Writing in action

Posted on March 30, 2011

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This window is for my writing in action news. Lately it’s all been cancer this and cancer that – but I still love to be involved in the world of literary creativity. Whether it’s writing group, submissions, online forums or literary festivals. Getting involved is cool.

How to form a writing group

Forming a writing group is fairly simple. If you follow my recipe below, you too can bask in the encouragement, friendship, and editing skills of similar minds toward a common purpose (i.e. if you’re a writer, it helps to be friends with other writers). This is how I began my original writing group, and after the move to Canada this is how I’ll form my next one. It truly sucks to leave the UK because that means leaving my monthly sessions in the New Forest where we exchange writing and catch up. However, life moves forward, and there are some exciting possibilities in the future.

Social networking for writers:  five easy steps to forming your own writing group.

1. Find like minds.

This is the biggest of all steps, requiring the most effort and planning. Fact: Other writers exist in your community. Those who enter local contests, attend local writing groups, workshops (etc.) want to write and want to share. Attend these events and put on your listening hat. Anyone who can keep your attention for more than two minutes shows great promise.

It’s 100% essential to find people whose writing style you enjoy. Don’t approach someone ‘just because they’re a writer’. Approach someone because you love what you’ve read/heard of their work.

2. Make contact.

The second hardest step if you’re shy. Email is a great help. I once emailed a stand-out writer who had submitted to a contest I was organizing. We began to exchange writing via email, and that later turned into an actual writing group. Before that initial email I’d never met nor seen her before. It was a leap of faith.

Of course, you can always involve your friends – actually, friends make excellent members of a writing group so long as you like their writing style. I cannot stress enough: if you don’t like their style, you won’t like your group.

Also, keep in mind when approaching strangers that they are going to be flattered. Whether they have the time or not, you’ll offend no one by saying, ‘hey, you’re a great writer.’

3. Collect your members and meet. Set some guidelines at that first meeting.

Ask: What is the word limit? How often do we meet? Will there be reading aloud? (I don’t recommend this as it eats loads of time and makes it really hard to focus on the actual writing rather than presentation) Should you email work in advance? (yes!)

You may also want to establish goals for the group – like, say, everyone wants to finish a novel, or get published, or start a blog – whatever. However, I don’t think this is essential when first meeting because your goals will change over time. So long as everyone is supportive, there should be room to wiggle.

I’d read this article once about forming a writing group in order to publish novels. So each member was a novelist, and each month the group examined only one member’s writing (30,000 words ish), providing notes and talking about where it could go. They had a limited number of members in their group, and if you wanted to join they would read a sample of your writing.

Which leads to the next suggestion:

4. Keep it small.

If you can count your members on one hand, that’s a good thing. Too many people means smaller amounts of writing and less time to go over work. Often places like libraries and community centres run larger groups, but that generally consists of reading aloud or doing exercises. I’m talking about something more intimate. And as intimate implies, you need smaller numbers.  *However, go to the community centre group and listen for good writing. Maybe they can join your group?

5. Enjoy!

It’s a great feeling to share and be encouraged – this is a ‘safe place’ for your writing. Feel free to experiment, and ask for their honest responses. A good group will always be kind, but also honest. Without honesty you’re not learning much. However, the underlying vibe should always be one that is supportive. It’s essential.

And there you go. Five steps to a lovely writing group. Voila!

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