistic YA. Living in Alaska, I feel a bit isolated. Starting my blog has helped me to make some connections. My agent just submitted my YA novel. If I end up with a book contract I'm sure that will help, too.

  19. Kristi Says:

    I thought of another great in-person networking option if you have it in your area. SCBWI has Schmoozes in my city (Denver) where you meet up with other writers and discuss various writing/publishing issues. There were numerous published authors at the last one I attended and they were a wealth of information and knowledge. You can check w/ your local writing organizations to find out about meetings, etc.

  20. Natalia Maldonado Says:

    I have two writing groups that are local, which is important for me because I feel some of the best feedback comes from discussion, not just from one person's initial impressions. When I read a manuscript, I do have my own conclusions, but find that they become much more developed once I talk about them with the group.

  21. Karen Troncale Says:

    In Southern California I started a children's writers critique group that lasted for many years. All five of us became published writers, either in magazines or books. Now I live in Tombstone, Arizona (population 1500). I've started a new critique group with two other local writers. We meet in my home every two weeks.