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I’ve been thinking about what makes people leave a writing group. They all have something to offer, so why do some thrive while others struggle to attract/ retain members?

Over the years, I’ve heard a fair number of reasons for people leaving/not joining a writing group. I’ve listed some of the more common ones below, if you have a minute, I’d love to know which (if any) of these would influence your decision


Poll #1846857 Writing groups

If a writing group met within reasonable travelling distance from you, and appeared to welcome folks who write in your particular genre, what would put you off joining (or make you leave it)?

If I wasn’t made to feel welcome when I first started attending meetings
27(9.3%)
If I was made to feel unwelcome because of age, sex, genre, lack of publishing credentials etc.
35(12.1%)
If group meetings turned into pity parties, bemoaning the unfairness of the publishing industry.
34(11.8%)
If the membership fees were too high and/or I didn’t think I’d get value for money.
31(10.7%)
If the member benefits didn’t meet my expectations (or if they didn’t match what was promised on the group’s website)
22(7.6%)
If there was too much drama (eg: members bickering at meetings or on group message boards).
33(11.4%)
If there weren’t enough members in group.
4(1.4%)
If there weren’t enough members in group further along the publishing career path than me.
6(2.1%)
If the group’s leaders didn’t seem to know what they were doing.
26(9.0%)
If nobody seemed interested in progressing further with their writing career.
26(9.0%)
If I came out of meetings feeling less excited about writing than when I went in.
36(12.5%)
Something else, which I’ll mention in the comments.
9(3.1%)


I’m going to link to this post from the FindAWritingGroup.com website.

As always, thanks for your input. It’s much appreciated.


Related posts:
What do you look for in a writing group?

The Critiquee's Charter


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Comments

( 41 comments — Leave a comment )
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darkspires
Jun. 14th, 2012 03:09 pm (UTC)
A group should be about equal opportunity and one of the small ones I was in did not have this. I was doing a lot of reviews and getting very few in return, usually months after I had finished working on that chapter.
jongibbs
Jun. 14th, 2012 04:53 pm (UTC)
Good point, Elizabeth. Every group seems to have a few folks more interested in taking than giving.

Thanks for the input :)
(no subject) - calli_scribbles - Jun. 17th, 2012 03:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
ex_naomi_ja
Jun. 14th, 2012 03:15 pm (UTC)
I think you need an "all of the above" option!
readthisandweep
Jun. 14th, 2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
THIS! Pretty much.

(no subject) - jongibbs - Jun. 14th, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
queenoftheskies
Jun. 14th, 2012 03:28 pm (UTC)
Is there an "all of the above" option? That's where my vote lies.
jongibbs
Jun. 14th, 2012 05:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Janice :)
mutive
Jun. 14th, 2012 04:09 pm (UTC)
Yeah, all of the above.

A big one too is if I feel like I'm getting something useful out of it. There are some amazing writing groups online. If one in person didn't provide *at least* as much as one online did, I'd probably avoid it as just...why?
jongibbs
Jun. 14th, 2012 05:47 pm (UTC)
I have to say, I get a terrific buzz from the atmosphere at in-person groups :)
j_cheney
Jun. 14th, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
Not being made to feel welcome: This one happened to me. I decided I would rather drive 4 hours to a Texas group than hang with people who woun't bother to greet me...

Something Else:
Not a good match. We had a small local spec-fic group. It wasn't a bad group, it just wasn't a good match. I was the only female, and the others wrote things vastly different from what I wrote...so we didn't really click.
jongibbs
Jun. 14th, 2012 05:48 pm (UTC)
'Not being made to feel welcome'

It's such a shame when this happens, because it's so easily avoidable, don't you think?
(no subject) - calli_scribbles - Jun. 17th, 2012 03:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
ladysaotome
Jun. 14th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
I agree with "all of the above".

Truthfully, there is a group nearby that I considered checking out. But according to their website, more than half their members seem to write thriller/mysteries/dark fiction and I'm not sure I'd fit in with that.
jongibbs
Jun. 14th, 2012 05:49 pm (UTC)
If it's nearby, it's probably worth a visit. You never know, the website might be out of date.
Walter Giersbach
Jun. 14th, 2012 06:13 pm (UTC)
Writing Group Preferances
Jon, I thought I'd commented earlier, but it seems "fairness" is a prime requisite--allowing everyone possible a shot at reading and critiquing. There's value simply in reading aloud to a group, with bonus points for feedback.

However, I can't see myself paying to participate, nor would I stick around for a social gabfest unless I could read/crit while hoisting a martini.
jongibbs
Jun. 14th, 2012 06:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Writing Group Preferances
A good social gabfest is well worth it. As for paying membership fees, I'm happy to do so if the money's going to bring in quality speakers, which is generally the case with bigger, fee-charging groups.
blood_of_winter
Jun. 14th, 2012 06:32 pm (UTC)
Yeah, all of the above :)

But in all honesty, I started out with one in-person discussion group that was fairly lax / unorganized but committed myself to it and found that once we had some people take control of a few of the leadership roles (responsibility for different areas) then it suddenly became an organized, well run, and successful group. So sometimes sticking it out can be a good thing.

For a critique group, things get a little more involved since not only does the group need to be fair - everyone has their work critiqued, the critiques are valuable, there are no personal attacks - but it helps when the participants are all around the same skill level - obviously it cant be a perfect match but it may not help an advanced writer to be in a group with all beginning writers (although good for the beginning writers, it would be a little unbalanced). That has always been the most difficult part - finding support or discussion groups is easy but finding the right critique group takes a little more work and I would be more inclined to leave if the feel wasnt right.

jongibbs
Jun. 14th, 2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
Good critique groups are like good neighhbors, you never appreciate them till you come a cross a not so good one :)
little_e_
Jun. 14th, 2012 07:54 pm (UTC)
I think the way you've phrased the poll may be less than useful, because of course people aren't going to stay in groups which are too expensive or have too much drama, but what I define as expensive or drama isn't necessarily the same as what you define.

Personally, given my very busy schedule, I can't do anything with meetings--and probably a lot of folks just get *busy* and that's the end of them.
But put me somewhere flexible like LJ, and I do pretty well.
Second, I need to feel like my critiques are valued and my work is getting sufficient attention in return.
jongibbs
Jun. 14th, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC)
I understand what you're saying, but I'm assuming not all reasons are equal ie: what would be a deal breaker to some folks wouldn't be to others, which seems to be the case, since not everyone is selecting every option (I know I didn't).

Thanks for the input :)
(no subject) - little_e_ - Jun. 15th, 2012 07:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
darke_conteur
Jun. 14th, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC)
The one and only time I ever participated in a writing group, I got the impression after a few reviews that the others didn't want to learn how to improve their craft, just pat each other on the back. I mean, I'm not Know-It-All Writer or anything, but if I could see the mistakes they were making, an agent would too.
jongibbs
Jun. 14th, 2012 08:41 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean. Mutual appreciation societies don't really help anyone in the long term.
(no subject) - darke_conteur - Jun. 14th, 2012 09:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
mylefteye
Jun. 14th, 2012 08:44 pm (UTC)
I only ever attended one writers' workshop and found it very cliquey. Us newbies were asked to introduce ourselves, but as we were doing just this, the established folk chatted over us.

Also irritating was the attitude of a couple of people who had published a story in an anthology. They really seemed to think they'd cracked it, whatever 'it' is, and that we should be looking to them for advice. I could have spoken up and pointed out that if this was a competition then I'd sold over fifty stories and several novellas, any advance on that? But I can't be doing with that sort of bollocks. I went along to learn and make friends, I came away disheartened.

I've contemplated starting a local group but worry I'll end up with people who wind me up. Not very sociable of me, I suppose. :)
jongibbs
Jun. 14th, 2012 09:09 pm (UTC)
Sadly, while there are plenty of great writing groups around, there are some bad ones too. I wish you luck with starting a group, Mike. I should think you'd make a grand leader of writers :)
(no subject) - calli_scribbles - Jun. 17th, 2012 03:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Jun. 15th, 2012 03:08 pm (UTC)
Groups are (almost) always changing too, hopefully into somethng even better, but sometimes... :)
dendrophilous
Jun. 15th, 2012 12:29 am (UTC)
I checked nearly all the boxes, but also:

If the group had different goals from me. For example, they want to do critiques and I just want to talk.

Also, if the members in the group don't actually write.
jongibbs
Jun. 15th, 2012 03:09 pm (UTC)
When most members stop writing, new blood can be a lifesaver :)
slweippert
Jun. 15th, 2012 04:13 am (UTC)
The reason I quit a writing group after 3 tries was I got tired of my work torn to bits without much positive feedback.
jongibbs
Jun. 15th, 2012 03:10 pm (UTC)
Ah, the fine art of critiquing without being an obnoxious know-it-all. That would need a whole series of posts :)
(no subject) - slweippert - Jun. 15th, 2012 03:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - authorwithin - Jun. 15th, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
authorwithin
Jun. 15th, 2012 06:02 pm (UTC)
I checked most of the boxes above, other than not enough members and not enough members further along than I.

The groups I left were either too "you're wonderful/can't see anything to change" (when I obviously needed to make changes), or demanded critiques too often (I need time to write too).

As I mentioned in my reply above, I want to know what is wrong with my work and how to fix it. I don't give a lot of "great job" comments unless something really stands out, and I expect the same from those who critique my work. Guess I'm weird that way. Encouragement is nice, but it doesn't help me become a better writer. If I'm doing something right, I usually already know it's right. I just want to know what's wrong so I can fix it. ;-)

The feedback from my agent was light on the "great job" and heavy on the "this sucks; fix it," just like I need. Ahhh. =)

Critique groups can be overwhelming when you are constantly doing critiques and don't have enough time to make revisions/write.

I don't belong to a "group" at the moment. I have a few critique partners to exchange work with (yes, I know proper grammar demands I write "with whom I exchange work" but it looks weird). That works for me at the moment because I don't have time to devote to a large group.

I had joined a local group, but there were only a couple of "regular" members and none of them wrote/read children's literature or fantasy so they couldn't help me. It wasn't worth it to me to go to the meetings, and I dropped out. Having people in the group who write/read your genre(s) is vital!
jongibbs
Jun. 16th, 2012 12:00 am (UTC)
'Having people in the group who write/read your genre(s) is vital!'

It helps, certainly, but I think there's an awful lot to be gained from joining a good group, even if it doesn't have many writers in your genre.

thanks for the input, Joan :)
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