5 Steps to Finding Your Perfect Match (in a Writing Group)
- Tara Campbell
- April 25, 2016
The ideal one is out there somewhere...
Critique and revision are essential to a writer’s work, yet so many of us struggle to find a writing group that fits. It’s not that there aren’t any groups out there; there are lots. But not every writer clicks with every group. Maybe you’re still searching for the group that gives you the right mix of support and critique. Or maybe you thought you’d found the perfect clan of fellow authors — until it dissolved, falling victim to scheduling conflicts and neglect.
Over the past three years, I’ve been part of TEN writers groups in my search for the right match. Mind you, I’m not entirely monogamous in this department and have been known to juggle as many as four groups at a time. My needs from a group are varied: I write speculative and mainstream fiction, short stories, essays, and longer forms, and am now working on what I hope will become a historical-fiction novel. I’m usually looking for feedback more than once a month, and it’s good to have a “fresh” group to run a revision by rather than flog the same group with the same story for months on end (please do not do that, anybody. Please!).
I’ve found that it’s better to spread my needs across multiple groups rather than try to find one that satisfies all of them — for example, one of the groups I’m in was expressly formed to review novels, whereas another group was created to workshop short stories, and yet another focuses on science fiction.
But still the question remains: How does one go about finding a group? Here are some options to get you started.
1) Meetup: Yes, sometimes the obvious solution is the best. Search under “writing” or “poetry” or whatever topic you want to focus on, plus location, and filter by results. Some examples:
2) Affinity organizations: Your love of mysteries or biographies may wind up introducing you to new friends and writing partners.
- DC Binders: Named after Mitt Romney’s infamous “Binders full of women” quote, this group is a fantastic resource for female writers. Members share information, advice, and job leads. Members have established book clubs, as well as fiction and creative nonfiction workshops.
- Walls of Books: This new bookstore offering new and used books recently started its own writers group.
- Mystery Writers of America Mid-Atlantic Chapter: events on various aspects of crime writing (ballistics, law enforcement, etc.), open to public (for a fee).
- Washington Biography Group
- Washington Science Fiction Association (sponsor of Capclave conference)
- Split This Rock (poetry)
- Beltway Poetry
3) Writing classes and book clubs: Participants who click in class often continue working together after the class has ended.
- The Writer's Center
- Politics and Prose
- Capitol Hill Arts Workshop
- DC Public Libraries book clubs
- George Washington University, Jenny McKean Moore Community Fiction Workshop: offered in the spring and fall. Information on how to apply is hard to find on GW’s site, but generally locatable through local writer and teacher Leslie Pietrzyk’s blog.
4) Conferences: Whether general or genre-specific, conferences are a great way to meet fellow writers while discovering what’s going on in the industry.
- Conversations and Connections: organized by local literary mag/publisher Barrelhouse, this conference takes place in multiple locations throughout the Mid-Atlantic. (Full disclosure, I moderated a panel specifically about writing groups at this month’s conference in Alexandria.)
- Washington Writers Conference/Books Alive: Sponsored by the Washington Independent Review of Books, this annual conference in Bethesda, MD, not only builds community, but also gives you the opportunity to meet with agents.
- Capclave: Sci-fi and fantasy peeps unite annually in Rockville, MD, at this conference organized by the Washington Science Fiction Association. How better to find your tribe than by sharing a quest in the game room or filking in the bar?
- Malice Domestic: Mystery writers lurk at this conference held annually near DC.
- Visit Poets & Writers’ extensive database of conferences and residencies for more suggestions
5) Lastly, and probably most importantly: If you say it, they will come. Just letting people know you’re looking for a writing group can bring unexpected dividends. I’ve connected to groups through friends who are also writers, through part-time work at a bookstore, and through volunteering. These can be some of the best writers groups because you likely already have an affinity by association. Be careful, though — if your writing group got connected through friends, any indiscreet griping about the group will also have a way of getting around.
Next steps: Get out there and jump into the writing-group dating scene! Don’t be shy about visiting more than one group — both you and your potential new groups benefit when you view the first visit as a mutual “test run” before committing.
But what if you’ve already done all this and still don’t feel like you’ve found the right group? Or you’re already in a group but you can feel yourself starting to stray, daydreaming about another group on the side? Come back to Text in the City next month for some tips and tricks on how to revive your current group or create a kick-ass group of your own!
Follow Tara Campbell on Twitter at @TaraCampbellCom.