From my last post you may know that I have joined a writers group and am loving it! I feel that this is such a useful tool for writers of all disciplines and stages of their literary careers. There are many ways you can join a writers group as this passion we all share is not as solitary as we may think. There are writers groups everywhere all over the world and there may be one in existence near where you live. Otherwise, there are many ways you can start your own. First, I will show you how to find one in your local area, then I will show you the way in which I developed my own purely based online (with the help of the other ladies as I cannot take all the credit) and what you should do if you want to create your own face to face group. Over the internet and face to face has two extremely different dynamics and there are things you need to be weary of before you begin. But first I would like to begin with why you should have a writers group. Also I warn you know, the post is tremendously long but please read to the end!
- You are looking at your work every single day. You think it’s great but someone else can see the flaws you don’t;
- You know what emotions you want to convey, but to someone else it may be completely different. You need others to let you know how your writing or characters made them feel;
- They help you ensure your structure is correct;
- They alert you to the dreaded saggy middle (you know when a book gets boring around the middle?);
- You will see how other writers create their stories and you will learn from others mistakes;
- You will gain inspiration and appreciation for the creative process;
- You will make trusted and well respected friends; and
- You will get over your fear of people reading your work
The simplest answer is Google! You can type in “Writers Group [Place Where You Live]” and something will come up. For the Sydney area where I am from, you will find sites such as New South Wales Writing Centre and Writing Meet Ups Sydney where passionate writers have created a page and then post when their next meet up will be and where. What I have noticed is that they take place in the city or places I cannot get to further out west.
You can also go to your local library and as if they have any writers groups that meet up there. Many library’s host writers groups a few times a month or so, and you may be lucky to find one.
Another source where you may find a group near you is through Facebook. In Sydney there is a group on Facebook called NaNoWriMo Sydney and they run during NaNoWriMo to support writers through the whirlwind of a time. If you go to the NaNoWriMo page they will have details of other Facebook groups or face to face meet ups for your area no matter where you live.
Online Writers Groups
There are many out there but I would use caution with these. I don’t know why but they give me the heeby geebies, I guess because I have heard horror stories of stolen works and as I do not know anyone who has used them before. When you go onto Google you will noticed a lot of online writers groups and you may take your pick of those if you wish. Just make sure you are very sure about it as they almost always have fees attached. I wish I can give you more advice about them, but alas I wouldn’t go down that road.
Another way you can create a writers group is through your contacts on social media. Facebook has tonnes of writers support groups which host their own critiquing group, twitter is a great place to meet authors and other aspiring writers, I have met a few through it. However, my absolute favourite is Instagram. The writing community it has is second to none and I am meeting knew creatives every single day. I just started chatting and being active with other writing accounts and got to know a few of them and then BOOM started a writing group.
This may be a bit nerve-wracking because you have never met these people face to face before, but you get a sense of who they are from what they post and talking to them online. It’s weird but true and I find writers are very honest. I have made some good friends through Instagram and I feel that we all gel quite well in our constant google hangouts conversations. However, if you don’t feel good about it and your worried your work will be plagiarised then don’t do it. Simple as that. Go with your gut instincts as they are never wrong, unless you’re in love but I digress!
I found the best way to share documents with people you have met over the web is through Google Docs. This is because most of the time you are all over the globe and adhere to different time zones. Once you have created your google profiles and followed each other, you can start sharing documents privately with one another over Google Dive. This allows you to comment and amend each other’s works together! It sends the owner an email showing them who wrote what comment and allows you to reply immediately. It is fantastic and worth the trouble believe me. It may be challenging to set up if you are technically challenged like me, but once you get over that hurdle it’s great. In order to get your story on the cloud you will need to create a google document and copy and paste it there. If you simply upload a word document on there your group members will be able to open it but not comment. Also, once you set this up you can easily create a google hangouts account which allows you to have group conversations easily and then you can talk about writerly things or miscellaneous unmentionables!
By creating an online group it is a very informal process and this because everyone is taking it at their own pace. However, there are somethings I recommend you get straight from the outset and make sure you get an answer from everyone before you begin reviewing their works. These include providing a synopsis and additional notes, an outline of what exactly is being given and what kind of critique are you looking for. I have included a document which you can download to send to the members of your writing group to fill in before you start which should be uploaded to Google Docs when you attach your story.
Here is where things may get difficult. You can do this in two ways, first you can create a group made up of people you already know in your area who are writers. This way produces less friction because you all know each. However, the second way is creating an open writing group and is extremely fun but can end up a terrible experience depending on how you go about it. An open writing group is the one discussed above which you can find to join on google or other social media sites.
The difficulty is that despite being adults, sometimes the things we say can be hurtful. At times there could be a ‘master and slave’ relationship where the experienced writers are picking on the beginners, or even a scenario of ‘shark and dinner’ where the writers tear each other to shreds. This is not what we are going for. You want a ‘circle of friends or colleagues’ type of situation and sometimes, depending on the motives of the group’s creator, a ‘student and teacher’ setup. The last only works if the teacher has pure motives of helping others write and create their stories, as well as the goal to help them get published.
However, good groups will not have a poisonous dynamic and should have in place certain regulations or guidelines to prevent such behaviour from happening. I have included a PDF which I have created which you can print when you start your own group. It is a guideline which you and the others will fill in and follow. It includes meeting procedure, behavioural guidelines and general tips to get started. You should aim to give this out to each member on their first meeting and have them fill it out in that session.
- The meetings should take place monthly if face to face, or if online as soon as possible.
- If face to face, only one to two people’s work should be critiqued at each meeting.
- Everyone should read work to be critiqued in the next meeting at least once before it is held.
- When critiquing you are to provide encouraging and constructive criticisms aimed at furthering the writer’s growth.
- You will not use derogatory language or make distasteful remarks about a person’s work or attack the writer personally.
- You should provide reasons for your critiques.
- The writer should listen to all critiques before responding.
- The writer will respond to criticisms in a calm and open manner, but only after taking into full consideration what was said.
To set a group up you can create a profile on your local writers website (for Sydney it is Writers Meet Ups Sydney), create a Facebook page or put up flyers around where you want to hold the meetings. I suggest you hold them at either a library or at a café, but with a retail outlet it is customary to buy some sort of beverage or snack, to ensure they do not mind you taking up space for actual paying customers. I would personally hold it in the library in their group study areas, but check with them first so you can make sure they do not have an event something allotted in those times you wish to host it. I think, once I graduate I might actually make one in my local area as the ones in Sydney are too far from my house.
Also, something I must stress is that you must not make it a social event. You are there to work and you have only so much time to get through everything before people get bored. I recommend not to make a meal out of it or sit to chat about your lives. You can do that at the end of the meeting after you move on from the café or library. It is perfectly fine to become friends with your writing buddies, but do it after the work is done.
If you have someone in your group who is upsetting other people, it is your responsibility as the groups creator to first warn them about the repercussions of their behaviour and if they do not change their tune, then you are well within your rights to kick them out of the group. It is ultimately for the benefit of all the other members. You do not want friendly and cooperative members of the group to leave because of someone who is causing nothing but trouble and making people feel bad about their works.
I hope that this covers everything you want to know! I warned you that it is a long post but I hope you are still reading up to this point and if you are thank you, you are awesome! If there is anything I have missed please tell me and I will rectify the situation, or if you want to ask questions go straight ahead! I would love to see your comments and communicate with you.