7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Writers Group

1. What is your vision or intention for this group? Do you want a place to socialize with other writers, get feedback on current projects, or share resources and ideas? Be clear about this from the beginning, and your group will be off to a strong start. 2. What qualifications (if any) are you looking for in prospective group members? You can choose to open membership to emerging and unpublished writers, but be aware that they might not be as committed as professional writers.
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As a professional writer, it is my duty—and my pleasure—to encourage new and emerging writers along the path. A few years ago, I started a writers’ group with the support of our local Women’s Resource Center. I wanted to create a safe space for women to share writing, resources, contacts, and a few laughs … and Wild Women Writing was born.

Since beginning the group, I’ve seen many writers come and go. More importantly, some of them have stayed committed to the group and returned each month to read, critique, discuss topics of interest, and take their writing to the next level. Starting a group can be a lot of fun—it’s also a
lot of work. Before deciding to take that step, here are seven
questions to ask yourself, to help focus your intent and assess your
level of interest.

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Molly Anderson-Childers
is a writer, artist,

creativity consultant, and photographer in Colorado.
(In fact, this photo is of her hands!)

Her work has appeared locally and nationally in
print publications, and can be found online at
creativity-portal.com and ediblesanjuanmountains.com,
to name a few. She blogs at Addictive Fiction
and Stealing Plums, and is currently working
on a novel. Her e-mail is stealingplums@yahoo.com.

1. What is your vision or intention for this group? Do you want a place to socialize with other writers, get feedback on current projects, or share resources and ideas? Be clear about this from the beginning, and your group will be off to a strong start.

2. What qualifications (if any) are you looking for in prospective group members? You can choose to open membership to emerging and unpublished writers, but be aware that they might not be as committed as professional writers. Again, be clear about what your intention is for the group, and choose your members accordingly.

3. Do you want to focus on a specific genre, or type of writing? This, too, will help narrow the selection of prospective members. It will also ensure that, once the group starts to meet, members will find they have some common ground.

4. How much time can you commit to this group? Ask yourself what you can devote to this new venture—and be realistic. If you only have time to attend meetings once a month, and can’t seem to fit writing into your schedule in the first place, it might be more appropriate for you to join an existing writers’ group, rather than starting your own. It takes time and energy to get a project like this off the ground—don’t commit unless you can follow through.

5. What are you hoping to gain from this experience? If you’re not getting what you need from the group, you’ll lose motivation. For example, if you need a group of beta readers for your novel, don’t start a group for brand-new writers. You’ll be better off with more experienced authors that can give you the feedback you need to take your work to the next level.

6. What are your goals or expectations for the group? Be very clear about this before you begin, and share your expectations with group members right away, to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

7. What processes need to be set in motion so you can begin, maintain, and grow your group? First, find a place to meet regularly, where you can have a bit of privacy and peace and quiet. You may need to advertise for members in a local paper, put up fliers, or make a few calls before you have enough members for a group. Know that this won’t be a good fit for everyone, and that you will lose a few members here and there. In the first six months to a year, you’ll probably see quite a bit of transience among group members—it can take time for a group to really gel. I recommend leaving the group open to new members until you’ve established a strong core of writers who attend consistently.
Once you’ve got a good group, don’t be afraid to delegate some of the administrative aspects of it to others. It’s important to give them some ownership of the group, and to let them help. Maybe you can elect someone to send out group e-mails to remind members of the next meeting, or start a blog for your group. One person might be in charge of finding guest speakers and planning events. Another member could be in charge of scheduling an open mike night with a local coffeeshop to promote your group’s work.

Beginning a writers’ group is a rewarding, challenging, and inspirational experience. I’ve seen women who were afraid to speak at their first meeting slowly blossom into writers, able to share their work and read it aloud in front of an audience. The best part? I was able to help them along this road, as more experienced writers once helped and guided me.

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If you are looking for a critique of your
work, come to see WD editors personally
at the next Editors Intensive (Cincinnati,
Sept. 11-12, 2010).