From Dave Farland:
I’ve been to or visited a number of writing groups. Some were very effective, while others were a waste of time.
You often get out of a group what you put into it, so before you join a group, consider thoughtfully how much time you have to invest and how much you really want the benefits.
Now, there are a lot of types of writing groups, and I’ve seen some of the various functions of the groups mushed together, but I suggest that you consider what you need in a group.
Here are a few things that a group can help you with, and what to watch out for.
Accountability Groups—An accountability group is simply a group of people who create specific goals and then report to each other on a regular basis as to how well they’d done. So, for example, you might set a goal to get 50 pages written on your novel each week. Your accountability group will ask you at the week’s end, “How did you do?”
For most writers, just knowing that they will be held accountable helps them set goals and keep on track with their writing.
Research Groups—Your writing group can study together in a lot of helpful ways. For example, when I began writing The Runelords, I took trips to Europe to research castles, armaments, and the medieval lifestyle. I read dozens of books on topics from medieval history and warfare to books on herbs and medicines. It would have been nice to have others who were studying on the topic to share info with.
If you’re writing medieval fantasy or science fiction in your group, for example, then you can pool research on topics of mutual interest.
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Critique Groups—When people think of “writing groups,” they almost always think of critique groups.
In a critique group, I recommend that you keep it small. I once visited a critique groups where there were some 130 members exchanging manuscripts—that’s insane. You can’t get a good critique if you’re one of 30 stories getting critiqued on a Saturday night, and no one has the energy and wisdom to critique 30 stories well in a couple of hours.
Keep your critique groups small—often 3 to 6 people is plenty—so that you don’t get overwhelmed trying to critique others’ work.
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Marketing Groups—A marketing group exists solely to help you figure out how to best market one-another’s work. For example, do you know how to prepare a book for pre-release? Do you know how long you can put it up for pre-order before it goes on sale on Kindle, B&N, or Kobo? Do you know how to build your list of readers? Do you know how to find covers and design your books, write back copy, create killer ads, and so on?
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Writers’ Rings—A writer’s ring is a group of writers all working in the same genre who share their audiences by recommending one another’s books on their blogs and social media.
Imagine that you’re a new writer and have built up an email list of 20,000 fans, but other writers that you admire have collectively got 200,000 more fans. By joining a writer’s ring, you might well find your sales growing by 500% with your very next book. If that isn’t reason enough to join a writers’ ring, I don’t know what is.
Link to the rest at Dave Farland