Any tips on relaunching a writing group?

Regular readers (and even those with irregular bowel movements – ah, sorry, can’t resist a poo joke) may be aware that I joined a local writers’ group at the start of 2016 to help me kick on with quantity and quality. It’s probably fair to say that the group, currently run by a smashing bunch of ladies of advancing years, does not have a membership running very far into double figures nor is it particularly engaged with the 21st century, technologically speaking. This all came to a head recently when a meeting was called to look at what needed to be done to turn the group around and I was invited along as ‘the new blood’.

There’s a small but significant part of me that relishes being the young (hah!) rock’n’roll hero, arriving in his black sports car with punky music blaring out and laying down to The Man (or, in this case, The Women) how things around here need to change. In actual fact it’s more relevant to point out that a) I’m still in the cut-throat world of working for a living with US employers who are very focused on the bottom line, and b) I know a reasonable amount about the internet and marketing.ย Their visibility as a long-standing local arts group is terrible, so most of my suggestions centred around building up the group’s web presence via the blog I’d set up. Take a peek at the current, if rather dormant, site to see theย 2016 programme.

But that got me thinking. There are a lot of people out there (150 followers of this blog alone) who may well be members of excellent writing groups who know what works and what doesn’t and we’d be very grateful if any of you had some tips and best practices that you could share.

Things I suggested at the meeting were:

  • identify what the group is for (e.g. engage with the local community; encourage new members, especially younger bods; help members improve the craft of writing);
  • go beyond the current formula (of offering competitions where you have to pay to enter and submit in hard copy in the hope of winning a small cash prize) and also run free-to-enter competitions submitted electronically (probably to the blog) with nothing but glory and perhaps a certificate to the winner (hopefully resulting in greater engagement with local writers);
  • get into the community more, especially with events & readings at libraries and book shops;
  • any events attended should be focused on the group’s remit; if we can’t use it to engage with, encourage or help (local) writers we shouldn’t go;
  • although some writers don’t want critical feedback, some (including me) do. It’s one of the reasons I joined but the group currently tends to shy away from offering feedback and has no structure to accommodate it. My plan is to have a section on the blog where pieces can be submitted for general critiquing.

So, how does that sound? Am I being overly ambitious? Will something fall flat on its face? Have I missed anything out that is crucial to having a successful and thriving writers’ group? I’ve also got to come up with a logo, which I’m happy to do but again if anyone fancies a pop at designing something with the words “Fosseway Writers” and possibly “Newark-on-Trent” as a smaller strapline, that would be awesome.

Let me know and I’ll take your suggestions to our working group meeting. Thanks guys!

 

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10 thoughts on “Any tips on relaunching a writing group?

  1. Good luck with this! I don’t have any useful insight to offer, unfortunately.

    I am a member of SCBWI to help with my children’s stories. There is a general support network (largely FB based for those who live outside London), plus I am a member (albeit struggling to keep up) of a specific picture book critique group within this. I think the critiquing needs to be a long-term relationship for maximum benefit, although I know there are FB groups that facilitate one-off crits for children’s stories… not sure about adult stories (the length of the story making this more of a challenge, plus it’s just not something I’ve looked into). Asking for crits from the WP community could be tricky, purely on a “length of time to do the job properly” basis.

    Your suggestions from the meeting sound sensible ones. Maybe start with one or two and focus on those, then build from there?

    Good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Al. The critical feedback we’re thinking of doing is not necessarily something that we’re expecting the wider WP community to take part in (although we probably won’t go out of our way to exclude anyone from outside the group who wants to provide input).
      It’s more about using the blog as a Fosseway Writers vehicle to post things we want critiquing and therefore enabling other members to comment on the piece at their leisure and convenience.
      I envisage the FW blog to be the main entry point for non-members, giving info on the group & acting like a standard web page. But at the same time it will be a tool for members to use to interact with each other’s writing. Any engagement with the wider WP community is kind of incidental – I hope that the FW members will spread their wings and set up their own blogs where they can make their own links with other bloggers around the world.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was recently recruited to a writing group. It was a small group, doing critiques on each others’ works, and meeting regularly, once a month. They invited me along to a meeting (a) to read some of my work to them and (b) to answer some questions the group had on writing and critical skills. The meeting went well, we got on well, and I was invited to go back. That was over a year ago. We have invited new guest readers in. We have invited people from the creative writing department in the local university to give us talks and writing exercises, and we have joined a local reading group that meets with public readings every two weeks. We set up a Yahoo Group (which we don’t like and don’t use) and we circulate work by e-mail with people responding on a free will basis. Once every so often a member of the group is “targeted” and we discuss their work in progress, listen to their readings, and comment on work which they are invited to circulate prior to occupying the hot seat. This is in addition to the regular meetings. One more thing: before I joined the group they produced their own anthology and sold it widely, also taking it to local schools and talking to creative writing groups about their writing experiences. I also work with a second group that meets once a week for coffee and discusses work in progress. This is a very jovial encouragement group; we update each other and talk about possible venues for publication etc. Hope something here might be of help. Best wishes and good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Roger, that’s a good insight into what we should be looking to replicate in some form, although I think the targeting of members would probably be a step too far. Fosseway Writers have in the past produced anthologies but I think we need to build up a head of steam again and ask the question ‘what is the anthology for?’ before chucking another one out there to sit on a shelf gathering dust. They also have guest speakers for workshops which are sometimes rather thinly attended due to the low membership numbers. We probably need to make a few more links with official groups & courses in Nottingham. I think it’s a great a idea to engage with local readers’ groups and we did touch on it when we met last week.
      Thanks for the info & ideas!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. These things are always so personal and so locally dependent. I threw some ideas into the air ways: hopefully, a seed or two will land on fertile ground. Just to know that there are people out here willing to help sometimes adds weight to the reformation movement. I wish you the best of uck with your reform: schools and writing and English departments … that might be the way to go.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting questions and ideas, Nick. The group I belonged to for 5 years was a critique group and it made a huge difference in my writing. None of us were published when we started, and after 5 years, all of us were. I wrote a post about how we were structured if you’re interested. We were a highly disciplined group – just one of the many varieties of writers’ groups possible. http://mythsofthemirror.com/2013/05/29/writers-critique-groups/

    The main thing I think you need to decide on together is the goal of the group. Is the goal to have fun social time around writing, produce and drive forward work for publishing, learn about writing, engage with the community, or a combination. It’s possible that you aren’t all on the same page, and the group’s character, processes, participation requirements, and deadlines will be different depending on the goals. Your goals (as a young rock ‘n roll hero with years of writing potential) may be different than those of your “lady friends”. Just tossing that out there as a possibility.

    Once you establish your goals, you can put together a plan that everyone can get behind with some enthusiasm. Be prepared too, that not everyone may agree. There is always the option to go into different directions and draw like-minded writers from the community. Hope this helps ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Diana, excellent advice as always. Yes, I think we are potentially a mixed bag wanting different things. But if we don’t expand away from just cosy writing and socialising then it’s going to fizzle out. My plan is that we can have both the gentle writing exercises and some more challenging participation to help those that want it to grow as writers. Fingers crossed we can make it work! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We had people join our small group and then decide the commitment was more than they could handle. Others thought it wasn’t “professional” enough. I think participants tend to sort themselves out a bit too. Finding the right fit is key ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck with it!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. And we did something completely different! https://specficchic.wordpress.com/ – we discussed a lot early, and decided the best approach for the needs and wants of the participants. And, of course, for a while there were lots of people, then a few, then two. For a long time, just two. Persevere, persist – try on as many different ‘coats’ as there are ideas; bring in a new person, or a new concept, or a new structure – try them on. Sometimes it means there will be a sub-group for critiques (and remember, critique is hard – from both ends. don’t get defensive, or no one will ever offer it again, but also, don’t be harsh or judge or get personal when doing a critique on another’s work), or a sub-group for the shorts, or . . . you get the idea. Put up, say, three proposals for each meeting and try them out – see where the passion starts to kick in. That’s the spot! But don’t stop trying out the many new ways to cook a new menu with the same produce. And have fun.
    Our group is currently unable to update the web-site, but it will be back as soon as things settle.
    Good luck to all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I like your specficchic site & I may borrow some of the layout you’ve got going on (I’m halfway there already and you’ve helped point the way!).
      We’ve had a working group meeting tonight and are aiming to have something kind of operational for the AGM in a few weeks. Not quite a ‘fait accomplit’ but sometimes you literally have to show not tell!
      ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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