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Starting a writers' group

edited January 2012 in - Talkback Help Pages
I live in a part of the UK with no easily accessible writers' group. Does anyone have experience and/or advice for starting one from scratch?


  • Sorry, Norcot, someone else will have to help you out there.
  • I met some people at our local literary festival and we just said let's start one, so we did. We meet at one of our houses once a month and talk about our work. Usually we send it to each other just before hand so we have time to critique properly. It's all very informal, but it works well for me. There's only 4 of us, which makes it less scary. We tend to set the agenda for the next meeting at the previous one. I've never been too keen on the idea of going to a writing group, but this one works well for me. Do you know any other writers or would bes around who you could approach? Maybe an ad in your local library might come up with some. Good luck with it all. Oh yes, we started off with some simple exercises to get to know each other. That was a good ice breaker .
  • The only group of that's started recently near me was organised at the local library, so agree the library is a good place to start.

    Where do you live? I'm asking in case there is a group near you that you've not discovered and someone here will be able to tell you about it.
  • Do you mean a part with no writing group, or a part with not many people, or that you live i a lighthouse on a rock?

    I have always hesitated to advertise for writing groups people as you just never know who you are going to get. You need at least one person who is a good, published writer, preferably someone who has gravitas and is able to make sure no-one 'hogs' the limelight. But only one of this sort of person will be boring for them - they will want feedback that is helpful to them.

    Loads of people turn up to writing groups. sometimes all they want is a platform for their grievances, sometimes they have mental health issues. If it is a 'proper' writing group then steps can be taken, but if it is just 4 of you who have gathered by dint of an ad in a paper, you can't really say to one of them, we don't want you because we don't have time or patience or expertise to hear about your experiences in the local psych ward, or about how your child died every week. (Both of these on courses I have been on!) Sounds harsh, but it's not what you are the for - you are there to hear others writing and to critique and help each other, not to listen and help people through bad experiences. Which can be grueling.

    My own writing group came about from an MA I did - we were in a group on the course, liked each other, trusted each other and carried on meeting after.

    i would definitely advise you to try getting people together in another way than an ad. What about going to poetry readings, open mic nights, literature festivals, and seeing if you can get in touch with others who are attending? Or going on an Arvon course or another sort of writing course and seeing who you meet?

    Or, you could arrange a reading yourself, or a competition perhaps - see who enters, see who is good, contact them after!
  • Hi norcot! Whereabouts were you wanting to find one? (I completely agree with Liz, by the way!)
  • I am chairman of our writing group. We meet twice a month in a room at a community centre. Each member sets homework for a designated meeting.We read our work out and critique, at one time we were too nice , but now are much more honest (in a nice way ) . There are about 10 / 15 at any meeting and we charge £1.50 (soon to go up). We have a special study day once a year when we invite a published author to come for the day, these are always great.We also do lots in the local community, such as charity days and competition for writing at local schools. Its not hard to start a group , you can meet in each others houses. I would suggest having a secratary to co ordinate news comps and any other thing of interest to pass onto the members.Hope this helps
  • The smaller a writing group the better, I think. Ours has just 3 members and people often think we're a trio of Billy no mates but it works for us - honest robust feedback with no wafflers. I've been in larger groups before and they didn't work for me, apart from anything else I'm not keen on unpolished work being given a hearing by people I don't know well or trust. Be wary of people who are just looking for a social club - I mean, there's nowt wrong with socialising with someone like that but they don't work well in a writing group!
    We email our work a few days beforehand for the others to critique and we discuss it at the meeting, every fortnight.
    This works for us - everyone is different I suppose.
  • Big groups do not suit everyone, though I suppose it depends on an individual's idea of how many is a big group.:)
  • There's an article about writing groups in the latest Writers' Forum.
  • Thanks to all of you who replied. I am in Rutland. Nearest group is probably Grantham - about a 3/4 hr drive away, which is fine on summer evenings but not so in the winter. I do agree about a manageable size of group. I also agree about the problems of just putting an ad in the local paper or library. You never know who might turn up a your home, if that's where you decide to meet. I did once attend a group that is nearer to me but they were a bit of a pensioners' coffee morning meet. I am considering forming a local writers' group but feel I must give it some more thought, especially taking into account your excellent feedback.
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