A writers’ group is a collection of writers who get together to discuss each other’s work. Each writer submits a piece to the group and as a group, suggestions are given, issues are discussed and an effort is made to provide guidance to make each piece better. This is the model of most creative writing programs, as well as many independent groups. If everyone works together, it can be a wonderful experience for all involved. Unfortunately, there is usually some jerk in the group that ruins everything. This is a guide to how to be that jerk.
10 Ways to Annoy the Hell out of your Writers’ Group
- Attend sporadically. Most writers’ groups have rules about attendance, but once you are there, what are they going to do? Do they seriously have the stones to kick you out? I think not. Writers are usually nice people — exploit that.
- Bring the whole novel. Most writers’ groups try to keep the length of the things they are discussing to a reasonable level. After all, most members have jobs or kids or classes. Some members even want to spend time on their own writing. They can’t be expected to read and critique hundreds of pages a week… or can they? After all, the main reason the group exists is to serve your needs.
- Don’t worry about the genre. The science fiction writer’s group is the perfect place to present your nihilistic seventies romance. If anyone makes a fuss, tell them that they’re stifling you.
- Don’t waste a lot of time reading the other member’s work. Try to limit any review time to five minutes before the group meets. Make a show of marking up the paper with red lines or a highlighter. Just pick random passages to mark. There’s always something wrong with everything if you look hard enough.
- Keep an eye out for typos or spelling errors. Some writers think that a writers’ group should focus on character, plot, themes, and other esoteric things. Stick to the basics. If you find a spelling error or a grammar error, focus solely on that. Make sure the discussion lasts twenty minutes at least. By discussion I mean you prattling on, interrupting other people whenever they try to take part.
- Keep other criticisms as vague as possible. Look for statements that sound intelligent but mean nothing. String them together for as long as you can. Sample Rant: You need this story to feel more real. It doesn’t speak to me yet. When I read it, it feels like a story. It’s as if someone wrote it down and expected me to read it and come away with some sort of impression. I shouldn’t have to know so much about the characters in order to get them. They should be a part of the page. The whole thing should function holistically and organically.
- Don’t say anything positive. People only attend a writers’ group to hear criticism, especially your criticism. That’s how you bring value to the group. Take as much time as you need to make sure they know just how badly written their work is. If you’re lucky, you just might get to see the moment when a writer’s spirit is crushed. You can usually catch it in their eyes, so be alert.
- Bring your political agenda with you. Everyone should share their views, so share your views with everyone. If you’re reading a story about an African hunting expedition, for example, never miss the opportunity to advocate vegetarianism and declare that hunting is murder. Never move on. Never let it rest. Their story should be your story.
- Don’t ever accept criticism of your own work. When other people point out problems with your story, they’re really just being petty. They can see how much better your writing is than theirs, and the only way they can deal with it is by pointing out minor, imaginary flaws. Anyone who brings these things up clearly has an ax to grind. Argue every point. Make it personal.
- Leave in a huff. Tell the group they’re idiots and you’re never coming back. That will make your appearance the next time mean so much more to them.