Writing Organizations – The Good -The Bad – The Ugly

Hello SErs! It’s Jan here today to talk about something I’m sure we’ve all experienced on our writing journey – Writing Organizations and groups.

Courtesy Alexas Fotos – Pixabay

Let’s face it. Writing is a solitary endeavor. We close our doors, isolate ourselves and block out the world while we create worlds. But that’s where the isolation ends. We are not an island unto ourselves when it comes to publishing our work and marketing it to the masses. We need a support system, or two. So, then comes the big question, ‘where do we go to find the support we need and that we can equally reciprocate?’

To find the answer, we often turn to the internet in search of writing organizations or groups that will be the perfect fit for us as individuals. But more often than not, our association with writing groups comes about through personal recommendations or testimonies.

There are pros and cons to joining with a group and I’m going to look at some of them here today.

I published my first book in 2013. I was as green as the proverbial gourd as far as knowing anything about the book business. So, I started searching. I signed up for writer’s conferences, took classes, and sat in on workshops trying to soak up any and everything I could.

In 2014 I joined my first writing organization. At the time I didn’t even know what the organization did, but I liked the idea of it. It made me feel like a real author. And, I needed association with other authors. It turns out this organization was specifically created to help authors learn how to market their work. And boy, did I need that! My association with this organization continues to this day, although the name has changed. It has not only been a satisfying experience, but over the years, I have met many other authors and developed some solid friendships while learning different and unique ways to market my work.

So, let’s look at some of the pros of belonging to writing groups.

Image courtesy Pixabay
  • Sharing Experiences
  • Networking opportunities
  • Sharing Resources
  • Developing Friendships
  • Finding critique partners
  • Supporting each other (cross-promotion)
  • Offers accountability
  • Mentoring (often online classes are offered)
  • Opportunity to promote your books
  • Enter contests
  • A way to keep up with the ever-changing publishing industry

Those are all great things! I’m sure there are more, but those are the basic good things that comes from an association with a writing group.

Now, let’s look at some of the cons.

Image courtesy Pixabay
  • Oftentimes there are restrictions put in place (for instance, I once belonged to a writing group that forbade the mention of the Goodreads platform)
  • $$ – It can be expensive (membership fees and fees to participate in various events)
  • Time-suck (you can find yourself doing more for the organization than for yourself)
  • Personality Clashes or Bullying (blatant ugliness)
  • Internal Drama
  • Commitment Conflicts
  • Jealousy (more of the ugly)

As you can see, the Pros column is much longer than the Cons column.

So, in conclusion, authors can often benefit greatly from joining writing organizations or groups. The way you decide what group to join is completely up to you. For me, I look for compatibility, not only with other members but with the core values of the group. Positive attitudes and no bullying are musts for me! And those factors alone are enough to influence my decision to have an affiliation with or walk away from, a writing group or organization.

I also know that an organization is subject to change, and as a member, you have to be willing to change with it or disassociate yourself from it.

This writing journey is not an easy walk, but it is the most rewarding endeavor I have undertaken. Having the opportunity to channel creativity is invaluable to me and enriches my life on every level.

I currently belong to five different writer organizations or groups, and I proudly list them on my website.

What about you? Can you add anything to the pros or cons columns? What has been your experience with writing groups?

90 thoughts on “Writing Organizations – The Good -The Bad – The Ugly

  1. Pingback: Story Empire Weekly Round Up @StoryEmpire @JanSikes3 @JoanHallWrites @MaeClair1 #WritingCommunity | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

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  3. HI Jan, when I first started writing and publishing, I also didn’t know anything at all. I was fortunate enough to create a WP blog and discover Sally Cronin and Sue Vincent within the first few weeks. After discover them, and realising with a shock than some people post multiple times in a day, I just followed their example and did exactly as they did. That helped me terrifically. I met lots and lots of other bloggers through these to ladies and I joined a writing group with a blogging friend of mine. We have a Zoom meeting every 2 weeks and I love those meetings. We have recently become Beta readers for each others work too. I also belong to a bigger International writing and reading group, but these are the only two. I belong to two readings clubs, one of which is for classic reads and I am loving that one. For the first time ever I feel remotely normal about my reading choices. I have Dante’s The Divine Comedy coming up on my reading list right after Gone with the Wind. I also read a lot of Indie books by people I know. I know I went of topic, but never mind.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lol, Robbie. You are never off topic when you are talking about reading and books! 🙂 I love that you are reading the classics. We can learn so much from the masters. How amazing that you were able to connect with Sally and Sue at the beginning of your writing journey – both amazing women. Blogging multiple times per day can be a little daunting for me. In fact, I simply can’t do it. My hat is off to Sally for all that she does. But what great mentors you had. Thank you SO much for stopping by and leaving a comment today. Your journey has been amazing!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t joined many writing organizations, Jan. And the ones I’ve joined haven’t worked for me for a variety of reasons. I often feel overwhelmed when I get stretched too thin. That said, I’ve loved critique groups and have gotten a lot out of them. This post did make me think I should look around for something locally. A great discussion of the pros and cons. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Finding a group that fits your needs can be a chore, but when you find the right one, it is a two-way street. You can give and receive. It can’t hurt to check out local groups. I don’t know how large your city is, but here in the Dallas area, the amount of writer groups is overwhelming. 🙂 And almost all of them meet in the evenings and that’s when I work, so I haven’t plugged into any of them. Good luck with your search, and thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, Jan, you obviously hit a nerve with this thoughtful post! I belong to several organizations, but, I agree with many of the comments there that it can take away from your writing time and can dominate your days. I am so glad to have met you, Jan, and a number of the folks commenting here, and that was through a club, fo which I still belong. Now I am following SE and really enjoy the supportive and easygoing feel. I’m also in a small local group and we are still Zooming, which is fun. So, it is a “mixed bag,” Writing is tough and we need support and to meet other writers, but we still need time to write. And meanness is just unforgivable, in my opinion.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Maura Beth! Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment today. You are so right in that we do need support and to connect with other writers, but still have time to write. It’s a balancing act for sure. I have learned SO much from every organization I have been a part of and met so many wonderful people. As I said in my post, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Thank you for following Story Empire, and thank you for your awesome support! Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi, sound advice. I found it takes some research to find the right group, especially critique groups. Also, great that you noted the time suck ratio, it’s a balance of what the group can offer as well as what you bring to the group. I belong to a few groups focused on different aspects of the writing experience and this is key, don’t be afraid to be a member of different groups and vary the pay for service groups and the free groups.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for adding your thoughts and experiences to this subject, Ann. I think balance is a keyword with any group interaction. If you are giving more than you are receiving, it might be time to reevaluate. Good point about free groups and pay for service groups. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. I enjoyed your post, Jan, and agree with you on many points of the pros and cons.

    I belong to several writing organizations. I enjoy more of the two local groups because they’re more personal. I joined SCBWI just before Covid started. Even though the local chapter is not too far from where I live, we haven’t met in person. We have zoom meetings once a month. SCBWI is a non-profit organization so the membership fee is reasonable. A second group is a small group of about a dozen people who meet on zoom during Covid. The coordinators are very positive and encourage members to be respectful. The group has an option to meet in person when the restrictions are lifted, but we voted to continue with zoom because we finetuned our feedback format and it seems to work better than we did when we met in person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Miriam. Thank you for your feedback. I have found that non-profit organizations do have reasonable membership fees, and that’s a great point to bring out when looking at joining. How awesome that your SCBWI group has zoom meetings monthly. It seems to be the future of most meetings. It sounds like the small group you are a part of is uplifting and respectful to the members. That is super important to me! I truly appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment today.

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  8. The chance to network is a huge benefit. Others are often aware of more opportunities that we may not know about. I belong to SCBWI and my local children’s author festival committee.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The chance to network is invaluable, Pete! Sharing our knowledge and expertise is helpful all the way around. We do not all know the same things. 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by and chiming in!! I appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I belong to two large writing organizations (MWA and ITW) but don’t take advantage of all the benefits they offer. It’s so hard to find the time to explore them the way they should be explored, but I keep promising myself I’ll get around to it.

    I’ve belonged to smaller groups as well, some good, some that left a sour taste in my mouth. I do enjoy being a member of writing groups, it’s just a matter of finding the right “fit.” I have made many good friends through online group memberships and am so thankful for that.

    I loved your list of pros and cons, Jan. So well done, and so true!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you touched on a very big obstacle to fully taking advantage of group memberships and that is time. It is hard to find the time to explore all that each group has to offer. I hope that when you do get to the point of exploring you find some awesome resources! Finding the right fit is ultra important, and having the flexibility to either change with a group or walk away is equally important. I’m so happy you enjoyed the post and thank you so much for your comment, Mae! Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Before Covid, our new local SCBWI chapter was just finding its stride, but we haven’t met in over a year now. Our state just lifted all restrictions, so I’m hoping we’ll be meeting again soon. Writing groups can be an excellent resource. Great post, Jan!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great article, Jan. I am only a member of Story Empire these days, and I helped found it. I’ve joined various groups, but eventually wound up feeling left out. I’m not opposed to other groups, but the speculative field is full of specialization. I’d have to join a dozen to cover all the things I’m interested in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You echo what a few others have said about some groups being cliquish. When you are left on the outside looking in, there is nothing of benefit to be gained. I laughed out loud at your last sentence. You are right though. You write in a very specialized field, and you should pat yourself on the back for the amazing job you do! Thank you for leaving a comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi, Jan. You’ve made some excellent points in your article and I hope you don’t mind my sharing it in a website for a writer’s group I belong to. I designed and maintain the website and believe it’s important for people to make up their own minds about the groups they join. It’s like a reblog, but not from my personal blog. We’re a small group, all about supporting each other, and I have no idea what anyone would have against Goodreads. To each, his own, I guess. I choose groups that offer different ways to support, uplift, and educate others, and my most valuable takeaways from each are the relationships. Here’s the link to the reblog: https://www.seaquillwriters.com/project/writing-organizations-the-good-the-bad-the-ugly/. Hope that’s okay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awwww, thank you for the reblog, Patty! Of course, it’s okay. I’m honored. I love what you said about the way you choose groups to participate in. Supporting, uplifting, sharing our knowledge and resources is a perfect platform. Thank you so much for stopping by and for sharing! Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. My first online writing group taught me a lot. I learned how to critique (building up karma points so I could post my own writing) and I built up confidence to put my own posts out there. I also learned to evaluate the critiques I received. In particular, I learned to appreciate honest reviews (even if I didn’t wholly agree with them) and recognise those that had been posted merely to fulfill the requirements for posting one’s own work.
    After a while, I did begin to feel that it could be something of a mutual appreciation society.
    Joining a local writing group can also become a mutual appreciation society, especially if none of us is particularly experienced. But this has also been a learning curve, increasing my confidence and leading me to learn how to edit and format our work into published anthologies. Even – eventually – to publish my own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is awesome, Cathy! I applaud you for taking the leap to join an online group and building your confidence! You are right in that any group can become a mutual admiration society, and that’s great if it’s sincere. I think each group we participate in will be a learning experience for us. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi,
    An interesting article that can help writers choose the organisations that they need. Writing organisations are important. I am a member of three and those three keeps me busy. The IWSG, I have been with the longest. Over ten years and I love the people there. Hat off to you. I don’t think I could handle five organisations.
    Wishing you lovely week.
    Shalom aleichem

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you SO much for your comment, Pat. I totally agree that writing organizations are important to our growth. I am not familiar with IWSG, but several have mentioned it. I will have to check it out. Take care and again, thank you for your input! Hugs!

      Like

  15. Love your post, Jan. One thing I’ve learned for sure is that these organizations are always changing. And they should be fluid in order to grow. You have to change with the times and/or to continue being useful. I’ve been a member of Romance Writers of America for 30 years now and have seen a lot. Rampant ugliness and jealousy almost took down the organization and we’re in the midst of rebuilding. One thing that happened with RWA is that it got too large. At the height it had over 12,000 members worldwide. I enjoy the smaller groups I’m in best–Texas High Plains Writers and the Caprock Writers’ and Illustrator’s Alliance. But all that aside, I’ve learned so much about writing from these organizations and don’t think I’d be where I am today if not for them. One thing about it. If you join and don’t like it, you can always leave the group.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make a great point, sister. If you join an organization that doesn’t help you, it is time to walk away. 30 years is a long time to be a member of an organization! Wow! And you have certainly seen a lot of changes over the years. Ugliness and jealousy will ruin any organization! I think we all have great things we can take away from the groups we’ve been a part of. I have certainly learned a LOT! And I continue to learn. Thank you for coming over to Story Empire and leaving a comment today! Love you!

      Like

  16. Great post, Jan 🙂 I am not a club joiner by nature, but have and do belong to a couple writing organizations now, although not actively involved. I’m watching to see how they run before I take that next step. For the ones I’ve been active in, my take away from joining is I’ve met some wonderful people and learned a lot from them, but the cost and certain toxic personalities made it impossible to stay in some organizations. You have to be careful in whatever you join because there are those who will take advantage of others. I am much more cautious now as I go forward, but still think the writing community as a whole is amazing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We all seem to share the same sentiments, Denise, about the wonderful friendships we’ve found through participating in writing organizations. I think your approach to the organizations you are involved in is perfect. Watch the actions, and follow your intuition. It will never lead you wrong! Thank you for chiming in!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m grateful for the invaluable help I get from blogs like this one. I have a wariness when it comes to anything with a committee and I’m aware of groups that are used by the founders to push their own work without giving much in return. I’m happy to dip into these blogs and learn as I go along from people who freely share their wisdom and advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This is great information! I’ve wanted to join a writer’s group to use as a sounding board for ideas, plot structure, etc. My worry is if we’re all at the same level of writing we won’t get the help to move forward in our writing journey. Cost is always a consideration. Our community is great and supportive for marketing and that’s a real plus. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • You echo what someone else posted earlier, Colleen, about being with people who are on your same level. But keep in mind that we all are always growing if we are open and sharing. It’s always good to bring something new to the table. Thank you for stopping by and I agree that being part of a community is a big plus for support and marketing! Thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Jan. The reason I said that is because I received some bad advice in the past. I didn’t know any better and listened to the advice. Of course, I paid for the mistake. It’s not so much about being on the same level as it is being with “successful” authors who you can trust. You know, that understand how to write, plot, and outline. Does that make better sense?

        Liked by 1 person

  19. I stink at marketing (except in person in my area, where I have built a pretty good local readership) and have never joined a “marketing” group, though my tenure here at Story Empire, which I enjoyed completely, certainly was very helpful in that regard, as well as being a lot of fun. And I still do my best to remain somewhat connected to you guys, via sharing, at least. But I also like the idea of belonging to a larger group, if I could hit on one that works for me. (I’m not by nature a “club” kinda person, but I’m willing to learn.) Gonna check out the ones you share on your blog, Jan, and I appreciate your input. It was a good reminder that there are many ways to market, and I should be taking a closer look at more of them, to see what I might be able to handle. Thanks for a great post to start this week off right! 🙂 Sharing for sure! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi, Marcia! Thank you for stopping by. I think we all pretty much stink at marketing. I love in-person book signings, but COVID certainly changed those for us. I am going to be doing a series on marketing here on SE soon and maybe you’ll find some helpful tips from them. One thing to keep in mind when looking at organizations is the time involved to really get anything out of it plus the expense. Both time and money are a commodity. I appreciate your comment and your awesome support!! Have a great day! Hugs!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Things have opened up a bit for us in Florida, and I’ve been giving my nature talks since January, following safety precautions, of course. I give two a month at two different venues, and we have just had our first mask-free talks. SO great to see everyone’s smiling faces again. We’re still spacing chairs apart, and I’m not ready to start hugging, but it’s been a life-saver for me to be able to get out once more.

        I’ll be following your series closely, and yep, I’ll be thinking Time AND Money when looking at different groups. I also signed up to follow your blog, though it didn’t want to accept my email at first. But I THINK it finally did. Thanks for sharing this info, and I look forward to finding a group that will work for me.

        Liked by 2 people

  20. I joined a few writers organizations early in my writing, but after a while, I didn’t get much out of them, so I finally dropped out. I haven’t tried them again but someday I probably should.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think you echo a lot of the same sentiment we are seeing here in the comments. We joined early in our writing careers and either we grow out of them, or they are not helping us along. If you do look at joining other writing groups in the future, do your homework and really look at what they represent. Thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I have joined a few organizations and have found that most of them provide a platform but that’s about it. Some are just about self-promotion, which falls on deaf ears. I also find that I get more out of those where I spend more time and effort, but you are right when you say that they can suck a lot of time from you, Jan. I’m still learning how to balance my time supporting other authors versus time for me to work on my own writing. What I love most about writing organizations is the friendships I’ve created, even with people who have left the organizations. I love keeping in touch with them, supporting their endeavors (and having them support mine), and being able to assist one another on our current WIPs.

    I read a few of the posts above where the SE writers mentioned that they aren’t really part of a writing organization at the moment, but I would beg to differ. I believe you all have created your own writing organization right here at Story Empire. Granted, it’s a small one, but it seems to have almost all the pros with almost none of the cons. Just a thought. 😉 Great post, Jan! 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hi, Yvette. I totally agree with you, in that the greatest benefit from any group association, for me, has come from the deep and genuine friendships I have made. The pros definitely outweigh the cons. I also love keeping in touch with those I have developed relationships with, whether inside or outside of an organized group setting. I think we tend to view SE as a small support group. It is not a group you pay a membership fee and join. It is by invitation, with mutual respect and admiration for each other’s work. I can also attest to the fact that the SE’ers are like-minded and amazing people. Thank you for stopping by, and I am SO thankful that our paths crossed through a writing organization! You have enhanced my life, not only with your stories but with your genuine and honest spirit! Hugs!

      Liked by 3 people

  22. Great post, Jan! I joined a writers group early on, but it wasn’t for me. New writers shouldn’t teach other new writers. If I were to do it again, I’d join MWA’s guppy and/or ITW’s mentor program. At least then you’d be getting advice from professional writers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You make another great point, Sue. It’s one thing for new writers to lean on each other, but advice from seasoned writers adds an entirely different dimension to any group association. Thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 2 people

  23. Pingback: I am at @StoryEmpire today! What are your thoughts about Writing Organizations? – Writing and Music

  24. Excellent post, Jan. I think your pro and con analysis is great. Any author who gets into a writing group and then feels as if the group exists not for the benefit of the author but only for the benefit of a few should leave. I have been part of a group where an undercurrent of self-interest dynamics made it impossible to remain. My advice to any author is to check out the objectives of a group before making a commitment to join.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. I’ve joined mid-sized groups and gotten burned. Considered joining large groups but feared getting lost in them, considered them cost prohibitive, or I simply didn’t meet their membership requirements. Small groups used to work for me when I was first starting out, but I’ve since moved past what they can offer.

    I would never suggest someone NOT join a group, particularly if they are getting something rewarding from it. But at present, they aren’t for me.

    Great post, Jan.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your comment, Staci. I agree with your statement about getting lost in large groups and sometimes they can cost a lot. With large groups, you are often simply a number and membership fee. I appreciate you weighing in with your thoughts. Have a great day!

      Liked by 2 people

  26. I’m currently not a member of any writing organization (probably should be). Like others who commented, I’ve been burned in the past. But there are some great ones out there as well. Unfortunately, some are designed for self-promotion and they do little to help others.

    Staci and I “met” through an online writing organization several years ago. I still have writer friends that I became acquainted with at that time.

    I can’t believe anyone would forbid the mention of Goodreads! Great post, Jan.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for your comment, Joan. I think we’ve all been burned in the past but from experience, I can say when you find a legitimate group, the rewards can be awesome. And you hit on another important aspect of joining groups and that is the friendships. I have author and reader friends around the globe and wouldn’t have met them if I hadn’t taken a chance on some writing groups. Have a fantastic day!

      Liked by 2 people

    • I totally understand, Jill. I get emails from two writing organizations almost daily with new classes and workshops being offered. And I have signed up and paid for classes, in the past, then not been able to attend. Thankfully, they always provide a recording. 🙂 But you touched on another aspect of getting involved with groups and that is an investment of your time. Thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 3 people

  27. Pingback: Writing Organizations – The Good -The Bad – The Ugly | Legends of Windemere

  28. Many years ago, I joined the Romantic Novelists Association. I “did my bit”, though they promised to review each others books and mine – my first & only at the time – was ignored. If you don’t recognise the RNA, it’s probably because they are UK based. I regarded that as a “con”, and it was a con, but not in the good sense Jan means. I spent a lot, and travelled a long way, to attend a conference, and that’s when I found out how clicky the organisation was. Twenty or so people spent most of their time in the bar. If you wanted to hear their “pearls of wisdom” not included in a miserly few sessions, you joined them and paid for their drinks.I stayed the three days, hoping… but no drinks bought, no welcome. I resigned.

    I was fortunate, much later, to find a group on Facebook where less than 200 members are always ready to help with anything, from revealing their own marketing strategies to answering basic, and complicated, questions. Beta readers volunteer… including me for others… a professional cover designer willingly helps with tips for people designing their own. They don’t promise reviews, and we never swap, but I can rely on having a few when I launch a new book.

    Most of all, Jan, I’d love to know which are the groups you, and others, would recommend..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Sarah. The scenario you described is a familiar one with many of the larger groups. They have their cliques and until you either work or worm your way in, you are an outsider. How awesome to find the Facebook group where you can get the support you deserve! I am a member of the Paranormal Romance Guild, Romance Writers of America, The Writer’s League of Texas, and Authors Marketing Int’l. The Authors Marketing Int’l organization started out at the Texas Association of Authors and is the first organization I ever joined. I am still a member and still see benefits from keeping my membership active. It is rare to find a group that you can stay and grow with for that many years. I’ve been a member for seven years.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Unfortunately, since leaping into the writing world about 8 years ago, I’ve joined and, ultimately, left many clubs and organisations. I’ve had my fingers burnt every time. And that’s not mentioning those folks who set themselves up as experts when all the evidence says they are anything but. I wrote a post a while back, asking ‘who gate keeps the gate keepers?’, and I feel this question is more pertinent now than ever.

    Great post and points, Jan. I’m not currently a member of any groups or clubs. However, I find the writing community a wonderful support and inspiration and a place where we can all share with and help each other without paying high fees or suffering bullying and restrictions. So, HUGE thanks to all you wonderful and supportive writers out there 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • I also feel your question ‘who gate keeps the gate keepers’ is more relevant than ever. There are SO many organizations, clubs, and groups yelling about how they can help you get readers and reviews for your books when all they wind up doing is lining their pockets with your membership fees. It definitely pays to do your homework! Thank you so much for weighing in and I agree with you! A HUGE Thanks to all of the wonderful and supportive writers and readers across the globe!!

      Liked by 1 person

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