It was not so long ago that I sang the praises here of the writing group that helped me to complete a five-year project.
Sadly, that group has since dissolved due to life changes, health issues, relocation, and just the general growth and development of its members. Essentially, we all flew the nest.
I find myself now searching for a new writing group where I can continue to grow and learn from others while offering my experiences with success and failure as examples for them to do the same.
It’s been so long since I’ve had to go through this process that I have had to give myself an extensive refresher course in how it’s done and thought I’d share what I’ve (re)learned here with you guys.
1. Just like any relationship, you need to figure out what you want before you can find one that works.
You have to know what you want to get out of belonging to a group. Sure, it may sound selfish at first, but if you’re giving all you can without getting what you want in return, you’ll quickly burn out and turn bitter. You can also think of finding a good fit for yourself as not wasting the valuable time of everyone else in the group.
2. Decide which type of group structure best fits your goals.
- Online Discussion – Provides motivation, encouragement, peer review, and a bit of Q&A opportunity with the ease of never having to adjust your schedule.
- Critique – A cooperative in which writers read and critique the work of other writers, usually alternating the author of the work submitted for critique each week. Critique is more thorough and offers more constructive criticism than a typical peer review.
- Moderated Workshop – A class-type writing group in which one member (or guest instructor) leads the others through a structured curriculum. These workshops usually last for either a single session or a set number of weeks and then alternate instructors. Group size for moderated workshops can sometimes be quite large.
- Social – Purely a “get together and chat about writing” group, though many social groups grow to include publishing and media professionals to encourage networking. This type of group often meets at coffee houses, bars, or restaurants.
- Working – A group that meets for regular write-ins.
- Support – Usually a small group that meets for motivation and reassurance. Meetings may include a topic for discussion or short readings of members’ works for comments and criticism.
3. Seek them out.
Now that you know what you want, check in your area for a group that fits. Bookstores, coffeehouses, and online community bulletin boards are ideal places to look. Enlist the help of your friends and colleagues by asking for suggestions or referrals.
4. Take a test drive before you commit.
Do the meetings suit your schedule? Are you excited to attend meetings or do you find yourself blowing them off at even the slightest distraction? How about the “feel” of the group? Every writing group will have its own personality that it derives from its members. Your personality will add to that mix, and the group may take on a very different dynamic because of it.
Attend a couple of meetings, participate, and then decide if you’re comfortable and eager to continue. It’s not out of place to ask the group as a whole how they feel about your becoming a regular fixture, just be prepared for whatever type of response they may give–even a negative one.
5. If it doesn’t work the first time, return to step #1 and repeat.
No kidding. I was a member of three different writing groups before I found the one that worked for me.
Don’t give up, not even if you’ve been through a dozen or more writing groups without finding a good fit! It’s easier than ever these days to start your own group, especially with your “want” and ideal group structure clearly defined. You can even use those qualities in a mission statement of sorts to attract like-minded new members.
Do you have tips for finding an ideal writing group that should be added to this list? Please feel free to share in the comments!