This is the first entry in a series I’ll be writing on how to start your own creative writing group/club. Though I focus on creative writing, many of these ideas can be used to start any kind of writing group. Topics will include giving constructive criticism, running a workshop, and writing games/prompts.
There are many advantages to belonging to a writing group. You can get feedback from several people at once and give yourself writing deadlines. It’s a way to steadily improve your writing through criticism and practice. It’s also just a great way to get together with friends and have fun writing.
The first thing you need, obviously, is a group of people who want to improve their writing or hope that a group will force them to write regularly. It doesn’t matter how much experience your members have. If you can find an advisor who has experience teaching or has been published, that’s great. If you’re all newbies, that’s great too. If your group is too large, it might be difficult for everyone to have a chance to talk or contribute work. Your group should be a maximum of 15 people. If you end up with 15 people, you’ll need a knowledgeable leader to keep everyone on track. I would suggest keeping your group between 4 and 8 people.
Here are your next steps:
- Establish your group’s goals and rules.
- When do you meet? Where do you meet? How often do you meet?
- Will your meeting include food? (This is crucial.)
- Will you be critiquing one writer per meeting? Two?
- What is the maximum page number or word count that writers are allowed to submit?
- How much feedback are participants required to give? Should they write a paragraph or only provide margin comments?
- How will you keep in touch and submit work?
- You also want to decide on your group’s exact focus. If only one person if writing poetry, is the group’s feedback going to be useful to them? Are your members writing only for fun, or is everyone hoping to get published? You also might want to choose a genre. Every genre has its own rules and tropes so it might be helpful to only focus on fantasy, romance, etc.
- Decide how your meetings will be organized. I would suggest a minimum of an hour. The first half hour can be something fun like writing prompts or a game. The second half hour can be dedicated to workshopping someone’s work. You could also treat it a bit like a book club. Spend the first half hour on a book you’re reading together. Focus specifically on the writing. For instance, the protagonist is surly and rude. How does the writer make their reader sympathize with them?
- Establish a schedule so everyone has a chance to be workshopped. Make it clear that these are firm deadlines that everyone must meet. Make sure there is space between when writers submit their work and the group meets. Generally, readers need 24 hours, but your group may need more time if everyone is busy.
- Optional: start a small library together. Compile a list of the writing books everyone owns and are willing to let others borrow. Great suggestions include Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages and Stephen King’s On Writing.
Every group is different so try out new things, and let me know how it goes! If you already have a writing group, tell me some tips that worked for you. Have I missed anything?