I recently read a novel written by an old college acquaintance of mine who's done rather well for himself in the world of science fiction and fantasy. In the foreward of the book he thanked his writers group, the same writers group I was a member of many years ago. For any of you not familiar with the concept of a writers group, the basic idea is that a group of writers band together, meet regularly — whether in person or online — and critique each others work. If all of the writers in the group are of a similar skill level, if all are producing regular amounts of work, and if all are participating in the critique sessions — both giving as well as receiving, then the experience can be a very rewarding one. Of course, if the above conditions aren't met — different skill levels, some producing others not, varying levels of participation in critiques — then it's at best a waste of time and at worst a recipe for frustration. But when a writers group is working, really working, then every one participating will see an improvement in the quality of their work, sometimes a dramatic improvement.
The assembly line method of comics creation is totally incompatible with such a system, but I've often wondered if a writers group type model could work for independently creating writer/artists. In my position as editor at 01comics.com I see a lot of submissions that have competent artwork and competent scripting, but then somewhere along the way the story just misses the mark. I don't have the time (and seldom the inclination) to really break down these submissions and diagram for the creator where things slipped off track and how it might be remedied. And, quite honestly, I know that few creators really want to hear that kind of thing AFTER they've gotten 20+ pages penciled, inked, lettered, and often colored. But maybe at the plot/script/thumbnail stage if one had a regular support group of fellow creators at a similar skill level willing to take a good hard look at the work and to be bold enough to offer honest, open criticisms and suggestions … I don't know. Might work. Thoughts?