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I can only share what has worked for me and my personal opinions. Please take the following in that spirit. I am aware that one writer’s red flag is another writer’ NBD (‘no big deal’).

5. Lack of group structure and leadership
It doesn’t matter to me who is ‘in charge,’ but someone should be. When it comes to writing groups, I dig benevolent dictatorships.

4. Poor self-management
We’re writers, we want to be heard and seen. But your special snowflake ass is not somehow more worthy of airtime than the ass of any other schlub at the table (me included). For example, if you are meant to have 15 minutes for reading aloud + group discussion, do your best to stay within that. That means you should not bring 20K words to read. FYI, most people can read about 800-1200 words in about 8 minutes, which will leave 7 minutes for group discussion. Use a timer.

3. Trying to get not-writing needs met
Some people need to be right. Other people need to be the one who knows. Some need to claim the moral high ground. All of these things are a pain in the ass in writer’s groups. Try not to bring these needs to your writer’s group. Plenty of other places to be a perfectionistic, know-it-all, self-righteous Drama Llama. Like Starbucks. Go there, get revved up on caffeine, and annoy the people there. Go home and bother your family and friends. Just keep it out of the writers’ group. If we all make an effort to be congenial, professional, and helpful at our writing groups, we’ll enjoy them more.

2. No skill at constructive criticism
If you are negative, snide, or otherwise mean and disrespectful of other writers’ work, you drag the whole group down. This is a good read on how to do critiques properly.

1. Not prepared
Some writing groups distribute paper copies to everyone present so that comments can be written on the pages as the writer reads aloud. If that’s the case, bring enough copies on paper so everyone can read along with you and write their comments. You’ll get deeper feedback and won’t have to rely on your memory of what was said during the discussion.

Other writing groups distribute the work before the meeting and participants read it and prepare their critique before hand. If that’s the case with your group, do your homework!

What about you? Any obvious writing group red flags that you can see?

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