For ages now I’ve been mulling over the idea of setting up my own writer’s group in London for independent, self-published authors. I’ve been to a number of writing groups in London already, some for sitting together and writing, some the standard kind of critique group, but none offering the sort of thing I’m after.
What I’ve found are, essentially:
- Few serious writers, by which I mean, folks who are consistently putting the product out there, and actually finding readers. Instead I’ve largely come across:
- Many writing hopefuls. They come to writing groups hoping some writerly magic will rub off on them and give them ideas and/or motivation to finish their Works In Progress. Hence there is very little to talk to them about.
- Many writing snobs, who while they have never had anything actually published- do actually have agents. What would that even mean, to have an agent but no publications? I suspect it means you have a friend who is an agent. Is this a sign of success?
- More writing snobs who look down on self-publishing, and lament how bad things have got with the demise of agents and traditional publishing as gatekeepers. I find these folks amusing, to a degree. When everyone in a given group starts nodding their head in agreement, lapping up the ‘wisdom’, I get antsy.
- Fairly serious writers with only small dreams. I wonder if this is a British thing. If in your critique group, when a piece is workshopped and half the old hands recommend it be sent to THE SAME uk-only online fiction magazine that doesn’t even pay, and everyone gets enthusiastic about that, that’s displaying a serious paucity of ambition. Why not look to America, THE market? Perhaps because….
- Folks who like networking. They like to name-drop the semi-famous (C-list and down) authors they’ve met at conferences or agents they’ve stood in a line next to. And if you’re in the UK, naturally your glitterati are going to be UK-only stars. And if you believe the only way up is through such dodgy connections gleaned at dirty pub rails with C-listers happy to be recognized, then yes you will end up shooting considerably lower than the moon.
- Critiques. Critiques are standard in workshops- we go round in a circle and discuss someone’s opening chapter. I believe these have a place and have value, but they’re also largely useful for critiquing voice. They can’t really do a thing for overall narrative- which is what I’m interested in most now.
- Little meaningful discussion.
So, I’m working my way round to making my own group. In it we’d discuss marketing, top-down craft like story structure and narrative, publishing tips, network in marketing (box sets), and discussion of issues.
I emailed the godfather of self-publishing Dean Wesley Smith about his writers’ meetups and he very generously replied- seems like his groups are broad discussions with few limitations, amongst serious writers. No critiquing! That’s what I want!
I’m signed up to attend a group that may be what I’m looking for. That’s next week. I don’t hold out great hope, and if it’s not what I’m looking for, I’ll go ahead and set up my own group. Exciting!