A Step-by-Step Guide
Step One: FINDING WRITERS
Writers can be an introverted group so meeting other writers isn’t always easy. The first step to creating a writing group is finding other committed writers who are:
(1) Willing to put in the time necessary to read and carefully critique your work.
(2) Capable of giving you constructive advice.
Taking a writing class allows you to meet other writers, read their work, and listen to their critiques. Writing clubs, community colleges, and continuing education classes are all good places to meet other writers.
Step Two: MAKING CONTACT
The second step is telling other writers you are forming a group and inviting them to join.
(1) Person-To-Person. If you are enrolled in a creative writing class or workshop, you could make an announcement before or after class that you are interested in creating a writing group and see who responds. But use caution. It is much easier to invite someone into a writing group than to un-invite them. Therefore, BACCA suggests that you give careful consideration to which classmates you want in your group and approach each classmate individually.
(2) Online. Talking to people face-to-face can be awkward, especially if there are some in the writing class you would like to join your writing group but others who might not be the right fit. Hopefully, the teacher has made exchanging e-mail addresses or other contact information part of the class.
Step Three: WHAT TO SAY
How do you broach the subject? Here are some example e-mails:
Might any of you be interested in a critique swap? Maybe get together one Saturday morning towards the end of the month? Just a thought.
I wrote a short story last weekend that I would appreciate some honest feedback on. I’m happy to reciprocate.
Class will end in a few weeks, and then the holidays are upon us and people will be going out of town. I have a couple of questions to ponder regarding our proposed writing group.
First, would you like to meet in December or wait until January?
Second, think about what day of week and time works best. I think around noon on Saturday once a month works well but I’m open to another time. What sort of time commitment can you give per meeting? I think two hours is a reasonable amount of time. With five of us, that’s a lot of reading and critiquing each month. If we plan to meet for 2 hours, that’s realistically 15 minutes or so per critique with time in between to shuffle papers, go to the bathroom, etc.
Finally, please don’t feel any pressure to join this group. It’s such a big commitment of time and talent.
Let’s get a discussion going.
Step Four: ESTABLISHING THE GROUND RULES
(1) SCHEDULING. Date, time, place, frequency. This will be first stumbling block of your brand new writing group: Coordinating a regular slot of time in a quiet, accommodating location. Time, place, frequency of writing group meetings. Examples: Saturday, noon at Starbucks, once a month.
(2) When and how to submit your writing to the group. For instance: Submit one week prior to meeting via e-mail. See Responding to Other People’s Fiction by Luke Whisnant for how to critique the submissions of the other writers in your group.
Step Five: MAINTAINING COMMITMENT & MANAGING EXPECTATIONS
Starting a writing group can be daunting, but maintaining it is essential.
(1) Find a group leader. See How To Lead a Great Writing Group by Bethany Carlson
(2) Remember why you joined a writing group:
- To get published.
- To support each other’s writing journey, regardless of the outcome.
- To be part of a community of writers.