questionmarkI was wondering if you have ever had any experience with writing groups. I know it’s good to network and build more of a community of contacts, but in your experience, can they improve your writing? Do you think they can be advantageous? Or do you just end up getting ever more sets of conflicting notes?

— Jack
Burbank

I’ve never been in an official writing group, but I did rely on an informal circle of writer friends for my first few years after film school, getting feedback, suggestions and a healthy amount of peer pressure. Reading other people’s writing — even bad writing — makes you think more about the words you put on the page, so it can be a worthwhile exercise even if the notes you get back on your script are less than ideal.

I’d recommend finding people who are interested in doing the same general kinds of movies. If most of you want to write comedies, the woman writing the drama about a girl’s troubled relationship with her alcoholic father is going to be a drag on the group. Likewise, if most of the writers in the group have emotion-laden scripts, your hilarious spec about a farting monkey won’t get much love.

Another suggestion: Accept and embrace that the group won’t hold together long. People will flake out, drop out or move on. In fact, it might be a good idea to put an expiration date on the group at the start: “We’ll be meeting every Monday for the next six weeks. That’s it.”