When I got serious about writing, I knew I had to surround myself with other writers if my interest was going to become anything beyond the terrible disjointed scenes floating on my computer.
You’re serious about writing too, so let’s go through the practical steps in creating your own writing group. But just in case you’re still not sure if you should do a writing group, I’ll throw out a few reasons why it would be fan-freaking-tastic idea.
Writing is a discipline (yes, I said it).
Without the encouragement and a semi-weekly dose of peer pressure from three different writing groups over the years, I know that my plot and my characters would still be as hole-ridden as fishnet tights.
Meeting with a group of writers– intentionally, not just hanging out because you have similar interests but really focusing on developing your craft– forces you to write regularly and that is vital when trying to produce anything.
Suddenly you have more than yourself to let down when you choose to watch Netflix instead of write.
Sometimes you just aren’t feeling it. Surrounding yourself with others who are still excited about writing and about your work helps rekindle the passion and can keep you going when you would have otherwise quit long ago.
You’ll learn from the others in the group even if you are all on different levels because everyone has unique inclinations in style and story angle. (For instance, I lean toward character-driven stories and need help with plot, while Audrey has excellent plot but lacks deep characters.)
The Practical Details
Keep it small
3-4 members is ideal. Anything beyond that gets complicated logistically and usually spreads the group’s attention too thin.
Get some goals
Do you all want to write novels? Get short stories into competitions? Submit poetry? Get on the same page there.
However, having different personal writing goals (skills you want to work on, etc.) is good because it provides an opportunity for the group members to learn from each other and keeps things interesting.
Set a consistent time
A set location can be good too, but the time slot is the important factor. You want to be consistent so that your group can get used to scheduling writing group into their busy calendar.
Meet as often as possible. Once a week or every other week is preferable because it keeps the accountability fresh as well as previous discussions.
Form a structure
This will likely change as the needs of the group evolve. With that caveat, decide on a general order of events or at least what will be done in the actual meeting and what, if anything, will be done outside of the meeting. This does not have to be complicated.
Here are some examples of the “agenda” of some writing groups I have participated in.
Ionas (Scotland Chapter), 3 members
- Talk about life (that affects our writing, right?)
- Read each others’ scene/chapter (passing around laptops until we had read everybody’s writing for that week)
- Discussing our observations and edits
Inkwells, college writing club, approx 8 people -This is by far the most structured group
- Someone (as per our rotation) shares something that inspired them to write that week
- 10min writing prompt
- Share everyone’s response to the writing prompt
- Switch off between one person sharing their work with the group reading and editing on the spot and a lesson on a topic the group’s interested in (i.e. medieval weapons and armor)
Ionas (Denver Chapter), 3 members
- Prior to Meeting – One person’s chapter was put into dropbox two weeks prior and the other group members had read through and created their own marked up version in dropbox labeled Chapter Name – Member’s Name Edit (i.e. Shadowed – Abigail Edit) which was available for the author to read through prior to the group.
- Group member’s guide the author through their comments and discuss
Set a rotation
Every member should have the group’s full focus on a regular basis. Assigning weeks to each member assures that no one’s work gets overshadowed, even if they don’t think that they have anything the group can help with. Trust me, the group can always help.
Share your stuff
Create a folder in Dropbox or Google Docs and have everyone upload their writing there. This provides accountability and allows members to review and comment on each other’s work outside of the meeting, freeing up the group time for discussion.
You’d be surprised how often people don’t take this step. Make good on all your planning and get something out of it!
I can’t stress enough how invaluable a writing group is, so go! Round up some writers to commit to this with you and start digging into the marvelous world of writing together. I promise you won’t regret it.
-Abigail Signing Off-