If you are trying to decide between joining a writing group or registering for a class, ask yourself – “What am I looking to get out of this?” Is it a deadline? Feedback? A chance to improve my writing? A chance to kill writer’s block? A chance to meet other writers? Take a look at both options to see which fulfills your needs.
In writing groups work is generally read out loud by the author with members being allowed to comment. If you’re in a good group this can be handy. However, there are some writers who are not skilled at giving constructive criticism. They may focus on their own personal tastes rather than look at your work objectively. Good feedback should include questions, objective statements and, most importantly, it should encourage you to continue to move forward with your work. (Something to consider when you are the one giving feedback)
When researching groups look at how long they have been together. Do they require a submission before acceptance? How often do they meet? What experience does the leader have? (They don’t necessarily have to be a published author, but they should be able to keep the group on track and understand how to work with different personalities)
You may also want to ask the ratio of men to women and the ages of the participants. The more varied the group, the more diverse the opinions (which is helpful) If a group is asking you to pay ask where your money will go (A newsletter? Snacks for the meeting?) Always do your research first.
Most if not all writing classes are taught by published writers looking to supplement their income. Prices range from the reasonable to the outrageous. Before you throw down your credit card, find out how long the course is, if they provide a syllabus, the teacher’s experience and if there are any reviews of the class.
If you decide to sign up, pay careful attention to the feedback your teacher is giving to the other students. Is it objective? Is it fair? Do you agree with it? Also ask yourself if you’re having fun! Does the work of the other writers interest you? Are you writing more? Do you look forward to going?
Writing groups and classes aren’t for everyone. If they work for you, great! If not, don’t worry. Just keep writing.
ONLINE groups and classes
I have never participated in an online group. They make me wary. Without the face to face contact people can make comments without thought to consequence. If you’re part of an online group and it works for you, fantastic. (There is something to be said for staying at home in your pajamas) but you might want to make the effort to join a group that meets in public. Not only will you gain experience reading your work out loud (a skill you will need if you publish) but you might just make some new friends, too.