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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Welcome attitude toward ‘newbies.’ Newcomers bring a freshness and often have new ideas worth considering.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- A real understanding among members that the suggestions are just that. No one is under any obligation to follow them.
- 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.
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
Image from http://www.sxc.hu