A few months back (in March, I think), I joined a Writers’ Group. A few weeks ago, it basically disbanded. It counts as the fourth such group I’ve ever joined. Anyhoo, I figured I would comment on what I’ve learned from such endeavors. Or, at least, give my opinions.
In my view, smaller is better. I say a maximum of five people is preferred. This latest one usually included about eight or so, at the meetings, and perhaps as many as fifteen in the group in total. And, of course, everyone wanted to expand and get more people. Not me. I didn’t mention it to anybody, but I wanted fewer.
There are several benefits of working with only a few people instead of a lot. First off, it is much easier to digest the comments of four other people instead of fourteen. Secondly, you will also have a better chance of getting your work looked at in a reasonable amount of time. In this last group, two people would submit their work on any given week, and the next week we would discuss it. That worked pretty well for a while, like when it was eight people, because then you would only have to wait a month to get more feedback as you cycled through again. Unfortunately, though, as the group got bigger, the time between your submissions grew. And I, for one, join writers’ groups primarily to get feedback, not give. I give in exchange for that, but my primary interest is still getting. Call me selfish, if you like, but I think that is the primary goal. Thirdly, the feedback you do get is usually much more in depth. With a large number of people, it just seems likely to degenerate into little more than proofreading. You simply don’t have time to get fourteen different commentaries on a ten page short story, unless you spend like five hours at each meeting… but who wants to do that?
I also think it is a good idea to focus on a single genre like speculative fiction, or fantasy, or what-have-you. Just keep it in one genre if you can. For myself, it would be fantasy. In this last group, we had poetry, sci-fi, fantasy, memoir, romance, and I’m sure a few more. It’s all very interesting, but I don’t really know how to comment on any of those except fantasy, and maybe sci-fi. Don’t get me wrong. You do learn things reading different genres, but I think you get the most bang for your buck from a genre-focused group.
So, to sum up, my ideal group would consist of five people, all involved in fantasy. We would meet every other week and we would focus on two people out of the group at a time.
Don’t know what else to say on that topic, so I’ll close it here.