As I mentioned in my previous post, my writers group has been instrumental in my growth and fulfilment as a writer. Writing changed from a lonely pursuit to a passion that I could regularly share with others. However, with something so intimate as writing, starting or joining a writers group can initially feel as awkward as an introvert trying to join a swingers club.
Here are a few tips to make the process less painful:
1. Figure out what you want. This starts off very simple: what genre are you writing in? Do you want to write with people in the same genre and learn from their success, or do you want to expose yourself to other genres of writing? I'm a bit of a genre-hopper, so I have happy to just find people who were passionate about writing and learn from them from a craft perspective. Also consider your personal goals. Do you want to ace the short story market, publish traditionally or self-publish? In our group, we're open to all of this, but you may find that some writers are very attached to a certain publishing style. For example, a group of fervent self-publishers is not going to be the best choice if you need emotional support while searching for an agent overseas.
2. Understand what kind of feedback you respond well to. Where are you at as a writer right now? Are you ready for heavy critique or are you looking for something softer? If you have just started creative writing, a small nurturing group will probably be better for you than joining a group of pros who are comfortable with tearing each other's work apart. Finding a group that matches your personality type is critical and it all starts with knowing who you are.
3. Start sourcing your group somewhere you feel confident. A quick way to bond with other writers is to take a writing course, even if its just for one day! I met one of our members at a writing workshop and got in touch with her from there. Another benefit about these courses is that you can gauge the person's writing and communication style. Otherwise, digital works really well. I advertised my group on Twitter because I spend the most time there, but Facebook or Instagram would work well too. There are a few online writing communities on Facebook, which would also be perfect to source fellow writers for your group.
4. But don't hang out online too much. I notice some writers spending loads of time on Facebook writing communities. While this can be a source of support, it can be tempting distraction from the actual work of writing. Talk less about writing with strangers, and rather find a small group that can help move your forward. Even if you can't always connect in person, you will learn a lot more from someone who understands your writing goals reading your work.
5. It's OK to start small. If you are starting your own group, don't put pressure on yourself to have a crowd of people at your first meeting. In my opinion, smaller groups work the best anyway, because you each have time to really analyse each other's work deeply.
6. It's also OK to leave. Not all writing group dynamics are going to work. You may find you're a frustrating combination of strong and weak writers, one writer may be a dick about the editing process or one may make it clear he is just there for the wine. This is your passion so don't be a martyr. If it's not working for you, brave the awkwardness and find a new group.
I hope these tips helped you! If you would like any more advice on finding a group, feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email!