I’ve belonged to many writers groups, and each has at least one favorable quality. Some have very sociable members. Others have many published writers. Certain groups appeal to beginners. However, I wanted to meet with people who appreciated in-depth critiquing. And this other requirement was impossible to find in other local groups: I wanted to belong to a group whose members wrote in the horror, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery categories. I enjoy literary books, and sometimes I write in that category, too. But I felt the quality of the critiques for genre would be higher if the members concentrated on the categories mentioned above.
My solution? I started SRQ Spec and Mystery Writers.
So what’s special about this group? Other than the spec and mystery focus, one of the differences is that we don’t read our manuscripts during the meeting. It seems as though it’s a waste of time when our emphasis is on critiquing, and having access to the work in advance improves the quality and depth of the feedback. Members get the manuscripts from writers (usually three) who’ve volunteered to submit their work. Submissions have approximately ten double-spaced pages and include short stories as well as book excerpts. We meet twice a month, and the meetings last for two hours. We’ve always gathered at the public library, with conference room reservations arranged in advance. Some groups meet in restaurants, but I think the distractions would detract from the quality of the critiques.
I decided to join Meetup, a group that makes communication easy between members. Each group has its own front page that the group leader can personalize; and it includes details, such as description, next meeting time and place, people attending, and messages. Clicking on one of the menu items brings a member to where he or she can upload a manuscript that all the members can access. Writers can specify if they want their work accessible to anyone or just to members.
As I mentioned in the beginning, all writers groups have something special to offer. I would encourage authors to join as many groups as they feel might benefit them. However, I think there’s a special value to meeting with people who write in the categories that interest a writer. Genre categories have trends, and writers can learn them from others who have similar interests. Meeting with like-minded people enhances opportunities for networking. And probably the best reason is that the comments are usually so much more beneficial when people critique in categories they enjoy.
SRQ Spec and Mystery Writers has had success stories with some published works. I can’t say that it has something to do with the group’s structure, but I’d like to think it does.