Writing groups should be supportive, not a bunch of soul-crunching bullies.

Earlier this month, I saw this tweet from author Heather Carlson:

My response was:

I’ve written before about gatekeepers who push the everyone-must rules. You know, like the infamous tripe, “You must write every day.” Not only are those types of statements just plain wrong, they are also classist, ableist, and a whole bunch of ists. A writing group should be supportive of its fellow authors. And support can be like this:

  • offering constructive criticism
  • providing access to beta reading
  • celebrating any amount of words created
  • being collaborative and not competitive
  • accommodating various accessibility requirements
  • having fun
Loose-leaf paper with the words: 15,000 Words or be ejected? PHOOEY!

I belonged to this wonderful writing group called The Inkonceivables. We were mostly Spoonie authors, so every session was done through video chat. It was such a blast, and their feedback really helped me improve my writing. Also, when I feared I would screw up the representation in The Stealth Lovers, and I wanted to quit writing it because I just plain-well panicked, a fellow author said, “Don’t worry. If there’s something wrong, we’ll tell you.” And the tone was so gentle and reassuring, I really felt they had my back. I finished the book, and it was published by Renaissance in 2019.

Writing groups should live to edify their authors. Let’s face it, we’re all prone to insecurity and imposter syndrome. Thankfully, most of us feel that way at different times, so if one of us is in YIPES!-mode, there will be at least one other author to offer encouragement.

Hey, if you can write 15,000 words every month, and you’re content, then go for it! But don’t impose word quotas on other people. That’s bullying. Not everyone’s brain creates the same way, and the number of words doesn’t automatically equate a good story. Five years ago, I thought I was the type of author who could only publish 100K-word novels. Then I discovered short stories and had three of them published in anthologies. Just this year, I wrote a piece of microfiction that’s around 200 words and received an acceptance for it! So, what’s important is the story you want to tell, not how many words it is or how quickly you can churn it out. As someone who’s co-edited an anthology, I can doubly testify to this. I’ve read stories less than 2000 words that were an entire meal!

Back in the day when I worked as a technical writer, we had rigid time-to-market deadlines. Whoo, that was intense work. Now, as a creative writer who is also disabled, I want to craft my stories without the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head. I’m also autistic. So, I’m going to let my brain brain however and whenever it wants to!

I haven’t followed up, but I do hope Heather Carlson found a better writing group. I was very glad to read how many authors validated that it’s so wrong to impose this type of rule. Honestly, if it were me, every month, I’d have handed in a document with this content:

15,000 words/month

by Cait Gordon

But Snark™ is sorta my superpower.


A Pretend Author

Cait Gordon, in a black and white digital sketch

Cait Gordon is a disability advocate and the author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers. When she’s not writing, Cait’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also teamed up with Kohenet Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us anthology in an attempt to take over the world. Narf.

2 thoughts on “Writing groups should be supportive, not a bunch of soul-crunching bullies.

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