Joining a writers group will take your writing to a new level faster. But what do you do if there are no groups near you? You start one! It is easier than you think and we are here to help you along the way.
When we say local critique group, we’re talking about people you can sit down with face to face for support, encouragement, and critique. We talk about how important this is in our Five Year Plan to becoming an instant, overnight success as a novelist … but what if it’s not possible?
I’ve started nearly half a dozen writer’s groups over the years and I have learned a thing or two in the process. I started and helped run around over a dozen small groups of one form or another.
I started my first writer’s group with one other author I found at a conference who lived near my small town while I was still in college. Here is what I learned the hard way.
Why Start a Group
- Many of the great writers were in writer’s groups.
- Inklings (J.R.R.Tolkien and C.S. Lewis)
- The Bloomsbury Group ( Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster and John Maynard Keynes)
- Stratford-on-Odeon (Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald)
- The challenge is that most authors are introverted. They want to join someone else’s writer’s group.
- There has to be a leader. Someone who starts, and keeps the pump primed. That might need to be you.
- The good news is that writer’s groups are very easy to start. Every town is packed with introverted writers waiting for someone else to join a writer’s group. EVERY town … Jim?
- Jim- Example of living in Manson. Start asking. The library is a great place to start. Local coffee shops, in a small town it’s even easier …
- You don’t need a huge group. Three or four faithful people can make for a great group.
Look for Members who:
- read books on craft.
- attend writer’s conferences.
- are positive and encouraging.
- are at a similar place to you in their writing.
- Jim …. But … try to find one where there are a few people ahead of you, and a few people behind
- write for a similar audience you do (ideally).
- Who think they know everything
- Are sarcastic or negative
- Who are crazy. Not all authors are crazy, but many crazy people write.
The primary purpose of every writer’s group is to be encouraging. Groups that fail to encourage wither and fade.
In general, writer’s groups fall into three categories.
- Craft groups focus on the writing itself.
- Members typically bring writing samples and accountability to write is often a big component of the group.
- AA for procrastinators.
- Weekly Meetings
- Focus on the process of becoming an author.
- Tend to have speakers
- Focus as much on marketing and publishing as they do on craft.
- Often meet less frequently
- Likely attached to a sponsor organization like ACFW or Romance Writers of America.
- The focus is obviously on encouragement.
- Members check in with each other, offer words of wisdom and inspiration
- Often it’s a huge boost to simply talk through your struggles as a writer and know that someone not only cares, but understands what you’re going through.
- Often this type of group is a component of the first two groups.
- Listen to episodes 29, and 101 for more about starting a mastermind group. You can find these links in the show notes by swiping down or to the side depending on the app you are listening to.
Where in Real Life
- In Real Life: Start at a coffee shop. Keep things small at first.
- Pick a venue that is too small at first.
- Sending someone looking for more chairs creates a sense of excitement rather than hardly filling a massive room.
- As you grow, Churches and Libraries make for great options. You may be surprised how easy churches are to work with writer’s groups.
- And libraries can often help you in your search. They’re usually willing to put up flyers.
- Send out an uncomfortable number of reminders.
- Bring name tags.
- Outline an agenda ahead of time on paper
- Prep an icebreaker … people are going to be nervous at first, especially introverts. Get them comfortable.
- Give the vision for the group every meeting. Answer: Why are we here?
- Always start every group by having everyone introduce themselves–again. (remember, introverted authors.)
- Set the encouraging humble tone. “We are on a team to write better books.”
- Possible Activities
- Writing Exercise
- Writing Critique
- Ways to make this better rather than areas this was terrible.
- Jim how do you do critiques in your workshops.
- Don’t make everyone critique!
- Sit Down Shut Up and Write 15 Minutes of Chitchat (1 hour writing on the timer) followed by 15 minutes of chitchat.
Lauren Lynch writes faith-infused historical fantasies created to challenge readers of all ages. Explore ancient civilizations like Tikal, Pompeii and Cappadocia from a Christian worldview. Join the newsletter at www.laurenlynch.com for free ebooks and updates. You can find a link in the show notes.
- End on time. There is always another meeting coming up.
- Expect everyone to stick around to chit chat.
- Announce the next meeting’s time, place and topic at the current meeting.
Thomas Umstattd’s course: How to Start a Writing Group.
We go step by step through:
- What Group Format to Pick
- Where and How to Meet in Real Life
- Where to Meet Online
- How to Find Great Group Members
- Tools to Manage The Community In Between Meetings
- When to Meet
- How to Run A Meeting
- Multiplying Your Group
- Transitioning Leadership
- How to Deal With Difficult Group Members