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6 Questions to ask a new writing group

So, you have come along to a writer’s circle for the first time, what do you ask a new writing group?

We’ve been talking a lot about writing groups and where to find Thanet’s writing groups. Now we are going to look at some questions you can ask a new group to find out quickly if you will feel at home there.

Am I required to bring work every time?

Different groups have different expectations of what it means to be a contributing member. Some require you to always bring something, others are more flexible.

For example, at the All Genre Feedback Night, you are encouraged to bring something but it is completely optional. Likewise, you would not be compelled to read every work people bring. Of course, if you opt out of everything, there is not much for you to do (other than enjoying a nice beer).

Other questions you might ask a new writing group could include:

  • How much work should I bring?
  • Do you have a word count or page count limit?
  • Will I need to bring more than one copy?

Do you have any topics or genres that are banned or restricted?

Some groups have an all topics welcome approach while others explicitly rule out adult, gory, or excessively violent narratives. Meanwhile, other groups prefer very specific genres or styles. It pays to ask what they are expecting.

Other questions you might ask a new writing group could include:

  • Do you focus on particular genres or are any allowed?
  • What is your group’s take on mature themes?
  • Do you have any out of bounds topics?

Do I have to read my work out or do I hand out copies for people to read?

Approaches vary considerably from one writing group to the next. However when it comes to sharing work there are only two options reading out loud or reading silently. While there are a few variations on those themes – it is worth asking about.

Follow up questions you might ask (for reading out loud):

  • Would it be okay to ask someone else to read out my work?
  • Is there someone at the group who would read my work for me?

Follow up questions you might ask (for reading silently):

  • How many copies do I need?
  • Do you have a prefered formatting (line spacing, font size, etc.)?

Would you be willing to introduce me to any current or past members I could talk to?

One of the best ways to find out about a group is to talk to current and ex-members. Unless the group has something to hide, they should have no problem connecting you with members past and present.

To get a good feel for what a group is like, try open ended questions which invite people to talk more generally – perhaps raising points you might not have otherwise asked about.

For example:

  • Can you tell me about your experiences with this group?
  • Is there anything I should know before I go along?
  • Who would you recommend the group to?
  • What sort of crowd do you get?
  • Is there anything else you can tell me about this group?

What ranges of skills and experience does your group have?

Ideally, you would want a writing group where you can grow as a writer. If you feel you are fairly seasoned as a writer and the group is mostly beginners, will you really learn all that much?

Other question you might ask a new writing group could include:

  • Have any of the group been published?
  • What would you say the average skill level is like?
  • How long have each of you been writing?

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