Jan 22, 2016
One thing I always want to stress in the Write Now podcast is the fact that you are not alone. Despite what you might feel, despite what you might what (or think you want), you're not alone. This is important. And it's the focus of Episode 035 of the Write Now podcast.
Before we begin, a quick note that I've made it easier than ever before to support the work I do with the Write Now podcast with my new Tip Jar! :D
OK. Enough of that. Let's begin...
Starting a great writers' group -- or making your current writers' group even better.
Podcast listener Laura emailed me with some questions about best practices for writers' groups:
I wondered if you would consider doing a podcast on good practices for a writing group? Do you have any suggestions based on your experience? Exercises and activities? Resources? Pitfalls to avoid?
Great questions, Laura. And YES! I have experience with both successful and failed writing groups, and I'm excited to share what I've learned with you.
Different types of writing groups.
What type of writers' group do you want to have? Writing groups that focus on a specific type of writer can include groups for mystery writers, women, veterans suffering from PTSD, sci-fi writers, poets, dissertation students, adolescents, and tons more.
You could also simply just have an umbrella group for people who
love to write, regardless of what they're writing.
The Spectrum of Groups: From Encouraging to Critiquing
What do you want your writers' group to do for the folks who join (including yourself)? I've been part of writers' groups that are 75% critique and 25% encouragement, and groups that are 90% encouragement and 10% critique (if that). Each offers different benefits.
Critique-heavy writers' groups will help you develop your skills as a writer, and improve your manuscript (or whatever you happen to be working on) as well as your editing and critiquing skills. They are also great if you want to get better at reading your work in front of others.
Encouraging writers' groups can tend to be a bit more laid-back -- they are places of social inspiration and discussion, and can equip you with the energy and encouragement you need to go home and write up a storm.
Both will give you community and fellowship with like-minded
writers, and can help you make both friends and the important
connections you need to be successful.
Group Size, Dynamic, & More
You'll want a group that's neither too large nor too small. I recommend the sweet spot of 4-8 regular participants.
There's also the dynamic to consider. I've been in writers' groups where one person is just a really bad fit (perhaps better described as a toxic personality), and we've had to find a way to ask them to leave. It's unpleasant, to say the least.
If you're beginning your own group, consider carefully whom you'll be inviting. I'm not advising you to act under an exclusive mindset, but rather to carefully consider the cocktail of personalities you're mixing together.
You're creating a writers' group, a community, a haven for
creatives, a circle of trust. So be intentional about whom you
Beware Entrepreneur's Depression
Bestselling author and blogger Jeff Goins coined this phrase, and I love it: entrepreneur's depression.
Essentially, if you're thinking about starting a writers' group, you're going to have a vision for it. And a vision can be exciting and awesome and amazing. But sometimes, it can also set you up with some unrealistic expectations.
Your vision may be (like mine was) incredibly optimistic. I imagined 20, 30, 40 people attending my writers' group in downtown Chicago. I imagined a line out the door of the coffee shop where it was held. But instead, I got one or two people. And often none at all.
It was discouraging.