One of the best ways to improve your skills as a writer is to get feedback from other writers. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional, a writers’ group is an excellent way to learn by sharing with others in the craft. If you have a blog or podcast, starting your own writers’ group can be an excellent way to establish your authority in the business and build a community to help each other grow. Here are a few tips on how to start a writing group.
What is a writing group?
The answer to this question is as varied as the groups and people in them. In general, a writing group is a place where you can hone your writing skills and help others do the same through feedback and encouragement. You can find writers’ groups for creative writing, nonfiction writing, and almost any genre. There are writers’ groups that specialize in a specific type of writing for a specific audience, or you can find ones that are more general in nature.
Why should I join a writing group?
If you are not already part of a writing group, there are many reasons why you should find one. Writing tends to be a solitary profession where we often find ourselves working at home or in a very small office. We can lose touch with trends and get into set routines that do not allow us to grow as writers. Writers’ groups are a way of fostering community and keeping perspective that we are still a part of a larger industry that has a specific role in society.
The main goal of writers’ groups is to give members a sense of community and provide a way to receive and give writing feedback. The process of both giving and receiving feedback is the best way to learn and grow as a writer. Group members can critique each other’s work, help with ways to solve writer’s block, or give tips on how to find the right literary agent. Ideally, all members of the group should have the same goal in mind —to give and receive feedback to help each other grow.
The key to launching a successful writing group is to have a clear purpose and framework that will give members an idea of what they can expect to gain from membership. The first thing you need to do is to decide what type of writing group you want to start. Then, you need to set clear writing group guidelines and expectations.
One way to start a writing group is to start by holding a writing workshop and then give attendees a way to participate in a group once the workshop is over. One thing to keep in mind is that keeping the group size small can allow members to develop close relationships that allow them to get to know each other and work on specific issues over time. This can be fostered by having the group meet both in person, such as at a local coffee shop, and online.
Online writing groups can have many advantages. The first is convenience because everyone can attend online meetings from their home. Meeting in person has advantages, too, due to the closeness and intimacy that it fosters. You can also have a group that meets both online and in-person if you wish.
Regardless of the meeting place, the first step is to establish what you wish to accomplish with the group. Here are a few writing group ideas. You could start a group to:
- Offer encouragement for new writers.
- Provide support and accountability.
- Share tips and inspire members.
- Create a place to practice and hone skills.
As you can see, a writers’ group can have many different purposes for coming together. You can choose more than one purpose, but you should try to limit it to two or three at most. You will have better success if you limit the scope of the group and have a specific purpose in mind. This will let your participants know what to expect when they join.
The group content and structure can be as formal or informal as you like. It is good to keep the structure consistent, especially in the beginning. Once you are established, you can occasionally include a fun activity to add variety and make it interesting. The most important thing is to set clear rules for giving feedback in the beginning and keep it positive.
Virtual options: how to start a writing group online
Meeting in person has some advantages, especially for small groups, but starting a group online also has a distinct advantage. For one, it is convenient for members from different areas of the country to meet online. This allows you to expand the reach of your group and have access to many diverse ideas and resources. Today, online writers’ groups can take many different forms.
You have many choices in software for holding webinars and online meetings. They have different fees, structures, and limitations. Here are some of the top meeting services available.
Once you have chosen the software platform that is right for you, it is time to formalize your format and begin advertising. You might try advertising to get members on social media, Linkedin, through writer’s platforms, and other writers’ groups.
Tips for Success
Here are a few additional tips for making your group a success.
- Create a welcoming environment. Joining a writers’ group can be an intimidating experience, and it is important to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable sharing their work. From the beginning, it is important to understand that everyone, even the most experienced writers, feels intimidated sharing their work for critique. As the moderator of the group, it is your job to extend a hand and make newcomers feel welcome.
- Define your niche. Another key for writers’ group success is to define your niche and target membership. You need to define whether it is for beginners, professionals, or those who are at a certain level in their careers. This will help to assure that group members are a good match for each other. Matching people of the same level is a good way to encourage those of common interest and similar knowledge levels.
- Consider your member level.Someone who is a beginner has plenty to gain by listening to a group of professionals, but they also might be intimidated and reluctant to share their work. If you wish to include a more advanced lesson, you might consider having someone at a higher skill level as a guest speaker or presenter to the group.
- Set clear expectations.When you are developing the information for your writers’ group (and maybe even planning an advertising campaign!) make sure to state clearly the expectations and commitments that are expected from group members. This will help to reduce turnover from those who do not have the time for participation.
- Moderate critiques. While most members of the group have the best interests of everyone in mind, not everyone is as skilled at keeping it positive. You need to have ground rules when it comes to critiquing others. Every critique needs to point out what could be improved, but it needs to focus on the bright spots. You should always end on a positive note.
Now, you have some ideas on how to start a writing group. Starting a writing group can be a rewarding experience that can enhance your personal growth, and you can have the satisfaction of helping others perfect their craft, too. Writers’ groups have been a part of the literary world for centuries and have been the foundation for some of the most famous works of all time. By starting a writers’ group, you can be a part of this great tradition and meet others who are dedicated to improving the craft and growing as writers.