7 Tips for Starting a Writers’ Group – Writing Alone, Together
A writers’ group can increase your productivity and boost your motivation to send your work to literary agents, magazine editors, and book publishers.
To learn more about writers’ groups – or to start your own writers’ group – read Writing Alone, Writing Together: A Guide for Writers and Writing Groups by Judy Reeves.
I mentioned my writing group on Twitter, and received several “I wish I belonged to a writers’ group, but there’s none in my area” or “My writing group disbanded – and I really miss it!” responses. Whether you’re a freelance writer, aspiring novelist, or published poet – a writers’ group can keep you motivated, disciplined, productive…and published.
So, here are my tips for starting a writer’s group. First, though, here’s why you want to be part of a group of writers…
Benefits of a writers’ group:
- Information sharing, which leads to growth
- Inspiration from successful experiences
- Support for rejections and feelings of failure
- Encouragement to keep going
- Feelings of solidarity and connectedness
- Feedback for your writing, article ideas, or plans
- Accountability for your writing goals
7 Tips for Starting a Writers’ Group
“If you don’t feel that you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then probably what you are doing isn’t very vital.” – John Irving.
Decide on the best place to meet
My writer’s group started in a classroom at our local elementary school and moved to our homes (we rotate through the members’ houses). We’ve also met in the pub, which wasn’t as comfortable as a home. Other great places for writers’ groups to meet include the library, an uncrowded coffee shop, or a spare room in your local community center.
Be clear from the beginning about the structure of your meetings
Will you read your writing out loud, and will everyone give feedback? Will you email your story, article pitch, or book proposal before the meeting? Will you write during your meetings (that wouldn’t work for me – but it may be appealing to writers who struggle with motivation or time to write)? Will you brainstorm story ideas or wrestle with plot problems?
Start stretching your writers group from Day One
Be flexible about tweaking the structure based on group dynamics, location changes, new members, etc. Instead of rigidly adhering to “the way we’re supposed to do it”, consider mixing things up a little. For instance, if you meet every two weeks, you could alternate between a critique night and a “just talking about writing” night.
Be clear about what you’re looking for in a writers’ group
As I told my writing buddies last night (waving to my fellow WOBBERS! which stands for Write on Bowen 🙂 ) – I prefer sharing our writing goals, experiences, information, and inspirations. I’m not big on reading my writing out loud, nor do I love critiquing others’ writing. But, a writer’s group should be an amalgamation of what everyone needs and wants – which is where flexibility and open-mindedness comes in.
Develop clear guidelines for members, book genres, leaders, etc
Is your group open to new writers? Will you invite other writers – and do they have to be interested in your genre? When you’re starting a writer’s group, it helps to have a plan. My group recently faced a dilemma involving a possible new member; we weren’t all on the same page (as it were) and we hadn’t decided beforehand if we were ready for new members.
Re-evaluate your writing group regularly
Agree on the guidelines for your writer’s group, and then re-evaluate after a season – such as every quarter or every September.
Consider recruiting a co-leader
When I started this writer’s group two years ago, I had a co-leader who pulled out at the last minute because of other commitments. I wasn’t happy spearheading the group on my own, so I let it wither away. One of the members encouraged me to start it up again (Hi, Maggie!) – and I’m so glad I did. It’s a smaller group and I’m not “in charge”, which is what I wanted all along.
For me, the best part of this writer’s group – besides the motivation and encouragement – is seeing how we’re achieving our goals as writers. We’re completing novels, book proposals, and articles. Together, we’re forging ahead in this crazy business – and our progress is sweeter because we savor it together.
If you’re not motivated to write (much less start a writers’ group!), read 5 Tips for Overcoming Discouragement and Rejection for Writers.
Fellow scribes, do you have any thoughts or questions about starting a writers’ group? I welcome you below!