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  • Kimber Severance

How to Create a Writing Group

Updated: Nov 5, 2021

Community is an important part of writing. Writing groups can help you turn rough drafts into polished novels ready for publishers!

How to Create a Writing Group

Stories are all about people, our connections to each other, and our inner struggles. So it makes sense to include other people in the process of writing a story. Books are also written to be read by others. Including readers in the writing process can help your book get to the next level of readiness for publishing.

Members of a writing group can act as an important support group for struggling writers and as beta readers to help mold the content of your story to be the best it can be. Working with a writing group can also help you see things you wouldn't otherwise notice in your story.

It helps to have others edit your writing, because as all writers know, it’s incredibly hard to see your own mistakes when reading your own writing. Writing group members can help you spot ways to improve your writing and point out all the plot holes you miss.

1. Decide the Kind of Writing Group You Want

Before you officially create a writing group you should decide what kind of writing group you want to make.

Will this writing group write together or will it also read each other’s content? Will this group be a large network of support for writers or an intimate group of colleagues? Will this writing group focus on a specific genre or be open to all genres of literature?

These are all the things you need to figure out before you create a writing group.

Pick a Genre

First, decide what genre you want the group to focus on. You can be broad about which genres to include, but having some kind of idea will help your group be focused and make it easier for everyone to help each other with their writing. Otherwise, the fiction writers might have a hard time helping the nonfiction writers with their work.

  • Fiction

  • Nonfiction

  • Romance

  • Historicals

  • Biographical

  • Mystery

  • Thrillers

Pick a Skill Level

Choose writing group members that are at a similar skill level. Bringing people together who have a similar skill level in writing will help you all to grow together as writers.

There are benefits to writing with people who are more experienced than you, but the more experienced members might not benefit as much from the group. This can potentially create unfair rifts between group members and the level of support everyone is able to get out of the group.

Advertise the skill level of your group when you’re first looking for and inviting members. These different skill levels include:

Level 1: Beginner

Level 2: Intermediate

Level 3: Advanced

Pick a Group Size

It’s a good idea to decide how many writers you want in the group before you start inviting people so that the group’s size doesn’t get out of hand.

Your writing group doesn’t have to be huge. It can even just be one other person or an accountability partner. But the more writing group members you have the more brains you have to pick when you need opinions and help.

When determining group size you’ll also want to keep in mind how many group members you can reasonably maintain. Group meetings might be in your living room, so keep the meeting space you have available in mind when deciding how many people to invite into your group.

Personally, I recommend you forge a writing group of 2 to 10 other people, 10 people being the maximum amount of members. More intimate writing groups make it easier to read each other’s content and help each other out.

2. Find Group Members

Trust is a very important part of any writing group. Writing is a very personal craft. A lot of writing can end up being very personal. One of the important parts of creating your writing group is building a personal writing community that you know and trust.

If you don’t already have people you know to invite into the group, then find ways to meet new people and get to know them before you start a group. If you only know a person or two, then invite them, and ask them to each invite someone, who can then invite someone, and so on, until you have a full group.

3. Establish Group Rules and Guidelines

Whenever you are about to create a group or club you have to set up a format of operations for the group. This is when you decide all of the nitty-gritty details.

Write down all the group rules and guidelines in a doc that you can easily edit, add to, and share with everyone.

Here are all the things you need to plan out in your rules and guideline doc:

What will the group structure be like?

Is there one person in charge of the group? Or is everyone on the same footing? Does the leader of the group lead the meetings, or do you rotate the meeting mediator? If there are going to be any roles or positions in the group, figure those out now. You’ll need to know who will fill these roles, and whether these roles will rotate at all.

What will group meetings be like?

Go over what you want to accomplish at group meetings and what the basic layout of each meeting will be. You should also decide whether group meetings will include deadlines to work toward and swap writing.

More than likely, someone will need to direct meetings. You also need a meeting place like a library, a study room, a restaurant, a community center, someone’s house, or even online. Then schedule how often the group will meet in person and/or online.

For example, you might meet once a month and you might create a deadline for each member to bring in a chapter to swap and help each other out with. You can rotate between meeting at different people’s houses. The actual meeting agenda might look like this:

6:00 to 6:30: catch up and socialize

6:30 to 7:00: read each other’s chapters

7:00 to 7:30: give feedback

7:30 to 8:00: open discussion

How are you going to stay in contact with each other?

At the beginning of your first meeting, you should pass around a sign-in sheet for everyone to write down their name, phone number, and email address. Then you can create a group message for everyone on the messaging system of your choice.

It’s also a good idea to create a shared Google Drive or OneDrive folder where people can drop their chapter submissions and where you can keep a group calendar.

Here are some great group messaging systems you could use for your writing group:

  • SMS text message group

  • Facebook messenger

  • Discord

  • Google Hangouts

  • Slack

  • GroupMe

  • WhatsApp

How will submissions be made?

How do you want writing group members to submit their work for review? What are some submission no-nos for your group? Writers often like to write in very different ways so you might have to address this.

For instance, some people like to write by hand while others like to type. You might have to require that each person makes enough copies for everyone in the group to write their own notes on. Or maybe you’ll all type your edits online by sharing your documents on google drive or OneDrive.

You'll also have to decide when everyone will submit their work. Will everyone submit a piece at each meeting? Or will just one person and you can rotate this person so the meetings can be even more focused on just one member’s writing at a time?

You should also decide how long the pieces should be. The best thing to do is to go by word count because how they write or the font they like to use can affect things like paragraph count or page count.

How to give proper feedback

As a group, go over the way you want to handle feedback and good critique practices. Go over what constitutes good constructive criticism and make sure everyone understands the difference between helpful constructive criticism and being unkind or offering feedback the receiver can’t use. Constructive criticism needs to be specific enough to help the author fix whatever problems their writing might have.

For example, statements like, “this section is really boring” don’t help the author. Instead, members need to be specific about their feedback with statements like, “I think this section would be a good opportunity to introduce your next conflict.”

4. Bring Food!

Food will get people to keep commitments to writing group meetings. Maybe you all have a favorite place to eat that you could all order from. Or you could all go to eat together and talk over dinner or lunch. Or you could take turns making dinner for each other, or bringing your favorite writing snacks.

Make an excel sheet calendar that allows everyone to see who’s in charge of bringing snacks to each meeting. This calendar can then allow you to easily volunteer to bring different snacks without everyone bringing the same thing. You can also use this calendar to plan other group things like meeting place and time.

5. Go Over the Goals of the Group

In the beginning, when your group is just starting out, go over what everyone’s personal goals and desires are for the group. What do they want to get out of this writing group? What kind of feedback are people looking for? Some people might need help with dialogue, conflict, building characters, or world building.

Going over the writing goals of each group member can help your group as a whole have a more focused purpose.

My Ideal Writing Group

First of all, my ideal writing group has food! It also has a group messaging system on Facebook messenger or slack to allow for easy and constant communication between fellow writers.

In my ideal writing group, there is a leader of the group who helps facilitate and organize everything. They are the ones in charge of rotating responsibilities and making final decisions if the group can’t come to a consensus about something.

This group has a shared folder on google drive. This folder has resources, the writing pieces that each group member is working on, an excel spreadsheet that goes over dates and assignments, and a group guidelines doc that goes over the group rules and structure.

The best way to get feedback from group members is to have a deadline for when submissions need to be ready so group members know when they can start reading, editing, and commenting. This way you can have rest periods in between your own writing while you focus on helping others. Taking a step away from your own work for a week or a few days can really help you not get burned out in your own writing.

During meetings take time to go over everyone’s edits and feedback. This way group members can talk about the edits they’ve made and give any needed further explanations, insights, or help.

Then people can bring forward specific questions or help they need. You could even have a central topic of discussion for each meeting like “dialogue” or “world building.”

In Conclusion,

A solid writing group can be the key thing you need to get your writing off the ground. Group members can act as accountability writing partners and help you actually reach your word count goals. They can also be a support for you when you’re stumped or need help brainstorming ideas.

Socializing can be really hard as an adult, but you can make it easier by creating a helpful support group for some fellow writers!

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