Updated: Jan 27, 2019
It's officially a new year, and my fledgling writing group from 2018 has become a beautiful network of friends and colleagues! When I started the group, I only knew one writer in the area and now our group has over 50+ members.
I wanted to join a writing group for camaraderie, accountability, critique, and learning. When I searched the local area, I found one group that no longer met, another group that met only in November, and another profit-seeking group that was less writer-oriented.
So, at that point, I knew I wanted to start a new writing group. The first thing I did was search the Internet to read advice on how to start a successful writing group. Surprisingly, the Internet had very little to share with me. This article is my two cents on the topic, and I hope it helps other writers out. (Yay! Writers!)
Step 1: Find Other Writers
Search the Internet for Existing Groups - See if they are still meeting. If not, see if the former runner is open to sharing details about your new group.
- Check Facebook (I found three here for my small metro.)
- Check Meetup
- Google Search
Ask Your Local Librarian - They may be willing to advertise for you, via newsletter or social media. My local library has been willing to host our meetings and while they aren't allowed to advertise non-library events, they have recommended a few individuals via word of mouth who have sought us out.
Flyers - I haven't had a lot of luck with flyers, but they are a good thing to have on hand. Put them up in local bookstores, colleges, and coffee shops as permitted. Bring them to your meetings and give out with upcoming dates. Sometimes members will share with others.
Step 2: Bring Everybody Together
Pick a platform to bring everyone together. I recommend Facebook. It's free and almost everyone has an account (despite the love/hate relationship many of us have with the platform). If you create your own forum or website, you are counting on people specifically coming to you. They won't. But people tend to login to Facebook organically.
You want a Faceook GROUP, not page. Pages are for one-way communication to an audience. Groups are for, well, groups. Keep the group set to public at first, so that your new members friends of friends can see the group. We grew rapidly at first before we voted to cut off this feature.
Capture email addresses too, for non-Facebook users, and send out monthly updates and upcoming event newsletters. Be cool. Don't spam. And don't forget to bcc your members, so that someone doesn't hit the dreaded reply all.
Step 3: Don't Be A Dictator
The best tip for getting a group that shows up and keeps showing up... ask for input and feedback. Before you get started, you need to know:
1) When can everyone meet? Best days and times
2) Where can everyone meet? Best locations and venue types
3) What do they hope to gain from the group? Meet new people, critique on work, dedicated writing time, etc.
I handed out anonymous surveys at all of our meetings for the first 3 months. Yes, they laughed at me, but they still filled them out :p
Step 4: Meet Regularly & Reliably
Pick a schedule and stick to it. My group decided on Monday evenings. So, now Monday evenings in our mind's are always writer's night.
Publish the schedule in advance. Give people time to plan.
Be reliable. Don't flake. I missed only one meeting out of 20+, and I gave advance notice and deputized another member to lead (if needed - we are pretty democratic in nature).
Step 5: Resolve Interpersonal Issues Quickly
As your group evolves, interpersonal issues will occasionally occur. Don't panic. It's totally normal. We're all adults from different backgrounds and perspectives, not everyone will be best friends. That being said, everyone can show respect for one another and leave their politics at the door (unless of course it somehow pertains to their writing project). I've found that usually the best thing you can do is just listen. The worst thing you can do is gossip about it. This makes for a pretty toxic environment very quickly.
Don't let this step spook you. These sorts of issues have been far and few between in my group.
Step 6: Enjoy Yourself
It's not often as writers that we have an opportunity to come together as a community and discuss our passion (without eyes glazing over), so make sure you enjoy your time!
Have you started a successful writing group? What do you think made it successful? What were your greatest challenges? Let me know in the comments below