Starting a Writers’ Group

Participating in regular sessions with a writers’ group is fantastic for your practice, motivation, morale and development as a writer. Being part of such a group can have any or all of the following benefits:

  • Keeping you motivated and holding you accountable to your writing goals
  • Providing useful feedback in the form of critiques and comments from fellow members
  • Giving you an insight into the way others work
  • Allowing you to connect with likeminded people

Whether you join an existing group or start a new one from scratch, your writing is sure to improve – and you’ll make some great new writerly friends, too.

The NSW Writers’ Centre currently hosts over 30 writers’ groups. If you wish to join one of these established groups, you can browse those open to new members . But if you want to start your own group, never fear: we’ve put together some handy guidelines to help you through the process.

Things to consider before starting a writers’ group

Doing some brainstorming and planning before you start your own writers’ group will ensure that it’s a successful and rewarding venture. Here are a few things to consider before you begin:

What purpose will the group serve?

In order for your writers’ group to succeed, it needs to have a purpose and/or an objective. Groups tend to do better if their members are all at the same level, interested in the same style of writing, and/or keen to achieve the same objective.

Ask yourself a few questions about your potential group.

  • ŸWill it be genre-based (literary fiction, speculative fiction, crime etc.) or focused on a particular style of writing (poetry, children’s literature, memoir etc.)?
  • Will it be goal-based? For example, you might hold a group for writers working on their first manuscript, or simply for those wishing to improve their skills by writing more regularly.
  • Will it be based around a desire to gain feedback from others, or simply to gain inspiration and motivation?

What format will your meetings take?

It’s wise to have thought out an established format/time plan before your first meeting. This doesn’t have to be set in stone; according to the needs of the group, you can change and improve things as your meetings continue. Try out a few things and see what works best for everyone.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Ÿ  Will there be set writing exercises for everyone to complete each week?
  • Ÿ  Will you take it in turns to submit pieces for feedback? What will the deadlines be?
  • Ÿ  Who will lead the group? Will there be a single convenor every week or will you take turns?

How often will you meet?

This is another important consideration. Getting together too often may not allow for enough writing time in between meetings; meeting too infrequently may lead to lack of momentum or engagement. Generally, a fortnightly or monthly meeting seems to work well for many groups.

Perhaps hold an initial meeting in which potential members can discuss their availability and come to an arrangement that suits everybody.

What will the ground rules be?

If your group involves any critiquing or feedback aspects, you’ll need to establish some ground rules to ensure a safe and welcoming space for all members. Your group will run smoothly if everyone is honest, courteous and constructive in their feedback, concentrating on both aspects that could be improved and aspects that work well. Remember to critique the story, not the author, and try not to argue over differences in opinion lest things get out of hand.

 

How to start a group at the NSW Writers’ Centre

We love hosting writers’ groups here at Garry Owen House! Provided that all group participants are members of the Centre, we’re happy to provide a free meeting space (subject to availability), as well as access to tea and coffee making facilities (and biscuits, of course). We’ll also list your group details on our website.

If you’re interested in starting your own group, take the following steps:

1. Seek out potential members

Gauge interest from writers you already know and ask whether they’d be interested in attending a group. You can also advertise online or with a poster in a community space.

2. Contact the Centre to find out room availabilities

Get in touch with us to enquire about room sizes and day/time availabilities. We’ll do our best to accommodate your group.

3. Fill out a Writers’ Group Agreement form

While you’re chatting with us about room availabilities, you should also request a Writers’ Group Agreement form. You’ll need to fill out some details about your group, including the convenor’s name and contact details, the group size, and the day/time/frequency of your meetings. View the Terms & Conditions for more information.

4. Hold your first meeting!

It’s time to kick things off! Make sure everyone brings paper, pens and writing samples if needed.

5. Ensure there’s efficient communication within your group

Decide how you’re going to maintain contact within your group. Exchange phone numbers/emails, or perhaps start a private Facebook group where you can touch base and keep up to date. Make sure to keep an updated Member List for both your own and the Centre’s records.

 

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Ready to start your own writers’ group? For more information or to enquire about rooms, feel free to visit us at the Centre, call us on (02) 9555 9757, or email us at [email protected]. Happy writing!

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