Once upon a time, if you wanted to find a writing group, your options were extremely limited. You could spend a lifetime looking for the right one. Depending on where you lived, you might never find one at all.
All that’s changed with the rise of the internet. Now there are almost as many writing groups as there are writers, and it’s easier than ever before to connect with other writers, whether they’re in your town or halfway around the world.
The challenge has changed from finding a writing group to finding the right one. It you need some guidance, follow these seven steps to find the perfect writing group for you:
1. Assess what you need– take a look at this post describing the various types of writing groups and see what feels right. If you’re having some trouble deciding what type of group would benefit you the most, ask yourself the following questions:
How much time can I devote to this group? Most groups understand that writers are busy and require only minimum participation. Real life groups are usually kept to very specific times, whereas online writing groups can be more beneficial if you want something you can both put a lot of time into and take a lot from.
What do I need most? Do you need accountability, resources, feedback? Maybe all you need is a feeling like you’re not alone. There are groups geared to every need you might have.
Do I work better in smaller groups or larger groups? Many online groups are overwhelming because they feature thousands of participants. If you would much prefer a smaller group, you can find both more exclusive groups online and small groups in the real world.
2. Ask your writing friends– odds are, even if there’s no vibrant community for writers locally, you know a couple. Find out if they’re part of writing groups or can recommend any they’ve heard of. People who already know you will probably have a better idea what kind of group will benefit you. Don’t be afraid to explain what you’re looking for in detail so they can provide the best advice possible.
3. Check your favourite writing blogs– many writers who blog also run or participate in writing related communities. Take a look through their archives and see if they have any recommendations. One I’d recommend highly if you’re looking for a place to learn more about the business aspect of writing and find markets is the Absolute Write Water Cooler, and I’ll probably be posting something more in depth about the writing communities I’ve joined over the years in the near future.
4. Ask social media– you can get a glimpse of a writing group from within if you ask your social media networks. This can also expose you to a wide range of opinions on any given group. Of course, this works best if you’re already following and talking with writers on social media. And if you’re not, maybe it’s about time you should.
5. Google it– Google does know pretty much everything after all. It can connect you to any local group with a website, though finding a good one might take some hunting. Of course, with Google you can find any online community worth its salt, too. You’re just not going to be able to get the same personalized advice you would from your writer friends.
6. Commit– only join one group at a time, and put in the maximum commitment you’re comfortable with. You can’t really gauge the true value of a writing group until you actually dive in. Get to know the writers and take advantage of every perk the group offers. If you’re committed, you’re a lot more likely to get a commitment from other writers in the group.
7. Be ready to move on– you might even want to keep a list of the more interesting writing groups you’ve heard of during this process on hand. If the first one you try dies out or doesn’t seem to be exactly what you’re looking for, try and try again. Don’t settle for a mediocre writing group. The right one will help you flourish, but as I mentioned last week the wrong writing group can smother your voice and dim your passion for writing.
These seven steps have led me to several different writing communities over the years, all of which have been most useful to me at different times in my life. Of course, if they don’t lead to the kind of writing group you want, there’s always another option: creating your own writing community. We’ll talk a little bit more about that in the next couple of weeks, but for now, get your butt in gear and see what’s out there.