If you’ve never been a part of a writers group, let me explain to you what it’s like. It’s like belonging to a Naked-Person-Of-The-Month Club in which, when it’s your month, you email nude pictures of yourself to each member of the group. Then everyone shows up at Panera Bread on a predetermined Saturday afternoon, the group leader sets your picture down in the middle of the table next to your bread bowl, and the entire group proceeds to tell you exactly what’s wrong with your body. In excruciating detail. Every lump. Every bump. Every dimple of your expansive backside.
Sounds like a bucket of fun, eh? Anybody who can’t admit to having at least a modicum of desire to stroll through a shopping mall in their underwear should probably not belong to a writers group, frankly. In fact, they probably shouldn’t be writers. Or strippers. But I digress.
I belong to three writers groups. Florida Mall Food Court patrons, prepare yourselves.
Being a member of a writer’s critique group can be an incredibly rewarding experience if you can get past the embarrassment and shame of having your flaws exposed in public. It can also be an incredibly horrifying experience, the kind that will ruin writing for you, forever.
No group is perfect, either, even the best of them. People are people, and as such, are morons. We are often blissfully unaware of the bad habits which negatively affect those around us because, as a species, we are basically self-absorbed herd-animal a**holes who want to pretend we don’t want or need a herd. But we do, Blanche, we do. Especially writers.
Like it or not, writers groups are a necessary evil (and blessing). If your writing sucks, and chances are 99.99999% that it does to some degree, it will likely remain in U-suck City for a very, very long time unless you have critique partners to help steer you out of the city limits and onto the Superhighway of Writerly Awesomeness.
But belonging to one can be tough. To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous criticism (I’m pretty sure that’s what Hamlet meant to say) will do a number on your self-esteem. So how do you survive with your spirit in tact and the courage to continue writing despite being told repeatedly that your writing blows? How do you thrive in an environment where people are not only invited, but obligated, to criticize you? And you them? Well, I’m gonna break it down for you. In the next few weeks we’re going to examine the anatomy of your basic writers group in detail, what sorts of people you are likely to meet, and how to not get your ass handed to you and/or shown the door.
A Survival Guide To Writers Groups, if you will.
First up: THE USUAL WRITERS GROUP SUSPECTS