Community,  Craft

10 Signs You’re In A Bad Writing Group

People can be such jerks. And that’s really unfortunate. If you are a writer and you need feedback on the things you’ve written, you can’t afford to have jerks sitting around a circle waving their collective red pens at you. 

Here are 10 signs you might need to find another group of writers to work with:

1. The group has unclear expectations: A good group explains what is expected by each member from meeting to meeting. If they say one thing, but do another, ask for clarification, there may be a reason. But if this is a habitual problem or the leader isn’t following through (especially if you paid to be there), find a way out.

2. The group has nothing nice to say: the best groups will collectively provide a balance of positive responses and negative ones. If you think that this is off-balance, ask the leader, it could be an off night. Excessive negativity could be an alarm sign that you need to go elsewhere.

3. The group has doesn’t let you explain yourself.  Writing is a subjective art and we all have our reasons why we incorporate the things we do. But if the criticisms are dismissive of your editorial choices, you aren’t in a good group. 

4. The group questions petty choices. This is a related problem. There may be a member or two who will sneer at the choices you made, “why Boston?” “Why does she have brown eyes?” “Why did you have to name her Annie?” This pettiness could be a symptom of other dysfunction. If this happens, rethink your commitment. 

5. The group has low opinion of your genre. Uh-boy. Any group that has already decided that your space opera, or your sweet romance, or your cozy mystery isn’t “good” needs to be a part of your past, not your future.

6. The group takes more than gives. A healthy group should have a balance: everyone gives advice and receives about the same. If there is someone who is hogging all the time, or pressing for more, or is disrespectful of boundaries, find out, at the very least what the leader does about it. A lack of order is a good reason to find another group. 

7. The group gaslights. Be careful of members who deny things happening, accuse you of “making up” something, or come across as patronizing. In fact, people who “gaslight” often have more verbal attacks up their sleeve and they are there just to control others. Get out as soon as you can. 

8. The group diminishes your goals. It’s a given that authors are different and they come to their careers in a variety of different ways. A good group will respect your journey, both your past and your future. If you feel like you need to be just like them to be a part of the group, then rethink your commitment.

9. The group can’t respect deadlines. Pay attention to the expectations and notice how firm they are enforced. Does the group start on time? End on time? A good group should communicate that everyone’s time is valuable and respect it. 

10. The group ghosts you. Sigh. If that happens. Take the hint. You can definitely do better. 

It’s tough enough to be a writer in the first place. We’re already vulnerable, sensitive, and mentally shaky (self-destructive behaviors anyone?). We don’t need a bad group making matters worse. If you see any of these signs in your group, make a polite exit and try to find another one. In the meantime, join 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook! We’re the happiest group on the internet! 

Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.