Of course you should start a writer’s group – what are you waiting for?! A writers’ group can increase your productivity, inspire you to write more, and motivate you to send your writing to literary agents, magazine editors, and book publishers.
When I mentioned my writing group on Twitter, and received several “I wish I belonged to a writers’ group, but there aren’t any 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.
How do I know this? Because I started a writer’s group several years ago, and witnessed firsthand the benefits of writing with a group of motivated, encouraging, and supportive aspiring authors! We discussed everything from how to write an author bio when you’ve never been published to the most common reasons manuscripts are rejected by editors. So, here are my tips for starting a writer’s group.
First, though, let’s run through a quick list of reasons you should start (or at least join!) 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
Also, if one or more of the writers in the group goes to a writing conference or workshop, she can share what she learned. Not only does this benefit the other writers, it’ll help solidify the writing tips in her own brain. Teaching is a great way to really learn something 🙂
7 Tips for Starting a Writers’ Group
Don’t worry if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here’s what bestselling author John Irving said about taking risks as a writer:
“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.
I had no idea what I was doing when I started my group for writers. But guess what? I learned lots! These tips will help you start and sustain your first writing group.
1. 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.
2. 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?
3. 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.
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4. 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.
5. Develop clear guidelines for members, book genres, leaders, etc
Here are a few questions to help you set guidelines for your new writing group:
- Is your group open to new writers?
- Should all members write in the same genre?
- How will feedback be offered?
- What are the goals of your writing group?
- Who will lead the meetings?
- What is the purpose of your meetings? (eg, to write together, or offer feedback, or read your writing aloud, or a blend of it all?)
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.
6. Re-evaluate your writing group regularly
As a group, agree on the guidelines for meeting and sharing your writing. Then, re-evaluate your goals and practices regularly – such as every quarter or every September.
7. Consider recruiting a co-leader
When I started my writer’s group almost 10 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 (Maggie!) – and I’m so glad I did. It’s a smaller group and I’m not “in charge”, which made me happy..
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.
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. She has lead all kinds of writing groups and classes, and gives concrete examples of what works best. Her book is well-organized, and interesting to read!
This book will help you get organized, and learn how to critique your and others’ writing in helpful, encouraging ways. Judy discusses how to write, where to write, who to write with, how to critique, how to revise, etc. You can even form an online writers’ critique group with her tips — and improve both your group and your writing.
If you’re not motivated to write (much less start a writers’ group!), read Writing a Novel? How to Stay Motivated.
Fellow scribes, do you have any thoughts or questions about starting a writers’ group? Feel free to write below…