Follow Through

Now it’s time to do it. Meet when you planned to. Submit when it’s your turn. Give thoughtful, constructive critique.

When a group is firing on all cylinders, it’s a great place with camaraderie, shared commitment, accountability and feedback. Writers learn more about their craft, do more writing and do it better. On the other hand, groups with uneven participation or where members expect different things can be frustrating or feel like a waste of time.

The key is to start by making sure the members share alignment on goals and expectations and then follow through. While you can only control yourself, you can do a lot as an individual to keep the group on track. Here are some things you can do:

  • Keep the commitments you make with your group. If you can’t, be sure to communicate with them so they don’t worry about you or draw their own conclusions about your commitment.
  • If you don’t see many discussions happening in your online group, go start one! Share a link you like or a book you’ve read. Share some things you learned from a talk you attended.
  • If someone acts in a way that hurts your feelings, let them know (as diplomatically as possible). The person may not have realized the impact of her comments/actions on you and now she has a chance to redirect.
  • If you are not getting the type of feedback you want, consider giving direction on the critique you want with your submission. For example, let people know if you are submitting an early draft and want feedback on the plot structure and strength of the main characters. That way you don’t have someone nitpicking your grammar, which isn’t important at the early stages. Likewise, if you are towards the end and don’t want feedback on the major elements, let people know that you’d like more of a copy edit.
If participation starts to drop

Sometimes a group will get off to a great start and then flag. If this is happening in your group, say something. Simply bringing up the issue can often be enough to hold each other accountable or to show that there is interest in continuing.

Groups may flag when the pace is too much and writers can’t keep up with work, family and life. In this case, try slowing down. Get your group to a pace where people can write and participate amidst life’s juggles. This can take some fine tuning.

Dropping participation can also be a symptom of other issues. Members may just not be a great fit for one another genre-wise or experience-wise. If you see dropping participation, reach out to your group members individually and ask what is up. The goals of the group may need to be revised. Or the group may change the way it recruits. Sometimes members end up going their separate ways and that’s OK.

If participation is dropping with an in person group, make sure the meeting time and place work for members. For online groups, make sure members understand how to use the format you picked.

An art and a science

A successful group is part science and part art. Hopefully this guide has been helpful to you in thinking about the analytical part. The next sections will give you some additional resources that I’ve found helpful for groups. In addition, there’s a short history lesson about some of the famous groups in history.