Herd or Community?

Do you ever get a longing for a writing community? I sure do. I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week. Some of my introspection was prompted by this post by Kathleen McCleary. For the TL;DR crowd: she talks about the advantages of finding a writing community.

I think a good writing community can be a fantastic aid for writers. The work we’re doing is solitary and often misunderstood. Even by those who love us the most. Sometimes, only another writer can understand the frustrations of revision or the rush that finally fixing a plot hole gives us.

Even though I’d love a good writing community, I’ve struggled to find one. I’ve taken a lot of writing classes, both online and in person. Each class finds me hoping I’ll gel with another class member and become critique partners. But that hasn’t worked out yet.

I’ve looked for local writers’ groups. Only one replied to my emails or calls to ask for a writing sample. When I sent it, I received a “thanks, but that’s not the kind of writing we do here.” I’m still not sure what that means.

Yes, I tend to write genre (romance, mystery, fantasy, etc.) but that doesn’t mean I can’t offer useful feedback on a literary fiction piece. Or even on a poem. In my opinion, writing believable characters and solid narrative is something every writer does. It’s not reserved for one market or another.

I’m currently taking the level two class at The Writers Studio, and I’m hoping that might be a place where I find a critique partner. Again, it’s a more literary-focused program, and I’m a genre writer. I guess I’ll see how that pans out.

And that brings me back to the title of this post. Too often, I think writers develop a herd mentality. Because so much of the writing advice we see focuses on “knowing your market,” we get tunnel vision. We think the only writers we have anything in common with are people who write the same things we do.

And yet, I doubt any of us came to be writers because we only ever read one kind of book. Yes, most of the books I read are genre/commercial/popular fiction titles. But that doesn’t mean I never read literary fiction. I do. I also read enough poetry that I feel fairly knowledgeable about trends in poetry. And I read a lot of non-fiction. That makes me think I could serve as a critical reader for a lot of fellow writers.

After all, a good beta reader’s job is mostly to point out places where they got bogged down in the story, lost interest, or became confused. I can provide that feedback for a lot of different kinds of books, even if I don’t read that particular specialty as often. A good story that keeps me interested is just that.

Sometimes, I wonder if I just need to start my own writing group. I’m not sure I’m the right person to do that, nor do I have any idea how I’d run a group or where to look for members. But starting a community that welcomes others could be my best option.

What about you? Do you have a writing group? If so, what do you like most about it? If you’re looking for a group, what do you want or need it to provide?

(Photo by Danielle Barnes on Unsplash)

One thought on “Herd or Community?

  1. Hi, Ruth. I think a writing group is wonderful. Believe or not, I was part of a writing group many years ago and it was very helpful. There were three of us, all friends, but also willing to critique each other’s work without feelings being hurt or being bias due to our friendship. One friend was into writing religious/christian fiction, the other friend was into writing plays/romance novels/fiction and I was mainly into writing short stories. We worked together and supported one another for a couple of years. The only reason our group stopped is because one of our members, my best friend, became seriously ill and the other friend was having more demands for her time at her job.

    I highly recommend starting your own group, whether online or in person. We didn’t really do anything special other than meet, talk about our projects, read and critique. It was great.

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