Writing groups have been a mixed bag for me. I have belonged to five over the years. The first–the one that lambasted that early story–ended abruptly when the women arose enmasse and attacked the men for being uncivil, selfish and nasty. Looking back, it wasn’t really true. The main problem was we had just come from a classroom where the instructor moderated our comments and made us behave. My second group fared better but after two years, three of the four people stopped writing. Group Three was fueled by a love of snacks and gossip. Group Four was supportive and fun, but the format was fairly unhelpful since we read our work aloud. This led to too much attention to commas and hyphens–stuff immediately apparent. Good critiquing takes more preparation than this allows.
Group Five is by far the best. There are five of us and we all write with some consistency. All of us have had some degree of success in publishing. My recent switch to crime fiction has met with conflicted feelings, I think. And publishing on zines rather than in print is occassionally frowned upon. I’m sure they sometimes think I’m letting my muse down. But my muse, who I am now getting to know, is both darker and more resilent than they think.
And here’s a new thought. If I write a dark story but no real crime takes place, where do I go with that? Are crimes zines willing to take an inbetweener?
Anyway, have workshops been an integral part of your writing experience? What made your group work? And what do you do with stories that don’t quite fall into any category? I think you can see here how much I miss Mystery Circus where people answered these questions.