What to do in a writer’s group

When I first started my writer’s group, there was little in the way of information on the Web to help me with conducting a meeting of writers. I had plenty of experience developing workshops, however, so I based most meeting outlines on that. I found a few challenges, however, such as being sure to consider the various levels of writing. We also harbor a number of different genres as well.
There are also a few points to note with working when any group;

  • Never underestimate the power of your members. I often resort to asking members their thoughts and ideas on what they want or expect for the group. Our group is diverse with the genres and mediums they work with, so members often share what their needs are. This one asked for workshops on web design and ebooks, while this one wanted to explore character and plot development.
  • If you’re organizer and you’re the leader, members will look to you to be organized and taking the reins. Most groups want to be led, rather than meander over topics without an outline in which to go by. You also want to give the impression that you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t feel that you do. Keeping an outline of what you’ll be doing also helps to move things along.
  • Have a group objective in mind. Generally my group is for developing our writing skills as well as encouraging members to achieving their goals as writers. Other groups are specific to critiquing circles, while others might want to focus on writing activities or simply gather for socializing.
  • Never force things. I found not everyone wants to be published, or even share their writing. Some writers simply have no faith in themselves or their writing skills, so I encourage an atmosphere of gentle prompting and nudging but never demanding. I never force members to do something they don’t want to do, and luckily most come around and share anyway. You want a comfortable atmosphere for all members.

Here is a basic outline of meetings I’ve had in the past:

  1. Start the meeting by introductions of yourself and everyone else. I often have meetings in my home so there’s scones and coffee for everyone, and they can bring whatever snacks they want. I have newsletter typed up that get posted to our web site after the meeting.
  2. Voice any concerns for the meetings, fees that need paid, issues that have come up, or anything else that is pertinent to the group. I also bring out a number of magazines and books to share; namely the Writer’s Market 2008 and my Writer’s Digest magazines.
  3. I share changes I made to our web site such as new resources, web sites that are interesting to the writer, or tips I’ve found that are helpful. This is also the time I bring up any accomplishments members have reached. This can include who got something published, new markets anyone might be interested in, and anything else about members they wish to share.
  4. I also say at every meeting how they can send me links to their own web sites or blogs, and I would be happy to post on our web site.
  5. Then I follow through with the main topic of the meeting. This varies. Sometimes we get together for activities, other times for socializing, sometimes we join in workshops or classes. Generally I try to have at least a ten minute ‘freewriting’ session for members to warm up and have something to share.
  6. We often share something we’ve done whether its something we just worked on, or something we brought. This is done two ways; members print out copies and have everyone read silently, or they simply read out loud to the group.
  7. We wind down things by just talking about what we’re working on, problems and solutions, and share tips on writing.

I tend to peruse the Internet for tips, quotes, or general writing prompts, but also look for new ideas and web sites that my group might find interesting.

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