I was just thinking today how fortunate I am to be in a really, really great writing group. Though it's small for what you might term a "group," what we lack in quantity, I feel we make up for in quality.
Here are a few characteristics that I think are vital to a great writing group---and I'm incredibly best that my group has all of them:
--Good mix of encouragement/ critique.
I think it goes without saying that no one would be in a writing group unless he/she wanted honest feedback. Of course, you don't want honest feedback to end up as an ego pissing contest. When you have a good group dedicated to the art of writing and what works on the page--regardless of "like or dislike," you have something that will help you grow as a writer and minimize drama.
---Healthy mix of social/ work
Remember "all work and no play?" Let's face it, groups are going to talk about the latest movie, what's going on in life, etc. and I think that is important fro group bonding, but there has to be the "work time" as well.
---Not just talking ABOUT writing but actually WRITING
I know so many people who can wax poetic about other writers, publishing trends, etc. but if the group spends too much time on this and not actually WRITING something, then the group is an art appreciation group, not a writing group.
--Everyone in the group should present something to be read.
Otherwise, it's just not fair to have some people on the "chopping block" and others not. Writing is vulnerable, if done correctly.
--People in your group have to know how to write.
To be frank, there are some folks who I really don't CARE what they think about my writing. There are others---who are talented and dedicated--whose feedback I value. I'm not saying anyone in the group is perfect, I'm just saying they don't violate any of the Snarky Muses' rules for crappy endings (see earlier post)
And of course, if there is a mutual respect and admiration, that helps even more.
If you have all these things and you're lucky, you have a great writing group.
But if you're blessed, you have a great writing group AND a great group of friends.
[ shout out to writing group member B who totally rocks.]