One of the things that I have learned a writer needs is the support and assistance from a writing critique group. This is not a support group, per say, but a group that gathers regularly to review and suggest edits to each other's projects. Tonight my writing group is meeting in a fire station. I've met in church basements, libraries, over coffee at a coffee shop, at a friend's house, at Cici's over potato pancakes (I miss you, Carol!)...it doesn't matter where, but a chance to get together with people working in the same genre is extremely helpful.
I suggest to new writers (and oldies too) that you meet face-to-face with a group. Chances are that there will be at least a few people in your neighborhood who would like to meet and discuss writing. Only as a very last resort would I suggest an online group unless you already are acquainted with the other writers.
The reason why I suggest face-to-face meetings is because
1) writing can be lonely and we can get lazy. If writers have a designated time to meet (weekly or monthly or whatever), then it helps not only create a social gathering, but also a deadline. That has really helped me get projects done.
2) It is easy to be critical of another person's writing when you cannot talk with that person and interact with him or her personally. But the truth is that for many people, their writing is tied very closely to their egos. It's easy to offend someone when you are critiquing their work, and it is important to be able to explain why you are reacting to a certain passage or word or sentence or whatever.
Some tips for writing groups:
- If possible, read the work before the session. Most people cannot react immediately to a work of fiction or non-fiction with super-helpful suggestions without having a little time to consider it. Give each other time to think through responses.
- Meet at regular intervals and don't skip sessions. Weekly, monthly, whatever works, but make it regular and don't change from the schedule.
- If possible, meet somewhere that is free (a location that doesn't require a rental fee). Libraries, fire stations, community buildings, etc. are all good options.
- Celebrate publications and commiserate with each other over rejections. Support each other's book signings. Introduce each other to editors, agents, etc.