How to start your own writing group!

Posted: February 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

When I first started writing it was like a dirty little secret that I couldn’t tell anyone, it felt self indulgent and also a little arrogant. It took me a long time to ‘come out’ and from the moment I started being more open about it, the world opened up to me. Being in a writing group was one of the most productive things I have done. It forced me to write, to explore my writing as public content, as something to be shared and not to be embarrassed about. It also made me confront what I would and would not be comfortable sharing.

If there isn’t a group near you then I urge you to start your own. It may take some time to get off the ground but its a very rewarding experience.

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Take charge

Although its nice to have a real group feel, there should always be someone taking the helm, if your group is open to the public then you don’t know who you could get. Sometimes things can go off topic and you might need to steer the conversation back to the topic at hand. Every ship needs a captain.

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Participants

Who do you want to come to your group? is it for anyone? Is it just for you and some friends? Is there an age restriction? Gender restriction? How many people would you realistically want to accommodate? From my experience, over 4 and under 15 participants is ideal. Small intimate groups are nice but its also nice to get varying viewpoints.  My ideal would be between 8 and 10 members. Also I have an over 18’s policy in my group because of the content of the work.

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Venue

You may decide that you and some friends want to do a writing group together in which case you could easily just take it in turns to have your group in each others houses. Alternatively You could ask around locally for a venue. I asked someone I knew who organises a lot of local events who then recommended a venue, a local pub. I contacted the pub owner who was more than happy to let me use the space. You need to be aware of the fact that people will want privacy when reading out, and also – constant interruptions can be distracting and off-putting. Also check if there is a charge for the venue. If not then support the venue by buying drinks there.

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Time

is it easier to do it in the day or the evening? How long do you want your gathering to be. Start with something manageable then learn from it. I would recommend around 2 hours. Frequency – for a nice casual no pressure group then once a month is good. There is nothing to stop you doing it more or less frequently.

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Content

In the group I attended before and now my own writing group – Flash Fiction is a big part of the content. We had 15-20 minutes to write a short piece on any given topic, then each person would take it in turns to read out what they had written. it sounds daunting but its actually quite a liberating experience. We would then talk about what we and other people had written. Again, think about ages for members if you know your content will be explicit.

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Topics

There are many ways to look for topics. You can pick song lyrics, first sentences from pre- existing books, newspaper articles, a certain genre, a picture as inspiration. a historical figure – the possibilities are literally endless. Its also a good idea to discuss books that are already out there. look at examples of a good sex scene vs a bad one. Look at books with great beginnings and great endings. Books with strong characters, strong writing styles. Look at prize winning books. Compare books on similar themes to see how different they are. Any discussion in this literary context helps to further your understanding of writing books, assuming that’s what you want from the group.

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Do Check ins every few sessions

So flash fiction is fun but sometimes people are already working on stuff, every few sessions its worth asking people if they want to bring stuff in they have already been working on and you can all offer each other advice.

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Homework

You can set homework if you like. It can be something as simple as to bring an object in next time, or to find a newspaper article, or even to write a short piece and send it in beforehand. Or you could ask people to read a couple of passages from books so that you can discuss them next time. You just have to figure out if homework is something that could work for your group or not.

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Future Options

You can discuss where people may want to go with their work. You can talk about Blogs, facebook pages, submitting to magazines and competitions. publishing vs self publishing – it may be an idea to discuss with your group what the options are for publishing vs self publishing. Some of your group may want to pursue a serious writing career and some may not.

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Contact 

You can either set up a mailing list – which you probably should do anyway. When you get new members add their email addresses and then you can keep them up to date with when the next meet up will be and what (if anything) they need to bring with them. Depending on the size you could either set up a facebook group or page. The benefit of a private facebook group is that members could create documents and you could keep a copy of all the flash fiction, and see how people progress. Discuss this with your group and see if its something they would be willing to do. Obviously you can exchange phone numbers and anything else but as organiser then you should have a central location for all of that information.

 

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Just remember that it takes time and its mostly an evolving process. You can try things and change things, its all about what works best for you as a group. There are no rules, you just have to find your way. Good luck!

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