How to Build a Kick Ass Writing Group

Skeleton BandIt’s no secret that a lot of writers feel isolated in their work. We would love to meet other writers and be part of a group that meets our particular writing needs. But when most writers start looking around their local area for a writing group to join, they end up disappointed. I believe this happens because…

Most writing groups revolve around critique.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The critique process can be invaluable for writers who are seeking specific feedback on their work. But the critique group doesn’t work for every writer and here’s why:

Critique takes time.

Part of the deal of signing up for a critique group is that each writer is responsible for submitting work, and critiquing the work of others. For writers on an extremely tight schedule, the time commitment to do the outside work required might not be feasible.

Critique is most effective for writers who have some experience with finishing, revising, and polishing pieces.

For the newborn writer still trying to find their feet with their very first story, the critique process might be too much too soon and end up overwhelming them.

Not everyone is looking for critique from a group.

Some writers are very experienced and already have a professional editor, an agent and/or a publisher they’re working with to guide them in the revision process.

But just because a writer isn’t looking for critique, that doesn’t mean they don’t need a writing group.

This is when a writer should build their own writing group.

I’ve written about this subject before because it’s dear to my heart. Five years ago I started my own writing group in Seattle (which is still going strong even though I can’t attend the meetings anymore) and then I moved to San Francisco and I started another. I currently meet with the San Francisco group every week.

Our writing group is based on timed writing. We meet with the purpose of writing together silently for one hour. We have a core nucleus of members who have been in the group from day one, and we’ve also had a rotating cast of writers who have come and gone as their writing needs or their lives have changed.

But one thing has remained the same: Every week, we meet to write together for one hour.

I’m lucky enough to have started these groups in Seattle and San Francisco, which are both large urban areas with a high population of artists and writers. But even if you live in the tiniest little town in the middle of the Arctic, you can still build a similar group. Everything I do with my group in person can be done over Skype. The important thing is that you meet with other writers at the same time every week, you connect and communicate with them about writing, and then you write together.

I personally believe that this type of group is the most effective when it includes the structure of timed-writing for one hour together. It might seem easier to meet only to talk about writing and not actually do any writing, but over the long term, there is less of an incentive for those writers with busy lives to keep showing up. Because the reality is that talking about writing is great, but what we’re all really interested in is getting some real writing done.

When a writer can show up, connect with other writers, and then actually crank out a few pages it’s a win-win for everyone.

Another great advantage to this kind of group is that it doesn’t matter so much if all the writers in it are writing the same genre. The point isn’t to constantly talk shop, but instead to build a community of writer friends who get what it means to be a writer, and who bring that positive vibe to the group of wanting to do the work.

Social media is an awesome tool to help you find the writers who you click with and who might be interested in joining your group. Twitter is my favorite for connecting, but I have writer friends who love using Google Plus and online writing forums to meet comrades. You’ll have to experiment with what works for you.

Having a close community of writer friends can fundamentally change your writing life. I guarantee that it’s worth it to do the work to make it happen.

If you enjoyed this post you might want to check out:

Why Every Writer Needs Community

The One Thing That Separates Great Writers from the Rest

Who’s In YOUR Writing Sangha?

How to Populate Your New Writing Group

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