I just finished my first manuscript. I have a friend who wants me to join her writers group. She thinks this would be a good way to get some feedback and determine if I'm ready to submit. But I'm not sure if that's a good idea. I've heard horror stories about critique groups. What do you think? Is this a good idea or not?
The good news: A good writers group can be an invaluable resource. It can be a great incentive to write according to schedule. Sharing information, successes, rejections is a great support to the often lonely world of writing. The bad news: Good groups are hard to find.
A good group often has a mix of beginners and published authors. It may also help if the group is specific to your genre. You don't want to be in a group that is too nice to give you honest feedback, but you also don't want a group where flaming and destructive criticism are allowed or encouraged. Good feedback should point out what you did right, as well as places that need work. All feedback should be given with respect. You also want to avoid groups with overbearing personalities that dominate the group. Interaction should be a give and take among equals, not bossy know-it-alls condescending to share their advice and experience with the ignorant. (I’m not a bossy know-it-all. Well, not always.)
Go to the group. Read a few pages. Listen to the comments. Think about the feedback. It only takes one or two visits to determine if the group is a good fit for you or not.
And don't be offended if a group invites you to attend on a trial basis. There are a lot of new writers who start out with a bang, but then become hit-and-miss non-producers. This is a burden to the group. A screening process allows a healthy group to protect the integrity of the resources they offer. If you are rejected because you're not a good fit for them, you probably wouldn't have had a good experience with them anyway.