Tips for Creating a Successful Writers' Group
by Kay Winders
A writer's group is a great tool for helping you grow as a writer. A good group can hold you accountable for producing more work, can inspire you to do more and to try new things, and can give you helpful feedback to improve your work. A bad group can waste your time and make you frustrated with the process. If you aren't able to find a writers' group in your area -- or you just aren't happy with the groups that are available -- you can start your own. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure that you create a successful writers' group that helps to support and nurture your writing:
Recruit the Right People
The most important criteria for your writing group is that you have the right people in it. These should be people who have compatible views about writing and who have similar goals for the group and attitudes toward work. In other words: You should agree about why you're there and what you're going to do while you're there. It also helps if you have similar writing styles. You can find the right people to join your group either through word-of-mouth referrals or through targeted classified advertising on sites like Craigslist or Meetup. Take your time recruiting your members: If you rush and select the wrong people, it could seriously undermine your group.
Once you have a plan for selecting your members, determine a cap for the number of members you will accept. Large groups benefit from a diversity of perspectives and experiences, but they can become unwieldy and ineffective. Trying to fit too many members into a group may mean that not all members get a chance to share their feedback or to get feedback on their own work. Figure out a good number that works for you based on your goals for the group. There is no right or wrong answer, as it depends on your own personal preferences. However, as a general rule, most groups succeed if they have fewer than a dozen or so members.
Create a Schedule
Writers may work best when inspiration strikes, but an effective group can't operate on whims. Create a detailed schedule to keep your group on track and to make sure that everyone gets their fair share of critique. Your schedule should include when each writer should submit work to the group and when critique will be given. Be sure to include some flexibility into the schedule. Even with deadlines, some writers may not turn in material when they are supposed to, or extenuating circumstances such as inclement weather or computer malfunctions may mean that a group can't meet or members aren't ready to provide feedback.
You know who and you know when, now do you know how or where? Determine logistical details for your group such as where you will meet, how members will be responsible for distributing work (in person? through e-mail?), and how feedback will be distributed (are additional notes required to be e-mailed? Does a hard copy need to be handed back in person? etc.) Figuring out these details ahead of time will help the group run more smoothly and efficiently so you can focus all your energy where it matters: on the writing.
Set Ground Rules
Now you're ready to meet. So how exactly will your meetings be run? Will there be an open conversation between writer and readers? Will the writer be asked to give a short reading or to explain some of the thought process behind a piece? Or will the writer be asked to remain silent during the course of the critique, only to respond to all feedback at the very end? Lay out these ground rules for writers at the beginning so you can all be in agreement about how to present and receive feedback. If you don't, the meeting may become a free-for-all that devolves into a rambling conversation or a heated debate. Like good writing, a good writers' group take thought and planning.
Use these tips to create your next writers' group, and you will set yourself up for success so you create a group that helps to support and challenge you as a writer so you can grow and hone your craft. Have you created or joined a writers' group? Share your tips for successful groups in the comments!
BIO: Kay Winders is presently the resident writer for badcreditloans.org, where she researches the best way for people to pay off their debts without damaging their credit. In her spare time, she enjoys freelance writing, the beach and gardening.