Joining a local writing group is one sure-fire way to up your author game, but what if you don't have one in your community? This is a unique opportunity to create a writing group that's perfect for your needs. The members of a writing group can be cheerleaders, critique partners, motivational speakers and sources of great book marketing information. They'll help to improve your book and advance your author game like no other organization you can join. Start your own writer's group in your community to help yourself and other local authors get to the next level in their writing careers.
What's Your Focus?
Your writer's group will only be a success if everyone has the same basic goals. Will this be for fiction authors only, or will you allow non-fiction writers to join? What about book genre? Are there enough mystery or romance writers in your area to make up a group, or will you welcome science fiction authors, too? Think about what type of writers you'll welcome, in terms of experience. Some groups include only published authors with a certain number of books in their back catalog, while others work with writers just starting out on the first draft of their first novel.
Pick the Size of Your Group
You need your group to have enough members to keep the conversation lively and interesting, but not so many that some people never get to have feedback on their work. Most groups find that between five and eight members is a good place to start.
Interview Members to Create a Good Mix
While it would be boring to have an entire group made up of people just like yourself, there are certain types of group members you might not want to deal with. Think about creating a sample critique experience for prospective members to go through, to see how they react to a real-life club experience. Check for people who are afraid to speak their mind for fear of hurting people's feelings, as well as those who don't speak respectfully to others in the group. Creating your group will be a gradual process; it's the rare club that finds all its members in the first week.
Create a Sample Schedule
How many words do you want each writer to submit for critique each week? Will you concentrate on one entire work each week, or share the attention between a sample chapter from each club member? Typically, groups allow members to submit between one and five thousand words, or one chapter, with a deadline of about five days before the meeting time. This allows members enough time to read the sample chapters and develop suggestions for improvement before they go to the meeting.
Advertising for Members
Once you have all the details for your group worked out, advertise all over town for new members. Create and put up flyers in the local libraries, in coffee shops and bookstores, in local newspapers, and in any other community gathering spots you have in your neighborhood. Set up a date for initial conversations at the same day and time you plan to have your meetings. This will make sure everyone who joins already has that day and time free on their weekly schedule.
Finding a Meeting Place
Writing critique groups can meet in any number of places in the community, both public and private. Check your local library to see if they have a meeting room available for community groups. Many groups meet at bookstore cafes or local coffee shops. If you live in a city with large hotels, pick a hotel and use the coffee shop in their lobby as a central meeting place for everyone. If you feel comfortable having strangers in your home (although they probably won't be strangers for long), hold the meeting in your home if it's large enough. Some groups rotate holding their meetings at different places each month, while others pick a designated space as their meeting area. Wherever you look, just make sure there are comfortable chairs, available tables, a place to find refreshments of some sort, if only water, and a tolerance for a certain amount of noise. You'll be talking at the very least and, if all goes well, you might end up laughing or excitedly discussing plot points for hours on end.
Keep the Faith and May the Force be with You!