Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

How to Launch a Writers’ Group: 6 Pieces of Advice

From Jeff: This is a guest post by Joe Bunting. Joe is the founder of The Write Practice, a community for writers who want to find their voice and improve their craft. You can participate in the community by subscribing to the Write Practice, or by joining the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

A well-known African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The same is true for writing.

Six months ago, I had an idea to start a writers’ group, a cohort of people banded together by their passion for writing. Three months later, I launched the web presence of the group, The Write Practice.

Since then, I’ve learned a little more every day about what it takes to start a successful writers’ group. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort.

Writers Group - Colored Pencils

Photo credit: Horia Vorlan

The only good reason you should start a writing group is if you don’t already have access to a one. It’s far easier to join a group than it is to start one.

However, for the brave and stubborn, here are six pieces of advice about how to launch your very own writers’ group.

1. Help people

People join writing groups to get help, so if don’t want to help other writers, don’t start a group.

How can you help your fellow writers?

My group helps people develop their writing voice, but others might help you build your online platform, network with other writers, or help you deal with rejection.

The possibilities are endless, but the non-negotiable is that you must help people.

2. Have a physical and online presence

From the beginning, I wanted my writing group to be both online and off-line.

The Internet is an amazing way to connect people to each other. Blogging especially is a great way to meet people. However, it’s difficult to build deep and meaningful relationships in a writing group if you only meet online.

As the leader, it’s your job to find ways to connect those people in real life. You may find yourself throwing parties, starting book clubs, or even going to writing workshops and conferences.

3. Throw parties

Chuck Palahniuk said, “Use writing as your excuse to throw a party each week — even if you call that party a ‘workshop.'”

I love the idea of a group of people coming together to celebrate their passion.

Once a month, my wife and I host a “writing feast.” We make a bunch of food, invite a bunch of our writer friends over to the house, and have a big party.

We might talk a little about our writing or the books that inspire us, but mostly, we celebrate the gift of writing.

4. Be consistent

Writers, like all creatives, can be terribly inconsistent.

We like to write when we want to write, to get together when we want to. However, to build a group you have to show up consistently.

If you’re going to meet in person, meet at the same time every week. If you’re going to create an online community, contribute every day or at regular intervals.

Writing groups take a long time to build, and if you don’t show up consistently, no one else will.

5. When critiquing, focus on the bright spots

One of the main reasons people join writing groups is to get feedback about their work. However, there is a helpful way and an unhelpful way to do this.

The human mind naturally focuses on flaws. It’s in our wiring.

When you critique someone’s writing, try to intentionally look for way to praise the person’s work (even if you didn’t really like all of it). For example, say, “I loved what you did here. You should do that more often.”

It’s more helpful when someone tells you to do something more than when they tell you what you’re doing is wrong.

6. Beware “Entrepreneur’s Depression”

As you are preparing to start your writers’ group, you might dream of dozens of writers showing up to your first meeting. You may fantasize droves of hungry writers saying, “We’ve been waiting for someone to start this for years. Thank you so much! Lead us, oh fearless sage.”

But it doesn’t happen like that.

The first time I threw a writing feast, two people showed up. After three months of preparation, my website had received less than 100 visits in the first week.

When you don’t get the response you expect, the you may feel betrayed. This is normal. But whatever you do, don’t give up. Fight through the disappointment.

If your dream for a writing group is going to become a reality, you will have to keep showing up. You’ll have to persevere.

No one is going to start it if you don’t.

Would you want to be a part of a writers’ group? What would you look for as part of your perfect cohort? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Horia Varlan (Creative Commons)

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. To get updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://jeremysconfessions.com Jeremy Statton

    Great thoughts, Joe. I have not been part of a writer’s group, but have benefited from your website. I would highly recommend it, especially for those of us who have not had any type of training to write. 

    Writing is not simply something you do, it’s something you learn to do.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Thanks Jeremy! Very true, my friend.

  • http://allthingsloss.com Kevin Mackesy

    Great stuff Joe. I have benefitted as well from The Write Practice.  It’s a fun, safe place to work on the art, though now I will always wonder what you really think of my practices when you praise the work haha!  J/K…(but seriously).  For real though, it’s an awesome site and I appreciate your work.  Keep it up my good man!

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Thanks so much, Kevin.

      And don’t worry. I don’t judge you writing (too much). ;)

  • Introv

    Great website and great post!

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Thanks, Introv :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=715785423 Connie Smith Jakab

    I’m a part of a writers group called the Redbud Writers Guild.  It has been the best thing for me as a writer to join together with like-minded women who have a voice to be heard.  I can ask anything about writing, publication, sharing material, tips, resources, contacts…. our boundaries extend with one another’s arms linked.  I could never do this writing thing alone.  I’m so thankful for them.  (and they’re rowdy, world-shakers – just the way I like it)  http://redbudwritersguild.com

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      I think very few writers can do it on their own. Having writing friends is so essential. I’m so glad you’re part of such a vibrant community.

    • http://profiles.google.com/helenleemail Helen Lee

      I’m a fellow Redbud with Connie–and I never could have finished my first book without their support, encouragement, and most of all, accountability. I’d said for so long I’d wanted to write a book, but it wasn’t until I started meeting with this group that the desire to do so became reality. Accountability is such a huge motivator. I highly recommend joining a writers group!

  • http://twitter.com/bethrago Elizabeth Rago

    Jeff and Joe,
    I had been avoiding joining a writer’s group for years specifically b/c each one I had become a part of had broken the first point on your list, “Help People”. I started my own this year and am excited to help other writers and invite the members of the group to help me grow as a writer. There is only one other person in the group, but we are consistent and are always inviting new people to join the group! A very helpful post, as always!

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      It’s true. Many people come to GET help, but they don’t give it. I wish you the best of luck with your new group Elizabeth.

  • Cindy Keen Reynders

    I’d join your writer’s group if I lived nearby!  I think it would be too far away from Cheyenne, Wyoming.  However, I do enjoy reading your blog. You  have fantastic information on your blog and I thank you for that. My writer friend, Lara Schiffbauer and I at least have writing meetings. Even though there’s only two of us, occasionally another writer or two will join us and together we encourage each other and do our best to share knowledge about social networking, etc.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Yes, Cheyenne is a bit far. Thanks for your comment, Cindy.

  • http://www.spiritualmemoirs101.blogspot.com Linda

    Thank you for your encouragement to persevere since establishing a writers’ group takes time. I needed to hear that. It’s nice to know this group doesn’t have to fizzle, at least not yet.

    Thanks to you, I’m going to throw a party for our group, and will look for a workshop or conference our group can attend together. Many thanks!

    Linda

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Nice, Linda. I hope it’s a great party! Can I come?

  • http://www.facebook.com/keri.wyatt.kent Keri Wyatt Kent

    I’m a founding member of Redbud Writers Guild–as other commenters have mentioned. I love this group because it seems to be free of the competitiveness of some groups. I’m grateful that we connect both in person (in local groups) and on line as a larger (and growing) group. One essential for any writing group: to actually be writing. I appreciate the encouragement and accountability the group provides. 

  • http://popparables.com Keri

    I’d love to be part of a writer’s group.  I have never even considered such a practice.  Excellent idea, Joe and Jeff!  How would you go about starting one if you don’t know many writers in your specific area?  My perfect cohort would be high on consistency and accountability.  That’s what’s most lacking for me. 

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      I might first check out meetup.com and search around on the internet to see if there’s one. You might even post a question on facebook to see if anyone knows of one.

      If not, you can start a meetup, or else go online. It’s hard to beat face to face interaction, but there are a ton of people online who would be happy to interact with you. A ton.

      • Carina Sitkus

        I lead an all-online meetup if anyone is interested. The next one doesn’t start again until January, but you can learn more and reach out if you’d like more info :) http://www.thecuriouscatproject.com/meet-up/

  • http://jonstolpe.wordpress.com Jon Stolpe

    I think this sounds like a great idea.  I especially liked the idea of a writer’s party.  I may have to use that.  I just wish I could get some of the writers from around the country to my house for some good food and face-to-face conversation!

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      I’ll come! Tell me when :)

  • http://hawkersmag.com/ Francis Concepcion

    I agree about consistency. Me and my friends have been trying hard to meet up regularly, but there’s always a problem due to differing schedules. I think that’s the most difficult part of creating a writing group.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Good to know. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.distractedbyprayer.blogspot.com Shannon

    Thanks for the encouragement!  My friend and I have started a group and met only twice.  It’s been well worth the effort, just for the two of us.
    One thing we decided on early, was the format for the group time.  That’s been very helpful in accomplishing our goals and not getting off track.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Yep. You’ve got to have a plan. Thanks Shannon.

  • http://jguitarnash.com Jim Woods

    This is a fantastic post Joe. I’m starting a creative group for men (open to all artists not just writers) and this post is very useful. It is pretty difficult to start something like this from the ground up, but obviously anything worth doing is never easy.

  • Lynne R McAnulty-Street

    I’m in a small city with a Mad Poets Society and a Writers Group. Both have been well established, but over the years seem to have become too cozy and complacent. (This POV from one who joined both groups when moving here three years ago.)
    Neither group actually HELPS members with their writing. Each group gives a “homework theme, and the pieces are shared at the next meeting, but without any critiquing. One holds three short story competitions (flash fiction, really; word count max is 500) a year. Both groups have a half-hour slot on the “Good News Community Radio” franchise station.
    Both groups’ meeting formats never alter.
    Both groups have a diminishing (read ‘aging’) membership. Not a member younger than sixty, and younger people visit and are never seen again.

    What’s the betting another, more helpful, writing group would not succeed?

    • Jeff Brown

      Lynne,

      The question is “What would you look for as part of your perfect cohort?” but your response is not helpful. It is 6 paragraphs of complaining about your local writers groups?

      Why don’t you go start a writers group that is built around those younger people who are apparently searching for something?

      • Lynne R McAnulty-Street

        Jeff you’re right. They may come across as complaints, , which are usually expressed in the hope “someone” will wave a magic wand and make everything all right. Such was not my intention. Where I was amiss was in not leading in to the list with a sub-heading such as “Here’s what Not to Do”. Thanks for calling me on this. It tells me someone did actually read my response.

        • Jeff Brown

          Hi Lynne,

          Thank you for responding so quickly. (Wasn’t sure if it would retain after so long since the original post was made.)

          I found this post doing research to the rest of the writing community. I’m actually looking to launch a writers group service on the web here soon that will also include Start a Writers Group and Grow Your Writers Group guides.

          I’d still like to hear more about what your local groups are/are not doing, as it will be helpful to hundreds of other groups in the future. May I contact you?

          • Lynne R McAnulty-Street

            via email is fine, Jeff

            • Jeff Brown

              Lynne, please email me at conables@gmail.com if you are still interested. The website is ready to be tested.

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  • Carina Sitkus

    I started an all online group (thecuriouscatproject.com). What are your recommendations for groups that ARE all online? Since it’s bringing together writers from across the country, I’m not sure how I would be able to add that in-person component…

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