Creating a local writing group

We’ve talked a lot in the last few weeks about the different kinds of writing groups and how to find the right one. If you’ve been following through, you’ve done a fair bit of poking around. You’re familiar with what’s out there.

If you haven’t found a group that looks particularly appealing, maybe it’s time to start your own.

I’ve broken down the process of creating a writing group in the hopes of making it a little less overwhelming. Of course, creating and maintaining a dedicated group of any kind is difficult with all the distractions people face on a daily basis. This advice is geared towards creating local groups that meet in person, but much of it is useful for creating online groups too.

Ready to get started? Here goes:

1. Figure out what kind of group you’re creating. If you’ve been looking for a writing group in the last few weeks, odds are you already have a pretty good idea of what you need. This is your group, so it should be tailor made to fit your needs. If you can get some help on board in advance, you might even want to go for something a little more intense than you were able to find in your previous searches.

2. Decide how many writers you’ll have and what you’ll expect from them. Remember that most people are too busy to commit to more than two or three hours a week. Every extra member is someone you have to keep accountable and informed, so it’s probably in your best interest to limit the group to 6-10 people. Another important factor is that live critiques take a long time. If you make the group too large, you won’t be able to get through everyone’s work in a short meeting.

3. Find the right people. You want people who write in genres that are different but still complement each other. Ideally these people will come with different strengths in writing, so that together you form a well rounded writing team. Finding people at different levels and with slightly different perspectives on writing allows everyone to get the best feedback possible.

4. Create a meeting structure. This is probably the most difficult part, and actually involves several steps. You need to start with a location where you can work quietly, someplace that fits your needs. You might be able to find a quiet coffee shop, or you might want to host them in a house–yours or one of the members’ houses. Whatever location you choose, you want comfortable chairs, peace and quiet, and enjoyable beverages on hand.

The more frequent your meetings are, the shorter they should be. My suggestion would be once a week for two or three hours, though you might want to set aside an entire day or maybe do an entire weekend once a month. Figure out what works best for you and the other people in your group.

You’ll also want to set an agenda during meetings. Perhaps you’ll spend the first half hour talking, but you’ll want to move into critiques fast, and have a system in place to keep you on track. Designating some time for pure chit chat will help keep the group focused, and you might want to time critiques if your meetings are held on a tight schedule.

5. Create a way to easily communicate with the group. You can do this through a Facebook page, an email group, or however else you choose. You can even set up a small forum area where you can socialize with the group and talk about things not directly related to your work. However you do it, make sure you have a way to easily inform the entire group of meeting changes and agendas. Things will change every now and then, and you don’t want to get a headache trying to let everyone know.

Creating a dedicated writing group requires some serious thought and effort, but can completely change your writing. You never know, it might just be the best thing you’ve ever done for your writing career.