Group working is a popular trend in all fields, even in writing. A writing group can provide valuable feedback, encoragement and marketing help. But another can destroy writers’ career with chatting anything but writing. The thing is you can delete the disadvantage of writing group by starting your own one.
If you enjoy just socializing with other writers then find yourself a group that is set up like that. But, if you are serious about developing your skills as a writer and learning about how to market your work, seek out a group that has some rules and sticks to them. If you can’t find a group like that, then find at least one other writer in your vicinity who feels the same as you do and create your own group.
At your first meeting, set up some basic rules similar to these. You may come up with more, depending on the make-up of your particular group.
1. How often will you meet and where?
Many groups meet weekly, but bi-weekly, or even monthly gives each writer a little more time to accomplish work to share with the group. My favorite is once a month, like the last Tuesday, or the first Thursday. If you only have a few members, one member might offer their home, or perhaps you sign up for a free meeting room at a local church or public library.
2. What will happen in your meetings?
There are so many things that you could do. If there are only two or three of you, perhaps you are only interested in giving each member a chance to share his or her work and have the others critique it.
If your meetings are monthly, it is nice to e-mail your work to the rest of the members a week before the meeting so they will have time to study it more carefully and be prepared to give an in-depth critique at the actual meeting.
You may know of published writers in your area who would be happy to speak at one of your meetings. If you meet weekly, perhaps one week a month can be set aside for a speaker. Some successful writers’ groups have assigned a member to research a topic, such as childrens’ science article markets, or the submission guidelines for a particular publication some of you are interested in and present their findings at one of the group meetings.
3. Ask one member of the group to be in charge of the meetings.
If no one takes charge, your group is likely to end up with a lot of chattering going on but very little else. If one member doesn’t want to be in complete charge, take turns, but make sure someone is moving the meeting along each time you gather so that your original goals can be realized.
4. How will you handle growth in your group?
When the group becomes too large for everyone to have a turn at sharing their work, will you divide the group, or designate alternate weeks for different members to share. Knowing how you will do this from the beginning will eliminate hard feelings later.
I personally like smaller groups and think you can learn more when everyone has a chance to get in on the discussions, but there is also much to be said about having more ears to listen to a reading of a manuscript, etc.
If you have room and do want your writer’s group to continue growing, invite friends; call the local radio station and ask it to be listed in their free community meeting broadcast; create small cards, announcing the time and place your group is meeting. These cards could be available at each meeting for members to distribute freely during the week.
If the group does get too large to interact well due to a variety of different interests, or conflicts in preferred meeting times or dates, don’t be afraid to split into 2 or more smaller groups.
Stop waiting around for someone else to start a writers’ group in your area. If you do, you may still be waiting at this time next year. Start today with yourself and at least one other person, set up a few basic rules for yourselves, you can have your own writers’ group up and running smoothly by the end of the month.