Writing Groups 101: How to Find Your Perfect Match

Writing Groups 101: How to Find Your Perfect Match

Writing can be lonely. And when you’re working alone, it can be hard to know if your words are right on track or if they’re way off the mark.

Why not make time to meet with like-minded writers and critique each other’s work?

If that sounds like a good plan, you may want to find a writing group.

Read on to find out about the different types of writing groups, how to find one, how to decide if it’s a good fit and, if you don’t find one that’s a good fit, how to start your own.

How to find a writing group

First, you’ll need to decide if you’d like to join an online writing group or if you’d rather meet writers face to face in your hometown.

Some writers prefer a combination approach, working with an in-person group and supplementing that with an online critique group. You may have to work through a few different approaches to find what works best for you.

If you’re looking for an in-person writing group, take a look around and see if you can find a local writing association, Meetup.com group or even an acquaintance already running a group. Ask at your local library or look for fliers. Once you find a group, see what’s involved and consider attending a meeting.

If online writing groups are more your thing, you’ll have a plethora of online options to choose from. Many of these are focused on specific genres, and some even allow features like audio and video feedback. Peruse the options to see what you think will work best.

Of course, Facebook also offers a number of writing groups if one of those might meet your needs.

How to evaluate writing groups

The best way to evaluate a writing group and see if it’s right for you is to attend a few meetings, whether online or in person.

It might take a few sessions to decide if it’s a good fit. And you may have to go through a few groups to find the right fit, but that’s okay.

Don’t feel pressured to stay in groups that don’t work for you. Maybe you write sci-fi and most of the writers in your group focus on historical fiction. Discussing the cobblestones in Boston 100 years ago at length may be fascinating on its own, but it’s not going to help you get your book written.

Or maybe you don’t mesh with the others in the group personality-wise. That’s fine, too.

If a group isn’t a good fit, don’t worry. That just means it’s time to shop around until you find an even better match.

Start your own writing group

If you can’t find just what you’re looking for, or you’d rather start fresh, consider starting your own writing group.

This can mean anything from an informal occasional critique session with a handful of friends to a structured group that meets every week with designated roles and an agenda.

When starting a group, you’ll need to consider where your members will come from. Do you already have a handful of writers who want to form a group? Or will you need to find writers? You can often find writers by asking around, posting fliers at the library, putting a message up on Facebook or reaching out to local literary groups or clubs.

It’s always important to work with writers who have similar goals and ideas. This doesn’t mean you have to write the same types of things. Not at all. It can be helpful to have diverse genres in your group.

But it isn’t helpful to have different ideas about what you want to get done. If half your members want to chat about their hobbies and the other half want to discuss writing in-depth, that’s not likely to be a good match.

If informally talking about each work is productive for your group, that’s great. But if you are looking for a bit more in terms of structure, consider writing up an agenda with time slots for each part of your meeting.

For example, the first 10 minutes could include updates from everyone before moving on to 15 minutes to talk about each manuscript. If you have a chatty group, consider building a coffee or snack break into the meeting or have an optional coffee break before or after.

But you also don’t want to be the dictator of the writing group. Work with group members to find a plan that works well for the whole group.

However you find or create your writing group, having a good, solid group of writers to offer encouragement, support, and critiques can be invaluable.

If there’s anyone who understands what writers go through, it’s other writers.

Are you part of a writing group? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

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16 comments

  • Judith Haran says:

    A word of caution with Meetup or other public postings (even a library bulletin board): I did this and an extremely disruptive person (someone who said he had brain damage and acted as if he did) showed up and ruined the first meeting. There was no way to get rid of this person, so we all just left. He kept pestering me by email afterwards but finally gave up. There is a way to avoid this, which I had not thought of: before accepting a new member, ask everyone for a writing sample. If you’re the organizer, you have every right to just pick those people you think will work, people whose writing interests or appeals to you (and not, for instance, people who are writing about delusions, like this person was). This was my third and final attempt to find a writing group. Going it alone for now. I just wanted to help people head off what I had to go through.

    • That’s an excellent idea. It could also be used to weed through the serious vs. non-serious writers who are likely to attend meetings. I formed a group on Meetup too, and I’ve hit the 50 member limit before having to pay more. But only 3 people have shown up, two regularly, after 4-5 meetings. Meanwhile, others are knocking on the door and can’t get in because I’m not spending more for members who don’t show up anyway.

      Thanks.

    • Laura Thomas Boren says:

      Yes, that is a definite problem, especially on meet-up. I do like them, but it’s pretty public (much like Craig’s List).

      I think finding the right fit can be quite challenging. People are at different points in their writing lives, there are varying skill levels (which can be an issue if critiques are being given) and so on. Then there are just the usual personality issues – who’s the bossy one, who’s the mousy one, who just can’t shut up.

      In some ways I have to agree – going it alone often seems like the safer choice. And so far, like you, I’m doing that. Still looking, though, for that just right fit.

  • Writing groups are invaluable, indeed.
    Genius germinates in groups on the creative inspiration and give-and-take of inspired and inspiring ideas is one of the things that we always cherish most with our Creative Writing Retreats.

    The rewards of a writer finding their right tribe are incalculable.

  • “Get a writing group” they say. But you are so right that it must be the right writing group.

    If you write space opera and you’re in a group full of people who write literary fiction, they won’t “get” your stuff, and you won’t get any relevant feedback.

    And personalities matter just as much as genre. If you find yourself in a group full of writers with low self esteem who only want to tear down other peoples’ work, get out of there as quickly as possible.

    Thanks for the great advice!

    • Laura Thomas Boren says:

      Yep – I found the personality issues to be rather interesting to say the least. In one meeting my husband, who’s a published author, was there and the group leader was saying a bunch of ridiculous things about publishing (mind you, he hadn’t been published) so both of us offered some experience. It wasn’t received well. We were careful not to contradict Mr. Leader, but my husband basically said, “these folks are not where I am,” which was true. So personality and development are really key in finding the right group.

  • JoAnn says:

    I started a local writing group called Greenville Blogging Network. Decent response. Over 30 members, but I cannot get them to attend monthly meetings. We network and always have a pre-announced topic for discussion. Getting frustrated by low attendance.

    • Laura Thomas Boren says:

      Maybe just go online? Is that an option?

      Or – do a poll of your members and figure out what they want in a group, then offer it to them (at least at first; once they are in the habit of coming regularly, loyalty and cohesion builds and causes momentum.)

      Also – even though you have 30 – remember that on meet-up, for instance, you might have 300 members, but only 25 attendance (or even less) for various types of meetings. This is true in my book club – we have 25 loyal attenders out of 352 members.

      So you may need to scale down or re-think the focus or even platform for a group to make it successful.

      Good luck!

    • Tammy K says:

      Joann – are you in Greenville, SC? I am in a group, Cross ‘n Pens that meets the second Thursday each month in Simpsonville. Tomorrow is our next meeting. We meet from 9am-12pm at First Baptist Simpsonville. I’d love to have you join us. I love our group. So helpful and sharing. A couple dozen on the roster and usually a dozen or more each meeting.

  • Here’s a list on my PitchTravelWrite.com website that lists several travel writing groups, meetings, and special events. The 2017 Ultimate List of Travel Writing Groups, Meetings and Events
    Compiled by Roy Stevenson
    What travel writing groups, meetings and events do you participate in for updates and inspiration?  Joining a local or regional travel writer’s group is a good way to socialize, learn about what’s happening in the industry, and simply get away from your desk for a while. 
    http://www.pitchtravelwrite.com/travel-writing-groups-meetings-events.html
    Hope it’s useful!

  • BJ Tassin says:

    Good article here. Thank you for these ideas.
    Definitely, I agree to find the RIGHT writers group. I’ve found that BIG things happen in smaller groups of same genre. It’s more focused and productive than a big social group where too much activity in the room can be frustrating when it’s your turn for input or questions about your work. (if there is enough time for everyone to get a turn) people coming and going, eating, visiting etc.
    But there are some who thrive on that. It works sometimes for open writers workshops with Q&A. Sometimes though, large numbers aren’t always best.
    The difference I’ve found in large “open groups” there are some more serious than others. There’s who write for a hobby verses those who write for a living. It’s good to encourage when you can and to be encouraged as well.
    That’s ok if that’s what you need, however, I think it’s best for serious writers to find and keep it small with a few who write in the same genre. It’s good when I find members who will be open and honest about my work to help and offer suggestions.
    It’s good to form healthy relationships in your focus group to be able to help one another perfect the art of writing in their own best style.

  • Rosemary says:

    I have belonged to three writing group. One of them had at least 12 members. There two things that really trouble me with this. Because it was a large group in small room, the ones that were not sitting at the table weren’t being recognize by the other members.
    The second thing was there were always the same four that dominate the meeting. They acted like there were they only ones in the meeting. They constantly interrupted other people. They would gang up a person who had different point of view than theirs.
    I have spoken and wrote to the leader about this problem. (The leader, himself, talks a long time.) Also, I had recommended that members give a time limit on giving their views in order to give other members more of chance to speak on his/her view.
    He reversed to correct the problems.
    Another group that I had belong to was more of a memoir group and smaller group of six members. I give a lot of credit to people who are battle a sickness. I may be a little selfishness, but I rather not hear about it.
    The leader of second group would go around the table and asked each one for his/her opinion, which I think every leader should do.

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