Things to Consider When Starting a Writing Group

by | Jan 10, 2020

Considering starting a writing group in the new year? Here are some things to consider as you’re putting together your group.

Who makes a good writing group member?

When you’re starting your writing group, it might be tempting to invite anyone who wants to write, but not everyone is a great match for your writing group (even if they’re awesome otherwise).

When forming a writing group, it’s a good idea to keep it to those whose feedback and company you find trustworthy and productive—those whose feedback and company keeps you moving toward your goals.

Setting goals that benefit everyone in the group

Everyone will have different things they want to get out of the group. Take some time up front to have a frank discussion about this. Give everyone a chance to set their own goals for your time together and figure out how the group can help them meet those goals.

Consider revisiting these goals once a quarter or once a year to make sure the group is still working well for anyone. This can help each member figure out if they need to adjust their goals or how the group is structured, or if it is time for them to move on, perhaps to find a different group.

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Figuring out feedback

Many writing groups provide feedback to members in the form of discussion of ideas, written comments on drafts, or more detailed editing of manuscripts. All of these are options for your group. Discuss which feedback types members are interested in and how you can schedule that feedback so that everyone’s goals can be met. Remember that not everyone will want to same type or frequency of feedback, and that’s okay.

Balancing work and play

Community building and camaraderie are a crucial part of writing groups, and this means taking time to get to know each other as people, not just as writers. Discuss up front how much “work” and how much “socializing” members want from the group to avoid conflict down the line.

You might also consider scheduling time to write or edit together as well as time to just hang out socially. Having both on your calendar means everyone knows what that day’s focus is and it takes the pressure off.

Accountability toward goals

Related to the above point, different members will most likely want different forms of accountability. Some may want to report weekly progress to the group while others may prefer to keep their focus on completing drafts by specific deadlines. Figure out which kind of check-in each member wants and build that into your group’s structure.

Finding a time and frequency to meet

There is no rule about how often your group needs to meet. Some groups find that weekly meetings keep everyone focused and provide calendar stability to long-term writing projects. Others prefer a monthly or quarterly schedule to fit around teaching and other life responsibilities. Others will may prefer to build meeting times around key deadlines. Test out some options with your group if you’re not sure which would work best, and be sure to ask folks WHY a particular frequency or time did or didn’t work for them.

Happy writing!

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Kate Drabinski is the education director at Ideas on Fire, an avid bicyclist, and a senior lecturer in gender and women's studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

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