How to Start a Writers Group

Starting your own writers group can be a beneficial way to get tips and feedback from other writers as well as to help you stay disciplined in your writing. Finding the right group for you, however, can sometimes be a challenge and may include starting your own group. Here are some tips for effectively forming your own group.

Many writers prefer to work alone, but at some point, all writers need feedback on their writing, or at least encouragement and a chance to share ideas with other writers to find out what does and doesn’t work. Creating your own writers group can provide you with writing tips, a chance to be more disciplined, an opportunity to broaden your horizons, and the benefit of forming friendships with like-minded people.

Especially if you’re a closet writer, you may need to get out and meet other writers. Many writers might not have any friends or family members who understand their need to put pen to paper. In other words, you may need a support group for your writing habit, and starting your own writers group may give you the impetus to go from hiding your writing to sharing it with others.

Here are some tips for starting a writers group that will be effective and beneficial to everyone involved:

1.      Find compatible fellow writers. If you already know some fellow writers, ask them if they want to be part of a group. Ask them to invite their friends as well. Set up a time to meet and iron out the details. If you don’t know any other writers, find a public place where you can meet and then create fliers or put notices in the newspapers or on social media sites inviting people to join you for an organizational meeting.

2.      Decide on the group’s goals. Do you want to share your writing with each other? Do you want to spend part of the time sitting and writing quietly? Do you want to talk about writing? Will you discuss publishing and marketing also? Ask the members what they want from the group. You might find you have different ideas and two different groups will form, or you may decide to alternate between two or three different needs and formats, or could you divide the meeting time up to cover a few different purposes?

3.      Determine the levels and experiences of different writers in the group. Are you all traditionally published novelists, self-published non-fiction writers, or people who just think they would like to write but haven’t yet started? Are you writing fiction or non-fiction, short stories, or essays? Can your group encompass these different interests and levels, or do you feel a need to split into different groups? Could you have one main group and then some smaller subgroups that split off from it?

4.      Establish a regular meeting place, date, and time. For example, the local library on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. Make sure the date/day of week and time are convenient to people. Make sure the meeting space fits your needs, either for quiet, accessibility, room for the size of your group, and comfort.

5.      Decide on the membership and organization. Will someone be moderator or president, or will you take turns moderating the group? Will it be a closed group limited just to the people you currently have? Will it be open to everyone and advertised as such? Will it be invitation only to people you know? What, if any, requirements, such as annual dues, will be required of members?

6.      Decide on the meeting format. You might want to begin with introductions, especially if you will let people come and go. How much time will you devote to this part of the meeting? Similarly, will you spend time writing, time sharing your writing, have a monthly topic for discussion, or have a presentation at each meeting? Should you have a set agenda or let it vary?

7.      Create a membership contact list. Exchange names, phone numbers, and email addresses with each other so you can get in touch if you want to outside of the meeting or if you need to contact each other in case of a meeting change or cancellation. Someone might want to volunteer to maintain a group list.

8.      Housekeeping issues. Do you need membership dues, or is there a fee to meet at your planned location? Can you make a donation to the library, or is it enough at a coffee shop if everyone buys a drink? Do you need a treasurer or any other officer positions? If you collect dues, what will the money be used for (printing flyers, snacks, room rent, etc?) and what benefits do the members get from their dues?

9.      Establish sharing guidelines. Is the conversation open or do you want some structure, such as a proposed topic for each meeting and then everyone goes around the room to weigh in on the topic? Is there a suggested time limit per person to speak so no one monopolizes the conversation?

10.  Establish criticism guidelines. If you will be sharing your writing with each other, will you allow only positive criticism or negative criticism as well? Are people allowed to point out typos or grammatical errors, or only comment on content?

11.  Homework and preparation. Do people need to exchange pieces of writing at the meeting and then read them and return with written comments for the next meeting? If people are taking turns moderating the meeting, what responsibilities does the moderator have for the next meeting? Will you have snacks at meetings and who will bring them each time?

12.  Group assessment. Periodically, maybe each quarter or year, you may want to reassess the group’s needs. Set aside time to discuss whether the group is meeting its intended goals and the members’ needs, what could be done better, and what should be changed. You might also want to create a questionnaire for members so they can fill it out and bring it back. It’s important to reassess the group occasionally to keep it energetic, alive, and broadening everyone’s writer horizons. At the same time, if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.

Starting up a writing group can be exciting, but it will also result in some trial and error experiences. Some new members might decide the group is not for them, while other members might want something from the group you did not expect. Try to accommodate each other but also make sure the group is productive and meeting the goals of several people, not just one person. As time goes by, those who are really serious about writing and who are compatible will stay in the group. Over time, you will create strong bonds of trust and appreciation for each others’ contributions and talents while you learn from each other and increase your writing skills as well as your confidence in your writing. Now that you have a group, you will be writing outside the closet, and you will be preparing yourself to meet that future audience of fans.

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.