I can’t believe it is nearly a year since I started a writing group in my village. During that year I have made some fantastic new friends, read some wonderful writing, encouraged people who have never written before to make a start and improved my writing no end thanks to the feedback and encouragement of my writing group buddies.
I have learned that I love to edit and am considering taking a course with the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and I’ve learned that I love to teach – I have set writing exercises for the group since it started and have tried to stretch the group more and more each month with each exercise demonstrating something that I have learned on my own writing journey. Currently we are working on our first short story collection and so I am in the midst of reviewing first and second drafts and polishing my own submissions.
So, that’s all very well I hear you say, but how do I go about doing the same thing?
Now there are lots of helpful sites out there telling you what you need to do to set up a writing group, things like – decide what kind of writers/genres/level you want your group to be at and whether it is to be a feedback group or just a place to network – those are all very good questions and things you probably should consider from the start.
I didn’t consider those things. I wasn’t sure whether anyone in my area would be interested in joining, let alone have any experience, plus, I have always been an equal opportunities kind of person. I want everyone to have the chance to do what they want to do and just as I said to the local tennis club when the question of entry requirements came up, I didn’t want to exclude people on the basis of ability or how long they had been writing for.
I looked into using Meetup which is a great site for getting news out that you want to start a group but it does cost money and I didn’t want to spend money when I wasn’t sure there would be interest. So I put an advert out on Facebook – I joined the local pages for villages in my area and posted adverts on each one saying I was setting up the group, that it would run monthly on Tuesdays and did anyone want to join?
Six people attended the first meeting. Some had written before, some had not, some had an idea of what they wanted to write, others hadn’t a clue. In that meeting we discussed what we all wanted from the group and from that, I made a plan.
The fact that we are a mixed group in terms of experience (I won’t say ability as from what I can see, every member is pretty talented) is a challenge for me as the person who sets the writing exercises and directs the group’s focus. Occasionally I wonder if I should have set up a different kind of group – a critique group for those who are in the first drafts of their first novel for example might have been easier to run – but actually I love my group, every member brings something to the table and every member is keen to learn and improve upon their writing. And despite the fact that we don’t have a specific focus, we keep attracting new members. We now have 12 full members and are launching an online membership option this year.
The group is going from strength to strength and it is very hard work – but even having read the advice on how I should have gone about it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.