It’s hard talking about writing to non-writers. Family members might small and nod for a while. Friends might offer an encouraging word. But for the most part, writers need to associate with writers for camaraderie, peer learning, and providing critiques.
Libraries are a good place to put a notice for a writers’ group. There may be an existing group you can join, or the librarians may know some authors who are also looking to join a group. There may be some local writing workshops you can take and ask the students to form a group. There are many online writing workshops, some of which have online communities.
You can also post on social media that you want to connect with writers in a specific neighbourhood. There may be chapters of established writers’ associations you can join. It may take some time to connect with writers but keep looking and looking for places to post your advertisement. Writers will find you.
You’ve found interested people, but that doesn’t quite make a writers’ group just yet.
The key to an excellent writers’ group is its focus. Some clubs are more focused on the social aspect than on professional development. If that’s what you’re looking for, great. You’ll need to move on if that’s not what you’re looking for. And it’s okay to move on until you find an appropriate group for you.
I started an in-person writers’ group in my neighbourhood eleven years ago. We’ve consistently maintained four to five members, with a few turnovers. Some people pop in for a meeting or two and then leave. Why? Our group is focused on craft. Sure, we laugh and share about what’s happening in our lives since the last meeting, but our meeting focuses on critiquing one another’s work.
It’s rare to find what you’re looking for on the first go. It’s okay to keep engaging, learning, meeting new people, and trying out different places.
Once you’ve found people who share the same goal (social group or professional development group), you need to ensure your processes and outlooks are similar. A great writers’ group is focused on honesty, a sincere willingness to help the other members grow in their craft, and polite communication. It’s okay to be critical of someone’s work and show places where the plot is confusing or the pacing is slow. It’s not okay to personally attack the other person, belittle them, or discourage them from pursuing writing as a hobby or a career.
I’ve seen many interest groups disintegrate because of personality clashes. These groups had two or three dominant personalities that would control the meeting or intimidate others into remaining silent. This is not a healthy scenario. You can exercise your negotiation and leadership skills to create another more inclusive process or leave the group to find one more appropriate for you.
If you want to stick with the group that has dominant personalities, negotiate a process everyone can agree with and get people to stick to it. For example, in my in-person writing group, we critique the work of one author each month. The author submits ten pages one week before the meeting. During the meeting, we take turns providing feedback. The chit-chat and socialising happen at the end.
Forming a writers’ group can take time and effort, but it is incredibly rewarding to belong to a strong one. Keep reaching out to writers, and you’ll find a group you click well with.
Thank you, Bob Young @arthurscotex61, for the topic suggestion. If you have any suggestions for my next blog post, please don’t hesitate to reach out @reneegendron on Twitter.
Image is from @docusign