Always been on the fence about these. I live in an area where interest in the written word is minimal, so there aren’t that many local writers and there are fewer capable ones. At the same time, one can possibly gain from critique. And if there aren’t that many of us, should we not at least be acquainted? Most of the time my answer is sort of ‘meh,’ but I realize that’s kind of a cop-out. So I gave one a try tonight, brand new one, formed and organized by a very quiet young mother.
The organizer feels we should pass our material around for review online first. While I can see the logic in exchanging critiqueable material offline and bringing one’s impressions to the group, it seems that if we are going to just do that, we could do this on Facebook and not bother worrying about a face-to-face meetup. It also seems like the idea is to intersperse our comments into that, print it and bring it to talk about. They are talking about a 5000-word limit, which would be about 15 pages. I could end up expected to print 40 pages of other people’s stuff. I am not sure I think that’s a good idea. I am definitely not sure I’m willing to do that at all.
I have about talked myself into at least sending some material out and going through the motions for a second session, just to see if all is redeemed by some serious insight. Or if my insight helps someone. Or something else happens to make me think this is worth doing. One participant writes exclusively screenplays, in which I have less interest than even Harlequin romances. The other two write young adult fiction, about which I know little and care rather less. I don’t feel any camaraderie there, so there isn’t that draw.
What would make a good writers’ group? In my view, intelligent critique without soul destruction is the first step. I personally have no problem having someone rip my work apart in intelligent fashion, but I keep hearing that a lot of people in writers’ groups think it’s like boot camp, where you have to break people down before they can be remolded–that brutality is a virtue. I don’t think it is, and I think that’s a viewpoint of big-fish-small-pond hotshots. I don’t like it and I don’t like them, by and large. Fortunately, there aren’t any in this group or I’d just go somewhere else.
I guess we’ll see how it goes.