Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Choosing the Correct Gang Color for your Writers' Group (and other tips)

Before Inkwell Michelle would let me post on her blog, she, um...strongly suggested...that I join a writers' group in an effort to make my spellin's more better. As a staunch advocate of Groucho Marx's old axiom about 'not wanting to be a part of any group that would have me as a member,' it was, needless to say, the first time I'd ever attended such a soiree. So's not to appear unprepared, I brought an old Smith Corona typewriter, some cigarettes, a green tinted visor and some cheap whiskey. Oh, and a story I'd written the night before about a psycho that joins a writers' group only to then kill each writer one by one in a manner reminiscent of the stories they'd read there (its title: Deadly Dull). Imagine my surprise when the group turned out to hate my ideas, the smoke from my smokes and the fact that the whiskey made me physically sick. It's not like their stories were much better. The young guys were all writing variations of Fight Club, only with more video game references, and the girls were all trying to blend their favorite episodes of Sex & The City with their one unsuccessful suicide attempt from their teens. Only the old people's stories were interesting. I had no idea that they were all so dirty-minded (or was I mentally making unintended metaphors of all of their innocent flowering garden and railroad worker short stories?).
Anyway, the point of today's post is to highlight a few websites that offer suggestions on how to better start and/or run a writers' group. There's another old axiom I'd like to toss out, the one that claims 'you can choose your friends, but not your family.' When running a writers' group, no such excuses are accepted. You are responsible for every choice made: the members, the setting, the style of critique offered, the way the discussion flows, etc, etc, etc. If this is the sort of thankless, profitless power you crave, then explore the links below:

The 6' Ferrets Writers' Group -- A good place to visit for anyone starting from scratch. They've broken their site down into bite sized portions: Starting A Group, Writing Exercises, Special Events and Suggested Reading.

Man Bytes Hollywood -- This guy has been running a writers' group for a while, and boils down the secrets to making it successful into three seemingly obvious, but clearly hard won tips.

Argh Ink -- The woman that runs this site had been a part of many disappointing writers' groups before finally starting her own. She opens her piece by discussing the pitfalls that many groups fall into (discussing anything and everything besides writing -- publishing, in particular) before outlining quite a long list of ideas for keeping your group on track without garnering resentment and/or villains crafted in your likeness.