Fantasy Literature: Writing Groups: On the Web or Face to Face?

So you want to be a fantasy writer? Good. The two most important rules of writing are: 1) write, and 2) read. Do lots and lots of both, as often as you can. The third rule is 3) join a writing group. Nowadays, anyone can be part of a writing group of some kind. The Internet has opened up whole new avenues of expression. There are a plethora of writing groups on the web; just do a search, and you’ll find lists of groups filled with fellow writers striving to improve their craft. Here’s one from the top of a google search: Critters.


The question, though, is which should you rely on? An on-line writing group? Or something off-line where you can meet face to face? There are advantages to either.


An on-line writing group opens you up to more potential criticism (this is actually an advantage). You can get lots of feedback from a great many knowledgeable people. In this day and age, every writer should be getting feedback from somebody; you don’t have an excuse to write alone, except maybe timidity (of course, that’s what I’ve been doing lately—so, I’m pretty much a raging hypocrite here). And if you want to be successful as a writer, you have to get over your timidity. Get your work out there and get some eyeballs on it. The more you do this, the more you accustom yourself to criticism, the better you will get at accepting and dealing with such criticism. Responding to constructive criticism is how a writer learns to grow. There is a disadvantage to an on-line writing group, though, or any writing group, for that matter. There is such a thing as too much criticism. Any piece of work can be criticized from some angle. And if you are striving to reach a point where your work can no longer be criticized because it is perfect… you will never get there. At some point, you have to decide the work is ready and you have to start submitting to editors.


On off-line writing group is a slightly different animal. There is a significant difference in receiving feedback face-to-face. There is more of an ebb and flow. You can respond to the criticism as its happening and you can learn to more effectively defend your work. For myself, I like the more personal touch of a face-to-face writing group (at the moment, I’m not in one, I’m getting all my criticism done via e-mail by my sister). But again, there are drawbacks. I get put off whenever the writing group gets too large. I prefer a group with maybe four or five other writers of comparable or superior skill; this gives you quality feedback from which you can learn a great deal. And not so much that you’ll be overwhelmed.


Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

About atoasttodragons

The author, Matthew D. Ryan, lives in northern New York on the shores of Lake Champlain, one of the largest lakes in the continental United States, famous for the Battle of Plattsburgh and the ever-elusive Lake Champlain Monster, a beastie more commonly referred to as Champy. Matthew has studied philosophy, mathematics, and computer science in the academic world. He has earned a black belt in martial arts.

19 responses to “Fantasy Literature: Writing Groups: On the Web or Face to Face?”

  1. Judy Goodwin says :

    Boy, you said it. I love Critter, but I also hate it because it almost gives me TOO much criticism.

  2. Megan Cashman says :

    I also prefer face-to-face groups because they are more personal and you do get to interact with other writers. Online groups are more accessible but you don’t get to know the people who are critiquing your work in order to understand their point of view. But any sort of critiquing is necessary and you get whatever is easy for you to access.

  3. Katinka says :

    Yeah I prefer the “personal touch” also. I only have one reader, a good friend who gives me feedback via email.

    • atoasttodragons says :

      As of this writing, I’m down to one as well. My sister. She does a great job, but I still wish I had a small local group.

      • Katinka says :

        I kind of wish I had one too, but there isn’t exactly a thriving literary community around here and not too many people I know writing sf&f. And I sort of have trust issues. LOL.

      • atoasttodragons says :

        The “Don’t steal my work!” trust issues? Yeah, that, at least, is one advantage to using a family member or really close friend. If I can’t trust my sister, who can I trust? Anyway, I hope you find someone to look at your work with an objective eye who you can trust.

  4. debyfredericks says :

    Plus, when you meet face to face, it’s often in a restaurant or cafe, so you can get yourself a snack and not feel guilty! Taking a break and changing scenery is good for writers, too.

  5. Paul Smith says :

    Thanks for the thoughts Matthew. I, like you don’t attend a writing group, and rely on email feedback from a couple of friends and one of my brothers. I’d love to join one, but have been a bit lazy about finding one. Perhaps its time I put some effort in – I did try when I first moved to Manchester, but the group I was interested in was in the process of disbanding.

    Time, me thinks, to give the subject some serious thought (and effort) again.

    • atoasttodragons says :

      Yeah, I actually wrote that post several months ago; it was sitting around collecting dust, before I published it. I feel like a hypocrite because I’m currently not in a group–yet, I stand by what I wrote. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’ve mostly just got my sister. Was in a really good group for a while, but they disbanded a ways back. I, too, should do some serious looking. Anyway, good luck!

  6. robertevert says :

    The nice thing about online groups is that you can fit it into your schedule. I couldn’t make face-to-face meetings, but the online groups are easier. However, I think people tend to be kinder face-to-face. Too many trolls lurking under internet bridges.

    • atoasttodragons says :

      I still prefer face-to-face. And there’s also a limit to how much feedback you can handle. With the Internet, you can get virtually unlimited feedback and never get around to getting published.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: