Let's define writing group first, shall we? There's probably one online, but I'm going to go with my own hot off the keyboard - a group of people who enjoy writing for pleasure or profit, and meet to exchange ideas, network and offer mutual support. You may or may not agree with that definition, but this is my post.
There are several different types of writing group:
The mutual back-scratching group. Here everybody will love your work, darling. They will listen in rapt silence (while they're probably thinking of what to buy for tea tomorrow) and tell you how wonderful you are and how perfect your prose is. Utterly useless. Run away. If your work was that perfect, you'd be JK Rowling by now, wouldn't you?
The rottweiler group. Here they'll lay into your reading like a group of rabid dogs and rip it to shreds. Nothing pleases these people and they're generally so unsure of their own abilities they'll do anything to bring you down to their level. Again - run away! And have faith in yourself. You know when you've written good stuff. Trust me, you do.
The sit-com group. There'll be a man in mirrored shades who writes celebrity exposés. The woman in a barbour jacket and green wellies who wants to be the next Jilly Cooper. The young lad who's really only there to see if there are any fit birds who write about sex... A great group for material, but not so good for support.
The ramblers. These people like to talk a lot about how the group runs. Who should take the money, how long everybody should read for. Or who gossip for two hours - and totally forget the purpose of the meeting is the writing. We all need administrators but keep it simple, guys!
The group that works! A group that has rules and structure, but that doesn't take up too much time. Where everybody gets a chance to shine, read their work out and receive helpful constructive comments. Where it doesn't matter if you're aiming for publication or just enjoying the words for themselves. And nobody is more important than anybody else.
I've seen all of the above. Some have worked at different times in my life. I'm still a member now of a great group that meets very infrequently, but it's more about our shared history and long friendships than anything really productive. Oh, and food of course. Always the food.
But six months ago I joined a local group that meets once a month. And it's fun! They're a great group of people - men and women, all ages, all stages and types of writing. And everybody listens and everybody contributes. And it's so useful. I come away motivated - by the ten minute compulsory writing exercises, if nothing else. I'm lazy and it does me good to be forced to produce something right then and there. But there's never any pressure to read it out if it's not right, or the brain refuses to play. I'm not a poet but I'm enjoying listening to other peoples' poetry, and it's lovely to share my own triumphs and rejections with people who understand what I'm talking about.
So thanks Vale Royal Writers Group. I'm proud to be a member!