The Writerís Support Group
By Nancy Cochran

Why are writers groups important?

As writers we spend a significant part of our working day alone, typing along on our computer keyboard, ignoring everything around us. But at the end of the day, when we look back at what weíve done, picked up the letter for the publisher from our mailbox or mailed off that contest entry, we want to celebrate or commiserate with someone who understands.

And face it, not all our friends or family understand this thing we call writing. Not even all of the people who call themselves writers understand.

As romance writers, we face unique challenges in the world of writing. Having a group that supports your writing can become very important as time goes on. We all need support now and then.

What is a writerís support group?

I pondered that question, I knew what a writerís support group meant to me, but not to other writers. Then I realized its going to mean something different to each individual and what they are looking for. This article will cover some of the aspects I feel are important when youíre trying to not only find a writerís support group, but why they are important.

The first thing to remember when looking for a group is to know that not all groups are created equal.

Youíll find groups that are a mixture of genres and male and female, or all one genre, all female, all male. The possibilities are endless. But when youíre looking for a support group, make sure they fit you.

Well what does that mean? It means, knowing what genre youíre writing in. If youíre writing romance, you donít want a support group of literary writers. Why? While all writers speak the same language, there are specifics to each genre that other writers donít understand.

How many times within the romance genre do we run into that? A lot. Within the last two years Erotic Romance has been rising up, as the case may be, to where now almost every New York publisher wants it. But again, the specifics are getting confused. Many are calling it Erotica, not Erotic Romance. There is a difference. You need to have at least a basic idea of what youíre writing.

What are your expectations of the group? When looking for a group, you need to know what you want out of the group? Are you looking for general support when youíre feeling blue about your writing? Do you want someone to pat you on the back daily for getting your pages done? Do you want occasional critiquing or brainstorming? Do you want to set goals? Do you want a group that focuses just on writing?

What is the difference between a support group and a critique group?

From my perspective, a critique group is there to help make you a better writer, they look at your work objectively, they tell you the truth about whatís working and whatís not, and make suggestions on how to improve your writing. Not that they canít be supportive in other aspects of writing, but the focus is the writing.

A support group does just that support you as a writer, they are not focused on the writing itself but on the writing life and how to get through it without going crazy.

The list below are the differences that I see, that doesnít mean they canít bleed over from one group to the other.

Writerís Support Groups:

  • Celebrate successes
  • Cope with rejections
  • Encourage you to write and keep writing
  • Understand what youíre writing without censor

Critique Groups:

  • Critiquing
  • Brainstorming

Now I left out one item, and that is Plotting. Some critique groups will help you plot and others will not. It depends on what the group has decided on.

Does the size of the group matter?

For a support group, not really. It can be a few people, to dozens of people. Just remember the larger the group, the more personalities you have.

For a critique group, Iíve found that 3-4 is a good size, I would never go over 5 people in the group. The reason for this is because, most groups meet for only 1-2 hours and its impossible to get feedback to all 5 people. Sometimes its even hard with 4, it all depends on the production level of the group.

Now you maybe asking yourself whatís the difference between a support group and a critique group?

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