How do I start a writing group?
If you are a writer, you can often feel alone. Writing is, after all, a solitary pursuit. Your friends and family may support and encourage you, but they don’t really ‘get it.’ You long to congregate with people of your own kind who understand the highs and lows, the jargon, the voice in your head.
But how do you go about finding others of our ilk? And when you find each other, how do you create a productive group? Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
How to Find A Group
In this day and age, the Internet is a writer’s friend (and time-sucking distracting enemy upon occasion. J ) Congregate online where writers hang out. Friend writers, published and pre-published, on Facebook. Join forums where writers talk about writing things. Join national organizations like the ACFW or RWA. Often these groups have structures in place for joining critique and encouragement groups. Once you’ve made some friends in a group, put out the call, see if anyone is interested in forming a critique/encouragement group.
If you would prefer a face-to-face group, the library is your friend. Librarians love writers and they often have contacts with local writers groups. If one doesn’t exist in your town, post a notice at the library and other places around town with your contact info and the news that you’re starting a group.
Basic “Getting Started” Ideas
When you have a handful of interested parties, whether online or in person, you’ll need to set out a few parameters for the new group. There are some decisions you need to make.
- How often will you meet?
Once or twice a month is usually best for writing groups who meet in person. Any oftener than that and there isn’t time to write much in between meetings. For online groups, you might pass along critiques on a regular level and have a forum or FB group that is accessible all the time for discussion.
- Where will you meet?
Meeting in a home can work, but often it’s best to meet on neutral ground. A coffee shop, a church, a library meeting room. That way nobody has to host, and nobody has the role of ‘boss.’
- What format will you use? Guest Speakers? Writing time? Sharing time? Critiques?
Decide if you’re getting together to share writing news, to brainstorm, to write, to critique. Who will be in charge of guest speakers? If you’re going to critique, that is a whole other can of worms, and you might want to begin by holding a discussion on how to do critiques, what things everyone is looking for in a critique. Often critiques are harder to give and to receive in a face to face group, whereas using track changes online is easier.
- Is this a mixed fiction and non-fiction group, or will your group focus on one a specific genre like mysteries or children’s books?
Depending on your answers to #3, you can focus the group in the direction that benefits the most members.
- Will you be formal with elected officers, dues, etc. or will you keep it simple and meet for coffee and chat every so often?
Decide in advance your level of formality. In my experience, the fewer rules the better, but organize your group in the way that makes you comfortable.
Keep in mind that groups are fluid things. If something isn’t working, you’re free to change it. And often there is enthusiasm and lots of participation at the beginning, and eventually it will distill down to a few steady folks.
Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and romance, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not immersed in fictional worlds, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.
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