Writing Groups and How They Help You
Sometimes it hurts to hear the truth. Writer's groups are notoriously brutal, or they will eventually fall apart. You must understand that writing is a business; it’s not a hobby. It's not something you put half of your heart into, to most writers it's their livelihood, it's how they eat. If they put out bad work, that is less food in their loved one's mouths. They absolutely must hear the, sometimes hurtful, truth, and they want to give you the same honesty in return.
But I get it. No one wants to hear that their story is drier than a saltine in the desert. It would be best if you pictured writer's groups as your friends. You don't want a friend to allow you to walk around the mall with toilet paper hanging out the back of your tights. It would be best if you had honesty, which these groups are supposed to provide.
Now that I have explained how these groups should show their integrity, it's time to explain why they fall apart. For any group to be sustainable, you need to remove the social aspect of these meetings. Don't get me wrong; it’s not that you can't hang out with these same people outside of your sessions; it’s that the group isn't the place to talk about politics or how hot Henry Cavill was in the latest DC movie. It's an organization all into itself and has its own ecosystem. These ecosystems survive by understanding the rules of order and separating fun time from work time.
I'm sharing a story from my past that may explain my knowledge. Now to be clear, I was reminded of this in a recent BNI meeting, at our local Business Chamber, by another Copywriter. He also shared a similar story, which reminded me of my own experience. When attending Wright State University for my Undergrad, I was long in the tooth compared to my peers, and I was lonely. I joined the military at a very young age and had no college experience aside from attending class. This caused my desperate search for friendship which led me down the path of Greek life. That's right; your friendly neighborhood author is a frat boy.
You would have thought that it would have been all fun and games once the other brothers moved past the idea of a 35-year-old being amongst them, and it eventually did become that way. Still, it was when I recognized some serious mismanagement that was happening. The current President of the fraternity was faced with some severe issues, part of it being that it was a new fraternity on campus, and he was trying to create a new organization but still provide friendship at the same time. It wasn't long before I was voted in as the President for the following year. During that time, our membership grew to quite a large number, and we began doing service projects in our community. Our grades rose, and friendships formed. All of this was during a significant teaching strike that shut down our school and the beginnings of the Covid lockdown.
Unfortunately, as things go, if you do a good job, you are promoted and replaced. After becoming the President of all the fraternities on campus, I was replaced by another brother who wasn't quite up to the task, preferring to instead focus on the social aspect of brotherhood. The fraternity that once was thriving quickly dissolved, and now WSU no longer has that fraternity on campus and more than likely never will again. Now, this isn't a reflection on my replacement at all; maintaining a professional group is a serious burden.
Find a group in your area, and make sure it is well established. But the most important aspect, above all else, is seeing if it is more social or business-centered. If it's more social, then don't return; find another. Once you have been in one for several years, please start another if you feel up to the task. That doesn't mean leaving your current group; if you love it, stay, but spread the joy of these groups around a bit.
Now, writing groups are uniquely different from advanced reader groups. Writing groups are filled with other writers who are there to use their knowledge and experience to guide your tone, current market traits, and of course, readability. Advanced reader groups are there to tell you whether they enjoyed it. That’s what advanced readers groups do, and they are VERY IMPORTANT, but they are different. If you have already published, you understand that there is no shortage of fans who want to be in this group, so be selective. They are your fan; of course, they want to love your work, find some that are more objective. In return, team members have early (and free) access to cover designs, copies of books, promotional materials, and bonus content. So... yeah, it's going to be difficult sometimes to get honest opinions.
If you are like me and live in a community where there isn't a large community of writers, it may be challenging to find a group to join. Don't give up! Of course, you can Google local group; there is usually something around you. My biggest advice is to network as much as you can. Talk to your librarian, your educational institutions, and for the love of oxygen, speak with your Chamber of Commerce. You are very likely to find a copywriter that is a part of it. Where there is a copywriter, there is a writing group, I promise. If you are attending college, head over to your Arts building; everyone there thinks they are writers. If you head into the front office and ask about writer's groups, they will hand you a list of email addresses of their student organizations. But just in case you are against searching for these groups yourself... I can help.
Alabama Writing Groups:
Birmingham, AL — Alabama Media Professionals (All Genres)
Cullman, AL — Alabama Writer’s Conclave (All Genres)
Homewood, AL — Heart of Dixie (Romance)
Huntsville, AL — Southern Magic (Romance)
Mobile, AL — Gulf Coast Chapter of the Romance Writers of America (Romance)
Mobile, AL — Mobile Writer’s Guild (All Genres)
Mobile, AL — Huntsville Literary Association (All Genres)
Mobile, AL — Alabama Writer’s Forum (All Genres)
Montgomery, AL — Write Club (All Genres)