The Good, the Bad and the Ugly–Writers’ Groups PART II

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In the last post, I describe my favorite writing group, a generative group. We generate potential material at our meetings.  We do this by using writing exercises to hone our skills.  Some of our writing exercises have turned into magazine articles, short stories in anthologies and ideas for books. 

Today I want to tell you about the very first writers’ group I was in. (I plan to feature a different group each time and list the pros and cons of each.)

My first experience with a writers’ group occurred when I lived in the Chicago suburbs.  I was having difficulty making friends and I was homesick for Nebraska.  I found a course that was being taught at a community college called “How to Get Published.” 

Like most beginning authors, I had had a modicum of success writing journal articles and newsletters for free.  I had several clips of such material to send to potential publishers.  I also had started a collection of rejection letters.  The community college class peaked my interest and I signed up.

The class was interesting and I enjoyed it very much.  As it happens when people share their writing in a group, we got to know each other through our stories.  When the class was over, I was approached by four classmates who asked if I would be interested in forming a writers’ group with them.  I was delighted. 

We met about every two weeks, usually in Lisle or Bolingbrook, suburbs about 20 minutes south of where I lived.  It was great fun but we were novices and had no clue what we were doing.  Our “leader” was a New Ager who believed her writing was channeled to her and required no revision.  We had no structure in the group and our meetings consisted of bringing a story we wrote, reading it and listening to others’ opinions of it.  As I look back, I guess I would classify it as a loosely based critique group.  We were spinning our wheels but not getting anywhere.

Pros: We shared a love of writing and were willing to share our work.  We were non-judgmental and, other than our channeled leader, we were open to suggestions and changes.  We met on a regular basis in a somewhat consistent meeting place.  The group was made up of the same four people who got to know each other well.

Cons: We lacked leadership and expertise.  We were muzzled by a leader who believed no editing was required of her works, but our work required plenty of editing.  (We were the unfortunate ones without a spiritual guide helping us write.) We had no goals or measurable objectives with which to evaluate our progress or lack thereof.

What was your first experience in a writers’ group like?

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