Joining a writers' group was one of the best things I ever did for my work. I've learned so much from my peers and received invaluable feedback—not to mention a lot of free pastries. If you can find a writers' group, you should.
What is a Writers' Group?
Writers' groups are, well, groups of writers. They meet every so often to either write together or discuss their work. In my group, for example, we meet every two weeks to critique two pieces of writing. It's essential for us to get preliminary feedback on our work so that we can perfect it.
Still, finding a writers' group might seem like a daunting task. But fear not! They're out there—it's just up to us to find them. Here are some helpful hints.
1. Writing Conferences
There are tons of writing conferences happening all over the world, all the time. Despite the stereotypes, writers are usually not hermits. We like hanging out with people as much as anyone else!
Almighty Google can help find writing conferences in your area. They serve two purposes: first, you attend a cool conference. Second, you meet writers in your area. If they're part of a writers' group and they like you, they'll probably invite you to join.
Writing conferences are ideal for meeting potential group mates because you get direct interaction. You're going to be spending a lot of time with these people, so you want to be sure you like them. If you don't click in those first few interactions, that might not make for the best group. On the other hand, a good first impression is a good sign. Writers' groups work best when you really like the people around you.
I found my writers' group on Meetup. You've probably heard of it before. It's a cool website where people can find, join, and host groups.
Just type "writers' group" into the search bar and see what comes up. You'll probably need to request to join, and some groups might even ask for a submission. Don't be intimidated—most groups only ask for submissions to confirm that everyone (including you) will benefit from your membership. You're not submitting fiction to The New Yorker or something.
For instance, my writers' group is specifically made for speculative fiction writers. That's what we're all passionate about, and that's what we know best. We've tried having crime writers and romance writers in the group in the past, but we found we didn't know how to offer optimal feedback on those genres. As a result, both the writer and the group didn't get what they needed. We started asking for submissions to ensure everyone would work well together.
I say all this to urge you to be choosy about your writers' groups. You'll find tons of them on Meetup, so don't just join the first one you see. Feel free to attend a few different groups and try them out. Find the best fit for you.
3. Make Your Own!
Groups don't start themselves. If you're having trouble finding a writers' group, then start your own.
This is what the founder of our group did. He simply went on the aforementioned Meetup, created the group, set a meeting location and a time, then waited. I and a few others joined soon after, and now the group has a steady core of seven writers.
If you opt for this method, consider the following…
- Location: Where are you holding your meetings? My group meets at a grocery store and occasionally a member's basement (it's a carpeted basement, don't worry). Others meet at cafés or libraries. Research places with available space, weigh the costs, then decide what's best for you. If you're just starting a meeting, I'd recommend picking a public space rather than your house or apartment. Wait until you know people a little better before inviting them to your place.
- Name: Our group's founder lists genre, activity, and area as the three cores of a good group name. I think he's spot on. Try to work all three of these elements into yours. For example, “The Westerosi Targaryen History Writers' Workshop” tells us everything we need to know. And since we are talking about the internet, try to align the title with common searches as much as possible.
- Maximum capacity: This likely won’t be a consideration when you start, but you should consider setting an upper limit on group members. For example, in my group we found that seven is a sweet spot. We still have enough members if some can't make it, though we don't have so many that discussions become free-for-alls.
Find Your Group!
You have the knowledge. Now go out there and find (or start) your writers' group!