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7 Tips for Starting a Writers’ Group: Writing Alone Together

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.

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?)
How to Start a Writing Group

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.

At the beginning of every season, review these 5 Signs of Bad Writing You Should Never Ignore.

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!

a guide for writers and starting a writing group

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…

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32 thoughts on “7 Tips for Starting a Writers’ Group: Writing Alone Together”

  1. Wendy Burt-Thomas, author of Query Letters talked about writers accountability groups in one of my blog posts ( https://www.theadventurouswriter.com/blogwriting/interview-with-the-author-of-query-letters/ ).

    I forgot about that interview – which I did in 2009! I love the idea of starting an accountability group for writers to discuss goals and struggles instead of critiquing each others’ work. An accountability group can be a fantastic way for writers to stay motivated, focused, and connected with like-minded individuals.

    If you’re thinking about an accountability group (versus a writing critique group), make sure everyone is aware of the purpose and structure. Determine what the main goals are, whether it’s setting and achieving writing targets, sharing struggles, or providing support and encouragement.

    In-person meetings are my preference, but virtual meetings are great for distant writers. Establishing a regular meeting schedule helps writers plan and commit to participation.

    In an accountability group, each writer should have specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals for their writing. SMART goals provide clarity and focus, making it easier to track progress and stay accountable.

    We’d allocate time for members to share their current goals and progress in every meeting. This not only encourages accountability but also allows for celebration of achievements and troubleshooting of obstacles.

    I’d also implement a system for tracking goals and progress outside of meetings, such as shared documents or accountability buddies. This extra layer of accountability can help us stay on track between meetings.

    Peer support, brainstorming sessions, problem-solving discussions, sharing writing resources and tips – it’s all welcome in an accountability group.

    I’d like to start a local one for writers to meet in-person. The next question is how to find writers like me, who want to meet regularly and stay accountable to our writing goals.

  2. When you’re starting a writing group, navigating interpersonal dynamics can be tricky, especially when it involves co-facilitation.

    Here are a few suggestions to help move a writer’s group forward positively:

    1. Encourage an open and honest discussion within the group. Maybe organize a meeting where everyone can share their thoughts and concerns about the current dynamics. Emphasize the importance of a supportive and collaborative environment, making it clear that everyone’s input is valued.

    2. If one of your members is causing problems in your writers group and is unwilling to meet with you one-on-one, consider bringing in a neutral third party, perhaps a mediator or a counselor, to facilitate a conversation between the two of you. This can help address underlying issues and find common ground.

    3. Collaboratively create a set of guidelines for your group oif writers. This could include expectations for behavior, feedback, and participation. Having a shared understanding might help minimize power struggles and conflicts. Writing is hard enough without dealing with interpersonal dynamics between writers!

    4. Discuss the approach to giving writing feedback and whether members are comfortable with them. It might be beneficial to offer a variety of writing prompts that cater to different interests, ensuring everyone feels included.

    5. Implement a constructive feedback mechanism. This could involve sharing positive feedback during writing sessions and addressing concerns privately. Creating a culture of constructive criticism can contribute to a healthier group of writers.

    6. It’s important to gauge the feelings of the other writers. Ask for their input on the group dynamics, assignments, and any other concerns they might have. A collective effort can foster a sense of unity.

    7. Regularly revisit the roles of co-facilitators, and clarify responsibilities. This might help in avoiding conflicts arising from miscommunication or differing expectations among the writers.

    The goal of creating a group of writers who want to “write alone, together” is to create a space where everyone feels comfortable, valued, and able to express themselves.

    I wish you all good thinks as you start your own group of writers!