Hello and welcome to the final part of the writing groups’ mini-series. This week, our sights are set firmly on the question: how do I start my own writing group? And, seen as we’ve already covered the reasons to join, their pros and cons, and the benefits they have on your writing, it seems like a logical end.
How do I start my own writing group?
The first question you have to ask yourself is WHY you want to start one rather than joining an already established group. There are a number of good reasons for starting your own, chief amongst them is that you already have a group of writers you interact with and just want to make it more formal.
The next question – do I want to meet physically or online? – will determine whether you will need to charge for membership or not. For the purposes of this post, and the fact that doing otherwise will open up a whole new can of worms, I will assume meeting online will suffice.
Online writing groups
The internet has spoiled us (in oh-so many ways). The age of instant messaging and online chatting is now well established; even Facebook has facilities to group chat with selected friends. This has been a real boon to writers’ groups and has allowed the creation of pan-global circles.
Group voice/video chat has added another dimension to online meetings. The growth of smartphone technology and cross-platform messaging applications means that no writer need be isolated (so long as they have an internet connection).
What tools are out there?
The first writing group I was a part of utilised Facebook’s private group pages. We created and administered a private group which allowed members to share and critique each other’s work and generally chat about the world of publishing.
The benefit of the Facebook group was that it provided a secure area to share work that was only accessible by members. Any new membership requests had to be approved by all admins before access was granted.
However, chat functionality is limited and the majority of our chats were through comments.
Sarcastic Muse use Skype’s instant messaging, file sharing, video, and voice chat regularly (read, almost every night). This is the main way we share work, offer support to each other and provide that all important feedback.
The fact that Skype operates in the background whilst signed on to your machine, and even your smartphone, means that the feed is always on for anyone to contribute to the conversation. This is great for those of us operating across multiple time zones.
The voice and video functionality is ever getting better and, with the addition of free group video calling, continues to improve.
I’ve not had much luck with Google Hangouts myself but I’m hearing great things. There is a member of Sarcastic Muse, who shall remain nameless, that is pushing for us to upsticks from Skype and shuffle across to Google.
Google Hangouts is another free application which allows much the same functionality as Skype. They have made a number of improvements to its speed and call quality which has had many businesses flocking to use its conference call facilities. Definitely makes it one to consider for your writing group platform.
I have a group, now what?
Okay, you have your writers and chosen your platform, now what do you do? In truth, you can do whatever you like. You can make it as formal or as informal as suits your group but bear in mind that the key focus should be on writing and helping each other to improve in the craft.
If you’re the type who needs an agenda, set one up in advance and circulate it to the group. Less structured types may benefit from writing sprints and prompts to encourage work to be produced and shared. Why not discuss ideas you’re working on, or even problems you’ve encountered? Another writer may see a way of tackling a problem that you’d overlooked.
Above all else, have fun.