Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Google Group

In the past month or so many of the writers I know have been on the hunt for beta readers. Many of them read for me or I read for them.

I'm thinking of creating a private Google Group to make this exchange of work an easier thing. But it will need rules and limits on what can happen there and who can join.

To begin with (and for the foreseeable future), it will be by invitation only. If you read this blog but do not receive an invite, please don't be offended. Being another person's beta reader requires an amount of trust to have been built up between the two people involved. An occasional comment, a small similarity in likes and dislikes, does not great trust build. Work with the writers who haunt this blog, comment on their blogs (and this one), prove yourself to be a competent writer by getting pieces published - build yourself up, do some networking.

This group will be exclusive. It will begin with five members and move forward from there.

It will be informal. I suggest members will be able to throw up a file for others to view and comment on with a week or two deadline attached. Obviously larger works will require negotiation. Participation will be loosely monitored. If one member is taking advantage of the others by having his/her work commented on, but not reciprocating, they will be politely cut off at the knees - but I don't expect this to be an issue because I'll only be inviting those I trust to do the right thing. And we won't be throwing 5 pieces up to begin with and expecting everyone to comment within a week - and then do it all again the following week. Informal would mean relaxed and conducive to creativity and freedom. This is to be a tool to help the process, not become a burden.

I'll be looking for a core group of 5 members. Preferably a mix of males and females who will act as the central committee. Once selected, they will be responsible for suggesting and voting on further invitations being sent out to new members. This will not be a democracy however. In the end, I'll have final veto so if you're not happy - blame me.

I'm hoping it will have an email list attached so we can easily contact each other. God knows what else. I'll be learning this as I go.

So without jumping up and down with your hand raised asking if you can join, what do you think? No point in asking for membership as I'll be sending out emails to those who I want on the first core group this evening (I don't have the email addresses with me at work).

The group will be called "EmergingWriters"


  1. Sounds like a good idea. I was involved in one a few years back, and I got a lot out of it. My writing improved a fair bit. Though it broke up because some people weren't that dedicated.

  2. I was a member of an online (non-invite) crit group many years ago but didn't get a lot out of it, mostly because my writing wasn't up to par then and I wasn't that dedicated. In 2007 I was invited to a local group, and my writing not only improved in GIANT HUMONGOUS BOUNDS but even after I moved away and couldn't attend anymore (because driving nine hours one way every two weeks was a bit beyond me), my writing has continued to improve as a direct result of what I learned as a part of that group. So yeah, I think your idea is a good one. I'd suggest finding people who share the same interests in genre, incidentally. We limited our group to speculative fiction, but I had trouble critiquing military SF, for instance, because I hadn't read much of it before and didn't know what was fresh and what had been done to death; other members had trouble with my silly fantasy stories for the same reason.

    Critting other people's stories is a great way to improve one's own writing, too.

  3. The group sounds like a great idea, BT. I was in a group 14 years ago. We met bi-weekly and brought in our work for critique. I left it because I felt guilty about not contributing enough (and my son was an infant and I didn't have the time to dedicate to writing).

    The past couple of years I attended night school classes in creative writing at the Uni. The homework assignments are a good way of "forced writing" to keep you at it. Writer's groups can also be a good method of forced writing. As long as those involved don't feel pressured to produce.

    I tried to form a group with a couple of my classmates. Conflicting work schedules and family commitments worked against us, though, and it never took off. Perhaps your on-line group is a better way to contribute stories for critique. Just send to the e-mail list and wait for feed back.

    I wish you the best with this project and hope that it's beneficial to those involved.


  4. I've been involved with a couple now, and helped setup the current one being used by AHWA. Since my last group action, I've kind of gathered a few people who I trust, and a few who I trust enough, to look at my work and whose opinion I value.

    It's always been a good and bad type of environment. Some of the things and people were very good, others, not so much.

    So I'm keen to get a small group of people together who have very similar interests and are at similar junctions in their writing journey. The genre thing isn't such a big thing, as I'd be looking to limit it to dark fiction.

    The key is gathering the right mix of talented individuals who can help others and gain enough in return.

  5. I belong to a group very much like the one you propose. We all know each other and have for some time, and then we're allowed to invite friends who fit the bill.

    Small and trusted is definitely an effective way to build a group and improve writing for all involved, and cut out the frustration you get in the random group, in my experience. Always a worthwhile endeavor.

  6. I think it sounds like a great idea. And the trust thing is so very important as we're all so precious about our work.