Saturday, 26 August 2017

The Seven Deadly Sins of Writers' Groups

Writers' groups. Love them or hate them, nearly every independent writer belongs to at least one, and usually a lot more than one. And not just the indies, either - even Brandon Sanderson is in a writers' group, although I don't think his one is a Facebook group.

There's a lot to be said for joining a writers' group. A number of benefits can accrue from membership in these things. Just hanging out with other people who are going through the same things you're going through can be reassuring, and then there are often opportunities to learn new techniques, whether of writing or marketing, get some help with your query letter, and so on. And then there are the people you meet. I could write the whole post about that, but today I'm talking about sins, so I'll just say that I've made some wonderful friends in writers' groups, and also discovered some utterly brilliant writers whose work has given me many hours of reading pleasure.

So a writers' group can be very beneficial to you, providing it's a decent group, and you behave yourself properly. If you don't play nice, the other kids aren't going to want to play with you, and your posts and comments are likely to be ignored, and you may even be blocked by a lot of people. 

Here, therefore, I've listed the most annoying behaviours I see in writers' groups, so that you may, if you wish, avoid them. Just for fun, I've categorised them according to the real seven deadly sins, which as I'm sure you know are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.


Two behaviours of which I see a lot fall under the category of pride, and they're both irritating AF. Both are forms of bragging, hence the classification. Now a certain amount of bragging is perfectly acceptable in a group. Of course you want to tell everyone when Random House have picked up your book, or when you've sold a million copies, or even when you get your first short story accepted for a magazine or anthology. That's respectable bragging, and it has its benefits for others; these success stories give us all hope when we're despondent about our own careers.

There is, however, pointless bragging, and you will be guilty of this if you:

Carry on about how suspicious your browsing history is, and how ASIO/MI5/MOSSAD etc might investigate you. No, they won't. No one cares.

Post memes about how 'special' writers are. I've talked about this one before, so I don't think I need to say more than that it's childish and pathetic.


Greed is basically trying to get more than your fair share of anything. The big offender here is inappropriate promotion, such as:

Posting 'buy' links to your book, over and over, perhaps even multiple times a day. 
Commenting on other people's (unrelated) threads with a buy link to your book. This is appallingly rude. 
Not quite so egregious, but still very bad behaviour, is twisting conversations so that you can work in a mention of your own book.
And of course, promoting your book in groups that do not allow self-promotion, which would include most of the better groups.


There isn't a lot of scope in writers' groups for lust, but it's worth remembering that quite a few groups that do allow self-promotion still don't allow promotion or posting of so-called 'adult' material (i.e. porn). Usually, this is because the group's membership may include some children. It's extremely inconsiderate to post sleazy material in such a group. And no, Virginia, claiming it's 'erotica' doesn't make a shred of difference.


This is a big one. Over and over I see long, angry threads that are just a hatefest against high-profile writers such as Stephen King, James Patterson, E.L. James, Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling. I say it is envy, because there is never any real attempt made to analyse any of the target's work, and also because one never, never sees this kind of mob attack on anyone except those lucky writers who have achieved major commercial success. 


Like lust, this sin has limited application to writers' groups, but postwhoring is, I think, rather analogous to it. We all know what a postwhore is, right? If you are posting more than a few times a day, or if you can scroll through the group and yours is the last comment on every single thread, you may be a postwhore. 


Wrath manifests itself in a writers' group in two main ways. The first is, of course, trolling. Picking fights, posts whose only purpose is to offend, and using personal insult in an argument are all forms of trolling. Enough said.

The other really awful behaviour I see in this category is posting an excerpt and asking for critique, and then whining, arguing, or worst of all, throwing a tantrum when the work is criticised. 

Especial caution needs to be exercised with this one, because it's not nearly as easy to avoid as are most of the behaviours we're looking at today. I discovered this myself last year, when under the influence of some advice from the great Mr Sanderson I experimented with posting pieces for critique in several groups. If you feel someone has missed the point of what you wrote, it can be awfully difficult to hold your tongue. But hold it you must, for that very fact is itself a silent criticism of your writing: it is up to you, the writer, to ensure that readers don't miss the point.


If you post in your writers' group asking people to think of a name for your character, to decide on his hair colour, or in any way to tell you what to write, you are being slothful. You are supposed to be the writer. You need to get on and write your own book. If you can't, then perhaps it's time to rethink whether you are really suited to the work.

Similarly, whining about so-called 'writers' block'. I have seen so many of these posts that I am completely devoid of sympathy. If you are guilty of this, try getting a job on a building site, or in a factory, for six months or so, to learn a decent work ethic.


  1. I SO agree with all this. Every group i have joined i have left with in weeks for just these reasons

  2. If I leave a comment here and no one leaves a comment after mine does that make me a postwhore?

  3. Excellent! And the thing under "Sloth" about asking for character names, settings, etc. is particularly grating. We've definitely seen it, though...