I miss my old writer’s critique group and the kinship of other creatives. Finding that perfect group is about as hard to find the perfect marriage or the perfect NYC style pizza. When you find it, you stay with the winner. Yet, for years I attended groups that didn’t work for reasons I attribute to poor leadership and a mix of dilettante personalities. Some of these would-be writers were more interested in being known as a writer, rather than doing the sacred act itself.
Below are some of the personalities I’ve met in writers critique groups, for better, for worse.
Angry poet – You just don’t get them. You just don’t get it. You ask them what “un-undulating un-indecency of a Kiwi in flight” means, but they take it as an insult. “Grammar rules? You lost me at rules, man, you bourgeois carnivore Fox News sheep-bot!” Oversensitive to criticism, surly they usually end up leaving group to find real writers or discover a new untried hair color or a new body part to pierce.
Been Working On Story Since Pre-Lewinsky Clinton Era. – Like wearing the same unflattering dress to the ball, they bring the same story and it never gets better. You try to help, but you don’t have the heart to tell them this horse back is sagging and it’s time to donate them to the pet food livery. In desperation, they may change character gender or genre from Supernatural Western to Historical Romance. Like a teen marriage, it’s destined to get worse.
The Dabbling Milf – Writes charmless pieces about their cats and kids. Usually brings their kids, who are loud and charmless. Always “dabbled” in writing, once in in her Sophomore year or got a poem published in a church bulletin. Depictions of runny noses, skinned knees and cats “lolling on the Ikea Dragor rug” or kids rivulets of snot drive the group to decaf.
World’s Greatest Writer, Not – A writing professor or some reader scam or their mom told them they could write, and they wear praise like a color blind kid with one good article of clothing. Criticizing them is equal to yanking God’s beard. Like Angry Poet, their grammar gaffes are part of their unique style in the league of most geniuses.
Great Writer, but Thinks They Stink – They bring in mind blowing work, but never submit for publication because we’re obviously just being nice. They forget this is a writers group, not a complement vending machine. Usually need to be talked out of quitting, which they eventually do.
Overachiever – Has a new short story, or even a 350 page novel every meeting. Sleep? Usually has every eye blink scheduled. Works two jobs, raises a family, volunteers at church or charity events and is working on their PHD. Make other writers feel like layabouts, and they’re stuff is top shelf. May get coffee spilt on them – accidentally.
Great Published Writer or the “what they heck are you doing hanging around these noobs” – You envy this person and wonder why they don’t just hang with the pros. Group is sometimes disturbed by Published Writer’s inbound calls from the Coast or from their NYC agent. You hope you are them someday you’ll get to disturb a reading with an agent or publisher begging to sell your work.
I confess, I’ve been at least three of the above, except Published Writer and the MILF.
If you are looking for your a writer’s group in your area, then Meetup.com and Facebook.com are good places to start. If you don’t find one in your area, then start one. Even if its a couple of people meeting at Dunkin Donuts to trade story critiques, its better than writing without an audience. Just remember, don’t be like the 7 bad writers: learn to take criticism, move on when a story isn’t going anywhere, shame the group with your consistent productivity. Please, turn off you cell phone during the meeting.