9 Great Tips for Successful Writers’ Groups

Photo by Hector U. Velazquez

“We writers tend to be solitary, prickly creatures. In my youth I saw this as a badge of honor — the absurdly romantic notion of the lone, tortured artist pounding away on my typewriter. (Yes, there were typewriters back then, manual ones!) Fortunately, I have learned over the years. Getting out of our bubbles, consorting with other writers — and [critical] readers — can not only make us better writers but be good for the creative soul. I’ve been in a writers’ group for five years, now. We’ve had our ups and down, especially at the beginning. It took time to establish the trust and rapport essential for helpful give and take. We shed members — sometimes painfully — and added new ones. Now we are a cadre of seven working writers — accent on the working. Our styles are as diverse as they come: horror, sci-fi/fantasy, mystery, gritty YA, poetry, literary fiction, we have something for everyone. Some of us are much-published, others just beginning to get into print. We each bring our singular backgrounds and points of view to our critique, which makes for a satisfying literary bouillabaisse from which we all partake and makes us better writers in the process.” Shawn MacKENZIE, N Bennington, VT. MacKenzie’s Dragon Nest

“I think writers’ groups can certainly be beneficial if you have the right mix of people who are truly dedicated to their craft. If each person can take the time to not only learn from the others but also bring something new to the table, a writing group can be very valuable.” Joanne Ingram, Phoenix, AZ. Joanne’s blog

Find a group – I found my North Dakota group by logging on to the local library website and then searching under groups/organizations. Try your local university or college – when I lived in New Mexico, I attended a writer’s workshop at the local university. I put an email out to all the attendees from that workshop. Voila – writers’ group. Attend readings and book signings at local book stores to find like-minded people. Check your local travel website or chamber of commerce.

Schedule meetings regularly – At least once a month, better if twice a month. Maintain a regular schedule – same day of the week and at the same time of the day. Put the meetings on your calendar and do not schedule other activities at this time. Treat these meetings as part of your career, not just coffee with friends.

Venue – Select a location that allows reading out loud. Consider discussion and laughter. Consider privacy. Once you become familiar and comfortable with your members, propose in-home meetings; rotate and share hosting responsibilities.

Meetings as a deadline – If you know you are expected to provide a few pages at your next meeting, you will most likely finish those few pages. “[Writing groups] are great because of the support and encouragement as well as a kind of
deadline that I personally need at times!” Shellie Enteen, Greer, SC. Visit Shellie’s site.

Meetings as inspiration – Conversation at meetings can inspire new ideas, give you that Aha! moment, or provide the insight for that problem passage. Audrey in Sherwood, ND, says, “It’s fun and inspiring to spend time with people of similar interests.”

Critique unto others – Be fair when presenting your own material. Avoid hogging critique time (don’t dump 20 pages on the group at every meeting).

Give feedback, respectfully – Use positive, constructive phrases; comment on what you liked about a piece, not just what you didn’t like. Accept when the writer doesn’t agree with you.

Tan your hide in advance – If you are going to be part of a critique group, be prepared to be critiqued. Sounds simple, right? Accept that others may not see your work as stellar; listen and accept critiques graciously. Remember – just because a member offers advice, doesn’t mean you have to take it. Maintain your voice.

Share between meetings – Stay in touch with your group via emails, share articles and websites that you feel may be helpful to other members, and connect with each other on Facebook and Twitter.

What tips do you have for a writers’ group?

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”  – Henry Ford

Sources – Photo – With permission by Hector U. Velazquez. Visit Hector here; Quote Garden

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