I got to wondering how other writers see writers’ groups. Are they beneficial? Or are they just social gatherings?
Well, there are all types of writers’ groups and whether or not you are involved is, of course a matter of choice. I am involved in several of these groups, physical ones and virtual ones. Let’s look at the physical ones first.
Members of Angus Writers' Circle
The first group I became involved with was Angus Writers’ Circle http://www.chrislongmuir.co.uk/anguswriterscircle/index.html I was one of the founder members over 20 years ago. At that time I was a novice writer and much of my writing really wasn’t worth publishing. I’ve progressed since then, my writing has improved, and I’ve become a professional writer. Now I don’t know whether I would have had the same outcome if I’d never belonged to Angus Writers’ Circle, but I can say that the crits and encouragement I experienced along the way did help me develop as a writer.
I have to say, though, that there are writers’ groups in existence which simply give praise irrespective of the quality of writing. These groups do nothing to help a writer develop. The groups that are of the most benefit are the ones which are honest with their crits, even if the truth hurts.
One of the benefits of belonging to a writers’ group is acceptance to professional bodies like the Scottish Association of Writers. I have attended their weekend conferences on a regular basis over the past 20 odd years, and have been awarded many prizes from their annual writing competitions. The most prized of these was when I won the Pitlochry Award on two different occasions, once for Night Watcher, and again for Dead Wood before it went on to win the Dundee International Book Prize.
Margaret Thomson Davies presenting me with the Pitlochry Award for Night Watcher
But crits, encouragement and awards are not the only benefits from belonging to these groups, there is also the social aspect, the networking, and the acceptance from other writers. I met many of my now more famous friends through these groups, at a time before they became famous. People like Ian Rankin and Alex Gray. I could name many more, but enough of the name dropping and let’s get on with the blog.
It’s time to have a look at virtual groups. There are many of these around, particularly on Facebook. I’ve sampled a few of these and when they become overloaded with ‘buy my book’ posts to the exclusion of most of the other posts, I usually back out the door and only look in occasionally.
The exception to these is the three main groups I’m heavily involved with. I’ll take them one at a time.
First there’s the loveahappyending.com group which is an invitation only group for authors, although they also have readers, editors and publishers as members. This group started a year ago and as of this morning there have been over a million visits to the website. When I was invited to join, I think my first response was ‘You do know what kind of books I write?’ You see I never thought of my books as being anything to do with happy endings. The response when it came was that they wanted a mix of authors and anyway, in my crime books, the fact that the crime was resolved equated to a happy ending. So I agreed to join and actually felt quite honoured to be one of their thirty authors, because that was the maximum amount they take on as members at any one time. If you want to have a look here is the link http://loveahappyending.com/
Then there is the Famous Five Plus group, FFP for short http://www.famousfiveplus.com/ I saw this coming to prominence on Twitter and became curious, so that was why I joined it. I’ve had no regrets about joining, although members are expected to promote the group through Twitter and other media sites. That’s why you’ll see me with loads of retweets involving FFP. But it’s a fabulous group with lots of lovely members who are supportive. The website’s pages are worth checking out, they have a Home page, Books page, Authors page, Review page and loads more. They also post an excerpt from one of the books every day. I love it when it’s my turn. Oh, and they also have a readers’ club if you would like to join. The details are on the Books page of the site here’s the link http://www.famousfiveplus.com/p/books.html
Last and not least, there is the Authors Electric group, which again is an invitation only group. Each member is expected to provide a blog post for their blog – Do Authors Dream of Electric Books. My turn is on the 19th of each month if you want to check me out. The blog itself is a mix of posts from various writers and is well worth a look. Here’s the link http://authorselectric.blogspot.co.uk/
Well, that’s an overview of the groups I’m involved with and all I can say is that I find them beneficial. However, whether you would is a different matter and only you can decide whether to join a group or not. The only advice I would give is, be selective.