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9 Secrets for a Successful Writer’s Group

A good writer’s group can be a real blessing for the freelance writer. They are not only a way to break out of the isolation that writing often brings, they can stimulate ideas, help shape your work and even help you find markets. So what makes a good writer’s group?

What You Want in a Writer’s Group

Mileage will vary, but in my opinion, I want the following in a group:

  1. Ten or 15 active members. Small enough so everyone has ample opportunity to participate; large enough so the burden of participating doesn’t fall on a few regulars.
  2. Real-world writing and selling experience by at least half of the members. I want to be able to draw on their expertise as well as contribute my own.

  3. Welcome attitude toward ‘newbies.’ Newcomers bring a freshness and often have new ideas worth considering.
  4. A focus on getting manuscripts sold. This is because I want to make money with my writing. Journal writing groups and such are totally valid in their own right, just not what I’m looking for.
  5. A plan. By that I mean everyone is expected to read X pages X times a month. The meetings will usually last two hours; four readings with comments following is probably enough for each meeting.
  6. Real commitment to supportive, constructive criticism. Sometimes members have to be taught how this works. In short, it’s always preceding a suggestion/correction with something you like about the piece. It’s also making a suggestion rather than just a criticism.
  7. At least a few minutes of the comment period should include marketing ideas. I’ve been delightfully surprised when someone suggested a market I’d never even heard of more than once.
  8. A real understanding among members that the suggestions are just that. No one is under any obligation to follow them.
  9. A willingness and a way to celebrate success, which may be just getting a manuscript in the mail. A ‘success session’ can be a great kick-off for the meeting.
The only way to tell if a group meets your own criteria is to attend a few sessions. Go with an open mind and a willingness to contribute your thoughts and ideas. Follow the rules as you understand them and before long you’ll know if it’s a good group for you.

Start Your Own Writer’s Group

If you don’t find a group that suits, start one of your own. It’s easier than you think.

First, find a place to meet. Recreation halls, libraries and even banks often have community rooms for little or no cost.

Pick a regular time, like every other Tuesday, or the 4th Thursday. Now advertise in community papers – in fact you may be able to write an article for them about your group. Post notices at near-by senior centers and large apartment complexes (amazing how many published writers you may find there).


Post at your local coffee shops – and maybe even pass out a mini flyer to all those folks huddled over their laptops, and check there too for small newspapers and magazines that may make good ad suspects.

Commit to at least four sessions, since it often takes that long for a group to actually form.

You may also want to read: Professional Organizations Give Freelance Writers an Edge

Write well and often,

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Thanks so much for the informative article. I am planning to start a writer’s group and would like to post a link to all those that are considering joining with me in my group. Would you have any objections to me putting a link into an email to potential participants? Also can something like this be done as a real life/online group?

    • No, link away… you could even print copies for your group – just make sure the url or aboutfreelancewriting.com shows up somewhere. And let us know how the group comes together… even a guest article if you like.

      • Thanks so much for your generosity! I’ll be sure to let you know how it is going!

  • jorgekafkazar

    A writers’ group that doesn’t meet every week easily loses continuity and, frankly, wouldn’t keep up with the level of productivity I expect from members.

    Everyone should have an opportunity to read at every session. This may require a 2000 word limit, +/-, AND a leader with a gavel to keep people from going off-topic. “Your story reminds me of a time in the 60’s when I was living in a commune in Aguanga…” Critiques should be limited in time and scope.

    A pet peeve of mine is people who read the same piece several times. This is like asking the group to write the thing for them: “I made some changes based on your suggestions last time. Now here it is again for you to tell me what else to change.” Reading published works should also be verboten. Ditto poetry.

    Some groups distribute works by email in advance.

    Starting a workshop is not easy, so I’d suggest also posting notices at colleges, libraries, and bookstores. I believe some large writing magazines will list your workshop.

    One of my old workshops used to meet in various private homes and send out notices before each meeting. This was an advantage when we had to expel members–we just dropped them from the notice list. In that regard, based on actual experience, if adult content is often read, children should be explicitly not permitted to attend. Duh.

    • I’ve had groups that meet every other week work – and we let a member skip reading once and awhile… agree re published works… new works only! Email distribution also makes sense, as do your suggestions for postings. In my experience the reading requirement tends to prune people pretty well… but I can see that might not always work.

  • Thanks for the list, Anne. I’m looking at one right now but it meets when I have another commitment. I think I might move that other one so I can check it out. Need some feedback and advice, and to get out of the house!

    🙂
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Selling Yourself Through Your WritingMy Profile

  • I just joined a local online writing group that is just starting up and look forward to meeting new people and sharing the writing experience.

    Thanks for the tips.

    Michelle Kafka’s last blog post..Writing Tool For The Writer/Virtual Office – Zoho

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