095T – Creating a Writers Group
Do you wish you had a writers group? Here are some steps to create your own.
Step 1: Look around
Who do you know at work or church or in your neighborhood who writes? Check out local libraries and bookstores to see if they already have a group going, if anyone has posted a notice that they're looking for a group, or if you can post a notice that you're interested in starting a group. Maybe even try using a site like MeetUp to find other writers.
Step 2: Informational Meeting
Meet in a neutral/public location (in case anyone strange comes that you don't want in your house) and introduce yourselves. Share what you write, what stage you're at in your writing, and what you're looking for in a writers group. Do you want to critique, or brainstorm, or just sit and write together without talking, or something else?
Have someone take notes and moderate the discussion. Decide if you want to try out a first meeting to see if you all work well together. If so, decide on the details – how many people will be critiqued each meeting, how many words/pages per person, when will you meet and for how long, where will you meet, choose a date for the first meeting, etc.
Step 3: Organize
You could use something like Google Calendar and Google Docs like my new group's organizer does. She sets up an event and emails go out to remind everyone of when and where the meeting will take place. She also created a folder for each person who will be critiqued at the next meeting and reminds them to upload their work to the folder at least a week in advance. Then everyone in the group can go to these folders and download the documents to critique before the meeting. Some people like to print them and write their notes on the paper, some people like to use Track Changes in Word and then email that to the person being critiqued. There are lots of other ways to do this, too!
Step 4: First Meeting
The point of the meeting is to critique or brainstorm or whatever you all decided you were going to do. But it's also to see if you all work well together. How did everyone like it? What needs to be changed for next time? Do you need to change the number of people being critiqued or the length of the submissions? Do you need to change the start or end times, or choose to change the location or make it rolling (go to a different person's home or a different cafe each week)? How often do you want to meet again?
Now is the time to solidify your meeting guidelines if you didn't do it in the informational meeting. What are the rules to your critique group? Does everyone have to start by saying at least one thing they liked about each submission? How can everyone give constructive criticism? Perhaps avoid saying “you should…” or “I would…” and instead say, “Maybe you could…or…” to give the author a chance to take all of your advice and come up with their own best plan.
On the other hand, some writers groups have standards about how far you have to be in your writing or career to even join. Some pride themselves on really delving deep into how to make the work significantly better and so require members to have a thick skin. So long as you all agree, create guidelines that work best for your group.