Why You Should Join – Or Start – a Local Writers’ Group

SHARE THIS POST:

Do you belong to a writers’ group?

Some authors don’t feel they have much benefit … and I’ll agree that if you’ve got several published books that are selling well, you’re probably rather beyond the local writers’ circle stage of things.

If you’re at an earlier point in your writing career, though, a writers’ group can be a very helpful, nurturing part of your writing life.

When you meet with fellow writers on a regular basis, you’ll (hopefully!) find that:

  • You feel supported and understood. It’s hard to overstate how critical this can be, as a writer. If no-one in your family or current group of friends “gets” what it is to be a writer, and sees your writing as a weird hobby at best (and a waste of time at worst), then you need the presence of fellow writers in your life.
  • You get practical help with honing your writing. While not all writers’ groups will workshop members’ writing, many do, and you can also approach other group members to set up a private manuscript swap.
  • You set aside time to write. Some groups exist primarily as opportunities to write alongside one another – if you join a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) meetup in November, that’s how it’ll work. Other groups do a writing exercise or two each time, then move on to other activities for the rest of the session.
  • You’ll learn more about great writing. Your group might invite speakers, or members might take it in turns to give a short talk about a particular aspect of creative writing. If you’re workshopping one another’s works-in-progress, you’ll also find you learn a lot from examining other people’s mistakes (and strengths).

While there are lots of excellent online groups out there, and these can be a great support, I’m focusing here on local groups that meet regularly in-person. It’s hard to achieve that kind of interaction and focus online.

How to Find a Local Group

It isn’t always easy to find writers local to you. Good ways to begin are to:

Try your local library. They might have a writers’ group meeting there (our library has just started up a monthly group), or they might have flyers or posters from a local group.

Post in a local group on Facebook. Ask around to see what’s going on … you may find there’s more happening than you realise!

Look on meetup.com. You’ll need to sign up, then you can search for local groups about “Writing” (or, indeed, about anything else you’re interested in).

Joining an established group can be a bit nervewracking. In my experience, most writers are very welcoming of new members and even if it takes you a session or two to find your feet, you’ll soon feel very much part of the group.

How to Start Your Own Writers’ Group

If you don’t have a local group, or if it isn’t really suitable for you (e.g. it meets at a time you can’t make, it focuses on a genre you don’t write) then why not start your own group?

This could be as simple as meeting for a weekly coffee with a couple of writer friends, or as involved as a large group that hires a room and invites speakers.

Some good ways to begin are to:

  • Ask around! Who do you know who already writes (and who lives locally to you)? You might send out an email around local friends, or ask on Facebook. You may be surprised to find that a fellow parent at the school gates or a friend you know through some local volunteering is also a budding writer.
  • Advertise for members. You might put up a poster in your local library or shops, or reach out through local Facebook groups (we have a huge “community noticeboard” on Facebook for our local area).

Once you’ve got some initial interest, you’ll want to think about:

Timings of meetings. This depends very much on the people who are likely to come along. I’ve set up a small group with a couple of local friends that meets on alternate Thursday mornings in term time (we all have small children). If you want to attract a wide range of people, an evening group is best – try a 7pm or 7.30pm start time, as this gives people time to get home from work and have dinner!

Format of meetings. No two writers’ groups are quite the same. Will you invite guest speakers? Do writing exercises? Work on your own projects in companionable silence (followed by a drink)? Set homework? Workshop one another’s pieces (and get everyone to bring plenty of photocopies)..? You may want to have an initial meeting or two to find out what other members would like.

Number of members. You may want to set a limit on member numbers. It’s tricky to workshop with more than ten people, for instance … but you probably won’t be inviting guest speakers if you only have half a dozen members.

Level of experience. Most local writing groups are open to anyone, at any level of experience. They do tend to be aimed at writers who aren’t yet making a living writing, and who probably aren’t yet published. If you’re more experienced than this, you might be better served by conferences and perhaps a private “mastermind group” of local writers at a similar level to you.

 

If you’ve never been part of a writers’ group before, I’d hugely encourage you to give it a go: it might be just what you need to take the next steps with your writing. And if you’ve got experience of being part of one (or even of setting up your own), then do share your tips and ideas in the comments below.

Thanks for commenting! I read all comments, and reply to as many as I can. Please keep the discussion constructive and friendly. Thank you!

10 thoughts on “Why You Should Join – Or Start – a Local Writers’ Group

  1. Hi, Ali!

    Excellent blog post. I’ve seen different local Facebook groups that connect freelance writers and clients. The sense of community promotes interaction and learning from each other. However, I feel that people start to join a lot of such groups just to meet the next client, instead of being a part of the community. But, I like the concept. I always look at the positive side of things.
    Hassaan Khan’s last blog post ..How I Get Freelance Writing Clients With 4 Simple Rules

    • Thanks, Hassaan! There are so many great Facebook groups out there — and I think people use them all in slightly different ways. I’ve found the ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) a really good community, for instance, with a thriving Facebook group.

      I think looking on the positive side of things is a good philosophy for life!

  2. First came the local writer’s group, then you. Someone in my group recommended you a good year or more Ali, so here I am, been following your great posts ever since.

  3. very helpful post Ali…creating groups really help in connecting with people and exchanging good thoughts and ideas…even I have created a Facebook page and groups where I keep on adding people of same interest….this has really helped me to learn new writing skills from them and even getting their feedback on my articles…after creating these groups I feel the world is very small as we can connect with anyone in this world…great post…thanks for sharing this Ali…!!

    • Thanks Arvind! It’s lovely to be able to connect with people all around the world — I found that amazing when I first used the internet (yikes, 20 years ago now) and still find it amazing today. 🙂

  4. Until recently, although I knew about writing groups, I had always assumed they were for real writers not for wannabes like me! Earlier this year, however, I met someone who had been to the same school, more than 40 years ago! Strangely enough our conversation turned to writing and she suggested starting a writing group for the two of us and two of her friends.

    We have met every month since and I can’t articulate exactly how wonderful it is – the fun and laughter, the support with writing efforts, the constructive feedback, the afternoon out to the local library for a ‘Jane Austen 200 not out’ event, not to mention the hilarious reminiscences about school life and our grey felt, ribbon rimmed hats. I’ve even started to think I might be a ‘real’ writer too, one day.

    So I would definitely say join or start a writing group – you may be pleasantly surprised.

    • How wonderful that you’ve managed to form what sounds like a brilliantly fun and supportive group, Alice. 🙂

      If anything, I think most groups are aimed at not-quite-there-yet writers … certainly the ones I’ve been in have been full of very normal people, writing around a job/kids/etc, and when there have been members a little further along than the rest of us, they’ve always been very welcoming and kind.

  5. Found out that most Meetup groups, here in NL, are mostly students/expats, more interested in socializing than writing.
    Or just thinking about writing, someday or so.

    • Oh, that’s difficult — socialising can be nice, of course, but it’s not really what you want from a writers’ group! Can you ask around in existing groups and try to start something? I’ve come across quite a few groups in the UK that have a writing time (e.g. 1 – 2 hours) when everyone just cracks on with work, followed by a drink or two together … maybe something like that could work?

Comments are closed.