Starting Your Own Writer’s Group?
Sometimes you just can’t find a writer’s group that’s right for you. You’ve tried out all the public writer’s groups, and the private groups you’ve found have topped off their membership. And you want to receive your critique face-to-face, not online. What’s a determined writer to do?
You decide to start your own writer’s group. First, find a location where four to twelve or so of can meet. Coffee shops, bookstores, or a community room in your rec center or church might have just the space you’re looking for. Decide if you want to meet weekly or monthly, or some other schedule.
Do you want one genre or several? Some writers find the cross-dissemination of ideas from a variety of points-of-view helpful. You can always start with a mixed-genre group and change later, especially if the group grows too large.
That’s a great problem. A successful group often splits off into specialties: screenwriting, romance, or science fiction. Do you want a women’s only group, or a men’s only group? Or is gender immaterial? And, what age range. Some people are more at ease with their own age group.
There are some things to consider after you’ve found a place to meet, gathered a group, and decided on what time to meet, and for how long.
The group should have some written guidelines. A usual rule for reading is the first person to make it to the meeting puts his or her manuscript down in the center of the table. Each person afterward stacks theirs on top of that. Then, when the meeting starts, the stack is flipped over, and manuscript copies are passed out. (For this reason, some groups make a practice of putting the manuscript face down.)
Size of the group generally determines how long one person can read. Then comments are given, with other notes made on the hardcopy the writer has brought for each person. There should be a rule that no one should interrupt comments of a reasonable length.
Some groups prefer to email each other the next chapter in advance, then gather for comments, rather than reading around the table.
Some groups begin each meeting with a short writing exercise. Some groups rotate the hosting duty among the members. Some groups are run by the one person who started the group, who is always the host. Some vote on everything, with majority ruling.
In some writer’s groups, only the founder is responsible for dealing with the venue, and monitoring the group. There may come a day when a very negative person poisons the group. Or that a particular person is a bad fit for one reason or another. So, someone must take the unpleasant step of uninviting that person.
In that case, it behooves the founder of the group to speak with this person separately.
You can always encourage that person to start their own writer’s group.
Keep in touch,
Evan Swensen, Publisher
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