Friday, January 17, 2020

Do I Really Need a Writers Group?

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

I field a lot of questions about the value of having a critique group and/or partner. There are as many answers as there are writers. But there are very few who are able to produce publishable writing in a vacuum.

For me personally, I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer if it weren't for the groups who have nurtured me along the way.

Although we tend to think of writing as a primarily solitary pursuit, writing for publication is an endeavor built on forging relationships. And those relationships can ultimately determine our success or failure in the writing industry. Here’s a list of those relationships.
  • Between you and other writers
  • Between you and the reader
  • Between the reader and the subject or characters
  • Between you and the editor
  • Between you and your agent
I listed the relationship between writers first, because surprisingly, those are often the most vital in our writing life. The actual act of putting words on paper is a solitary act and because of that it’s easy to lose perspective. 

Writing in a vacuum can give us a false sense of whether or not we’re effective in our endeavor. We either wind up thinking we’re a genius or sink into the depths of despair because we can’t string two coherent sentences together. Rarely is either perspective accurate.

We need others in our profession to give us feedback, keep us grounded and provide encouragement. You may be tempted, like I was at first, to insert friends and family into this role. Unless they’re also writers this dynamic just doesn’t work. They’ll unwittingly encourage you when you need a swift kick in the pants and administer the kick in the pants when you need encouragement.

That’s where a writers group, critique group or critique partner will help. But you have to be careful—some critique and writers groups can be toxic. I’ve visited some where the purpose appears to be to build up the one delivering the critique by tearing down the hapless author. You want to avoid these groups at all cost.

Here’s a list of what to look for in a group or a partner
  • An encouraging atmosphere –not all sweetness and light—nobody improves on false compliments. But I’ve almost never found a manuscript that didn’t have some redeeming quality.
  • A mutually beneficial relationship. You should both bring something valuable if it’s a partnership—you may excel at writing dialogue and your partner is a whiz at description.
  • A hunger to improve. If it’s a group there should be a movement toward growth in the majority of members. Even if you’re all beginners, if you’re all reading writing books and attending classes you’ll be able to grow and learn together.
  • A timekeeper. If someone’s not willing to keep track of the time not everyone will get a chance to be critiqued. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it!
So now here’s your chance—what experiences have you had with writing groups and partnerships? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Do I Really Need a Writers Group? - @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)


  1. Edie,

    You ask some great questions about writing groups and I appreciate this article. I've been in some wrong writers groups and some right groups. It is important to experiment and try different groups until you find the right fit for you. It's also a way to give back to others (one of the reasons I go) and also get their help. You can never know too many writers from my experience.

    Get a FREE copy of the 11th Publishing Myth

    1. Terry, that's so right. Every group has its own personality! Blessings, E

  2. I've been with my critique partners for 15 years. We live in different parts of the country, so we have an online group. They are vital to me and my writing. We have learned to critique in each others' voices, which is a huge deal. I LOVE my CPs!

    1. Ane, your experience is like mine--fantastic! Blessings, E

  3. I participate in several writers groups. Word Weavers and the Word Weavers Charleston chapter, ACFW and the newly forming ACFW Lowcountry chapter and also, several groups online. I am thankful for the encouragement and support I receive from other writers. In the groups, we are all at different stages in writing and we learn from each other. I appreciate the mentors that help me along the way. :-)

    1. Melissa, I really value the groups I'm part of! Blessings, E

  4. All the greats (and those not quite as famous but still great) belong to a writers group.
    Great post, Edie!