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Start a Local Writing Group -- by Jessica Bucher

Before the days of Twitter and FaceTime, people had to actually congregate in public settings.  Take a look at the ex-pat writers of 1920’s Paris: Hemingway, Pound, Fitzgerald.  And the Inklings of 1930’s Oxford: Tolkien and Lewis. Clearly, something magical occurs when like-minded creative beings come together: encouragement, influence, and eventually, success.


It may have never occurred to you to start a writing group, assuming there is not one already available to join.  Before you go and assume that there are no writers in your area, and therefore no one to make up a writing group, rest assured, there are writers everywhere.  I live in a small, rural village in Southern Germany, and I was able to scrap up enough Americans to start a group.  If I can do it, you can too.


How: Facebook is a great resource to find people.  That is where we all exist now, isn’t it? Check the local groups and put the word out.  Chances are you’ll get a few bites.  Twitter and other public forums such as Critique Circle and NaNoWriMo are equally as helpful when finding locals.


What: The first thing I ask every member of our group is “What can this group do for you?”  There really aren’t any rules about writing groups.  What you do is up to the members.  Some may choose to write during the meetings; some don’t.  In our group, we choose a topic for each get-together, and barely stick to it.  We let the conversation take us wherever it chooses to.  But at the end of the day, I make sure we’re fulfilling the needs each member.


When:  We meet once a month and chat online throughout the week.  We hold word sprints and share helpful resources.  Building the community, even with those hesitant to show their face in public is important to the success of the group.


Where: Again, unless you live in the remote caves of Turkey (and even then, maybe), you probably have enough people around you to form a group.  Even if it’s you and one other warm body, that’s still a group.  You won’t know if you don’t try.  


Why: What are the benefits of starting a local writing club?  Do you really doubt there are benefits?  How about motivation, accountability, networking, mentorship, influence, encouragement, just to name a few?  Great things happen when great minds come together.


Starting a writing group has been one of the best things I’ve done for my career, and I hope it has had the same effect on our members.  We have published writers and writers whose half-finished novels stopped collecting dust.  We have every genre, phase and style in our little remote group.  We don’t always know what we’re doing, but we’re doing something, and that’s a start.

Posted by Jessica Bucher 10 May 2014 at 01:30
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Responses to this blog

Tls_6669 10 May 2014 at 14:19  
Great post I've been thinking about starting a writer's group in my area. I'm in south-east MI and the nearest ones I could find were in Detroit (um, no) or Ann Arbor. Thanks for posting this, it's encouraging to know that it can be done and you don't necessarily need to drive an hour away to do it.
Benzehabe 10 May 2014 at 23:07  

Mikilao 10 May 2014 at 23:32  
whoa, there was a time before facetime and twitter? that's crazy
Hilary 11 May 2014 at 13:29  
I'm a member of a real life writing group, The Tunbridge Wells and District Writers Circle. It gives me invaluable help and encouragement, although I still love CC too.
Bustyjames 13 May 2014 at 16:40  
Been there, done that Serious Scribes has been in existence for more than 5 years we have gone from a high of 20+ people down to our current membership of 6 It's hard to keep them going we are morphing from meeting every 2 weeks to once a month plus online contact i.e CC despite the effort required to maintain there is nothing that equals face to face contact
Bean60 14 May 2014 at 14:09  
I'm a member of a group that meets every Saturday afternoon from 2 - 4, with very few exceptions. Several of the members are published authors, published poets, some are retired English professors or high school teachers. We have a real estate salesman, a couple of college students, one young man has MS who writes graphic novels, and me. We have from eight to twelve members attend every week.

Each off us can turn in up to ten pages every week, if we choose. We make out own copies. The other members take it home, critique it during the week and gives their critique orally in five minutes the following week. The writer can answer questions, etc. if she/he chooses, then the critiquers give their written notes to the writer. I usually wait until my chapters have gone through CC and this group before I rewrite.

This group has been active for many years, probably over 15. Some members come and go. I joined over a year ago and have learned a great deal from them. The members are tough, but fair, and give great advice. I would recommend joining a group only if they are active and are helpful in their critiques. I tried joining a group an hour's drive from my home before finding this group, but they only read books about writing and talked about them. Joining just to have a meeting I found was not helpful.
Irondomain 28 May 2014 at 23:59  
I live around Indianapolis, anydboy else?
Harpo 29 May 2014 at 01:02  
Well, we sorta have a writing group. We like literary and writing.

Mostly we just drink. But maybe one of us will get a Kerouac/Thompson/Burroughs/etc type of story out of all this.
Dil 20 Jun 2014 at 08:43  
Like Hilary - I am in a Writers' Group (U3A) and we meet twice a month. We set a subject and read our efforts out at the next meeting. Any time at the end is used to knock off flash fiction and share. My only criticism is that most members hesitate to criticise each other's work and praise does not help the editing! I put any stories I think worthwhile on CC and get some excellent, helpful crits.
This is the first time I have 'blogged' - progress!
Bglass 30 Jun 2014 at 10:08  
I belong to a great writing group. We have been meeting for 5 years now and I am the only original member. We meet fortnightly and bring a challenge set the previous fortnight to read out. We try to write short two - three pages. I love short stories and have a large collection all in response to the challenge. So they are very diverse. The group are fairly honest in their critiquing but my next challenge is putting my stories up for critiquing with CC. Then we shall see.

Hijo 30 Jun 2014 at 13:24  
I'm in a creative writing class—every Monday 1-3—but there is no critiquing. I'm fairly shy, so reading out loud has been a bitch, and without some feedback it's hard to know what sucks and works. On the other hand, the immediacy of face to face is nice, and you get a different vibe from that process.

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