The Controversy About Writers’ Collaboration Groups

This guest post is by Colin Jordanius.

By definition, writing is a solitary way to earn a living. Even the most creative writer needs to have something which is the virtual equivalent of the office water cooler where he or she can hang out to share stories of triumph when a sought-after gig comes through or to vent when things are not going well. However, writers need to choose where they get their support carefully, since it is definitely possible to be pulled down by other people’s negative experiences. Writers’ collaboration groups have the potential to offer help and support to people who work with words, and they can even be profitable.

Advantages to Writers’ Collaboration Groups

The main advantage to joining a group for writers (or any other group targeted toward people with a specific interest, life experience, etc.) is that everyone in the “room” has a certain basic level of knowledge. Writers know what it feels like to want to express themselves creatively and what the difference id between doing client work and writing for one’s self.

No one working in this field gets every gig or has every pitch accepted. Rejection is part and parcel of the writer’s life, and it can be a hard pill to swallow at times. Fellow group members can commiserate and remind the person who has just heard the word, “No,” that it does not mean he or she will never be hired or sell another article/story/book idea again.

When a writer goes land a great gig, other writers can be a wonderful source of support during those good times. Hearing or reading about someone who is doing well can give another writer the encouragement he or she needs to make one more call, send out another query, or apply for one more writing job.

Disadvantages to Writers’ Collaboration Groups

Unfortunately, not all aspects of writers’ collaboration groups are positive. The tone of the group depends on the people who participate most often. In most of them, a handful of people take on a leadership role and set the tone for the group.

When one or more group members get focused on a negative aspect of writing (challenges finding work, billing or payment issues with clients, writer’s block, etc.), it’s easy for the tone of the group to change and focus on the negative. One person needing to vent about a bad day or a bad experience (which is perfectly appropriate in the writers’ collaboration group situation) can easily start to spread into an atmosphere where the sky is falling and there is no future in writing for anyone.

There will always be some people in any group who choose to focus on the negative aspect of a situation. Spending a lot of time in that kind of environment would cause even the most confident writer to question whether it is worthwhile to continue trying to work in this field.

Get Leads and Make More Money Through Writers’ Collaboration Groups

One way writers’ collaboration groups can help each other is through sharing leads and networking with other writers. Over time, group members get to know each other and the kind of writing each person specializes in or feels most comfortable taking on.

Writers who want to avoid (or at least minimize) the cycle of feast or famine should be constantly looking for their next opportunity, even when they have projects to work on. If they find something that isn’t a good fit for them but which might be of interest to one of their colleagues, they can share it with the group. Other members can follow suit, which gives the group members another source of leads.

There can be some very positive aspects to getting help and support from people who share your passion and interest in creating with words. When the tone of the group gets negative or downright nasty, simply back away for a while. Just remember, a writers’ collaboration group can be an effective marketing and networking tool.

About the Author: This article was contributed by Colin Jordanius, an in-house content writer and editor at Plagiarism Detect, which offers plagiarism checking service for writers and students.

Tell me your opinion: Have you ever been part of a writing group?

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K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. Thank you for the reassurance. I’ve honestly had trouble finding writer’s groups which aren’t a large group of people griping about how they didn’t get the gig. It’s very pleasing to know that there’s groups which are nurturing and warm. 🙂

  2. All I’ve ever been in are online critique groups. You have to be careful with those. You don’t want it to be a backslapping society where everyone loves everything everyone else does but at the same time you don’t want it so snarky that everyone hates each other. Like everything else, a good group can be hard to find.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Colin!

  4. I’m a member of a “writing group” of sorts.. (www.apricotpie.com)

    and I also have a core group of friends (who’re also writers), that I talk with fairly frequently about writing..

  5. Anonymous says

    I’m usually the last person to point out misspellings in text, mostly because as a writer I usually know when I’ve made a mistake. However, I thought I would say something just in case you hadn’t seen that collaboration is spelled ‘collaberation’ in the title. Thank you for your quality informational posts time and again.

    P.S. Feel free to delete the comment after you have read it if you don’t want the misspelling in the comments. 🙂

  6. Thanks for pointing that out! The fault was entirely mine and not Colin’s.

  7. Whether you collaborate with one person or an entire group, I think it’s vitally important that your work gets vetted by someone other than yourself. The last person you want to have see imperfect work is your publisher or, if you’re self-publishing, your reader. A definite thumbs-up for collaboration.

  8. I belong to a local writers critique group, and find that it both profits to read out loud what we write, and also share our struggles along the way. Finding like minds is a good thing……

    I attended my group last night – I listened as one of our members, who also attends a Wed. morning group, tell us how she got her copies literally thrown back at her by a member of that group, and was told by that member that her work was crap. Negative actions like this do not belong in a writers group. He’s been a published writer for years, and has even taught writing classes, but I lost my respect for him a long time ago, when he wanted to take over, and talk over, everyone….the one reason I don’t attend Wed. mornings. He had a lot to contribute, but it wasn’t worth sitting on pins and needles.

    Last night, when it came around to my turn to read, I chose to pass my turn to the next person. It was getting late, and I basically was tired, but just said that I’d pass. After our meeting ended, I gave everyone a copy of the poem I had written….and then one of our newer group members came up to me and told me to never be afraid of reading what you write; never think your writing is anything less than the next person’s in the group. I honestly don’t feel that way in this group, but I think he assumed those were my feelings, after listening to what happened to one of our members.

    You don’t want your groups to be white washing your stuff, or shining you on…you want good honest feedback….and you certainly don’t want them to throw you under the bus, either. It’s definitely a learning experience with these groups. You may think you all have writing in common, but everyone is so divers in their thinking of what writing is, or should be. Everyone may read the same book, but not everyone will interpret it the same. I love the diversity of readers and writers…it’s a fun and encouraging place to be for a writer…just pick them wisely.

  9. I have been and am still involved in writing groups. I think you hit on a major point; the overall tone of a group. Some can offer sound advise in a warm supportive way.
    Others, can take on a strongly negative tone. I choose to avoid such groups. Often a group with a negative will have someone on attempts to dominate discussions. Not good.
    I’m not sure if you’ve grouped critiquing sites in this topic but there are parallels to watch for. Thanks again!

  10. I’ve been lucky – I’d say most of the groups I belong to are a very supportive bunch, and no one person gets too bogged down with morose comments. It does help me feel ‘in touch’ with others and has allowed me to meet other writers on their paths as well.

  11. I honestly haven’t seen these problems in our group, though I won’t say we don’t have intense discussions about things at times. We’ve been open and frank at times with one another, but we always pick things back up and go on. We’re held together by our support, love, and yes, we’ve become almost family to one another.

  12. How does one go about finding one of these groups?

  13. For close to four years I’ve met with a group of 6 women who meet twice a month for critique (and potluck) of 5 pages or less of writing, NF, F, and/or poetry.

    It helps to have guidelines, boundaries and discuss how to critique before you join.This helps in pinpointing specific areas, instead of that generalized “i like it, I don’t like it.” We read our piece out loud and everyone has 2 mins to do a critique. The author of piece has a two min. feedback after everyone is done. Sounds regimented but it’s relaxed and we have a good time, plus we’ve been with each other so long we trust and value the group opinion.

    Without the group leader, who is an elementary school teacher, we probably wouldn’t stay on task as much as we do.

    The group has been a tremendous help in learning about writing resources, publishing, and marketing (group leader has 4 published children’s books).

  14. I think there is often a misunderstanding about writers groups. Maybe if we simply called them all communities and allowed both critique and collaboration to happen within them instead of compartmentalizing. seems that would meet a writers needs better. interesting article, thanks.

  15. I have a weekly two hour writers group I attend, as well as a monthly two hour writers group in So-Cal, started by Jack London…over 100 years ago. The weekly one we read and comment as well as do writing exercises. The second one is mainly authors who give us advice in all areas of writing and publishing. But…my critiquing partner is my daughter,who is a fifth grade teacher, and has self-published a few books of poetry. She gives me the most productive and honest feedback because she knows me and my writing style well. Then there’s my closest friend who listens intently, and then encourages me with her…wows!

  16. I recently joined a writer’s group here in the Denver area. My experience with it was that the lady facilitating the group (also a teacher) was very destructive with her criticism and pretty much had me feeling like I had written nothing worthwhile by the time I stopped going. Now, my confidence is back and going strong. In the editing process of my novel, “Flowers and Stone”.

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