Choosing a writing group that will help you as a working writer can be a challenge. While some groups, such as your local writer’s guild, may appear to be beneficial at first glance, they may not ultimately deliver what you really need. Here are a few good questions to ask, before joining the latest writing group on your block.

Will This Group Help Me With My Writing?

Obviously, one of the most helpful aspects of any writing group is providing support and feedback on your writing. To this end, most groups offer writing workshops or critique sessions to members, usually at a free or discounted rate.

Some groups may focus more on the creative lifestyle than the business end of things, however, so it’s important to find out what kinds of workshops the group usually runs before you sign up. Ask if there’s a calendar of upcoming events that you can browse through, or get on the group’s mailing list to find out more about both the classes and their instructors.

Will This Group Help Me Meet Other Writers?

Another important point to consider when thinking about joining a writing group is the opportunity to network with other writers. Although writing is a solitary activity, most writers enjoy spending time with other writers-particularly in a more casual social setting. See if the group you’re pondering holds regular meet-ups, mixers or happy hour events where you can get to know the rest of the members over coffee or drinks.

Even if the group doesn’t officially host these types of events, they may offer other networking opportunities at events like literary conferences. If all else fails, see if you can befriend someone from one of the group’s workshops or classes and invite him or her out for a drink afterward to connect with another writer one-on-one. After all, why join a group if you don’t intend to participate?

Will This Group Provide Mentoring Opportunities?

Along with meeting other writers for social reasons, writing groups can also provide great opportunities to pair up with a mentor. Ask if the group you’re interested in has any programs that will match you up with an older, wiser writer in your genre who can offer you practical and personal advice. Or build your own mentorship by talking to members of the group and approaching writers that match your goals and interests and asking if they’d be able to meet up once every few weeks to talk shop.

How Much Does It Cost?

Finally, don’t forget to take the monetary angle into account. While this may be the most important determining factor for joining your first writing group (for example, I first joined the Freelancers Union specifically because membership was free), you should also make sure you feel like you’re going to get your money’s worth when you join.

Check out the member perks and benefits to see what you’ll get when you sign up, and decide whether those jive with the cost of entry.

Another thing to consider is that while a group may attract a larger number of total members because there’s a lower membership fee, you may actually benefit more from joining a more exclusive group that costs more to join. The Writers Guild, for instance, costs a whopping $2,500, but it also offers a lot more to its screenwriter members than the local chapter of a more general writing group does.

Now it’s your turn: what writing groups do you belong to, and why?

Laura Roberts writes about sex, travel and ninjas – though not necessarily in that order. She’s also a member of several writing groups, including San Diego Writers Ink, the Freelancers Union, and her own online writing salon, Black Heart Magazine. To read more of her work or find out more about joining a writers group that fits your needs, check out her blog at http://www.Buttontapper.com

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