Tips for starting a writing group

If you can’t find a writing group that’s exactly right for you why not consider starting your own? WriterLink is designed to make it easy to find group members who share your interests, and the platform is designed to help organizers set up and manage writing group events. We offer facilities to share stories if you’re running a feedback group or writing exercises to download if you want to run a workshop style group.

Writing groups vary in style, so be sure to check out our guide to writing group activities to give you some ideas for your group.

It’s a good idea to describe your group and its aims carefully, this will help other members with similar goals find the group. It can be a good idea to set up some simple rules for members, so they know what to expect.

Here are examples of three different styles of writing group, with a description of how they organise their events.

An online feedback group

Where and when: The first Monday of the month using Zoom

Rules: The group is for novel writers and a chapter must be submitted for other members to read a week before the event. The group is for dedicated writers only, there needs to be a commitment to attend each month. Members need to read all the chapters, even if they miss a event, to keep up with the stories.

Activity: The group decides the order for giving feedback, and everyone takes a note of this so they know when it’s their turn. The writers start with the first member on the list and go around each group member, listening to their notes on the chapter. The group try to use the WWW and EBI acronyms, ‘What Worked Well’ and ‘Even Better If…’ They have learned that the most useful feedback is honest, but sympathetic, offering thoughtful detail that guides the writer to improve the work. It wouldn’t work to bluntly say ‘that character doesn’t work at all,’ it would be better to say, ‘that character comes across as bossy, is there something you could change to make us understand her better?’ Writing is all about confidence and the group try to support each other and help each other become better writers.

Writing workshop

Where and when: Weekly 90-minute event in a community centre

Rules: Be on time. We welcome a contribution towards the venue hire. Please avoid profanity or violence in the stories you write for the group.

Activity: The first 10 minutes are usually a friendly chat, as group members catch up. The group organizer reads out a writing exercise, she’s chosen a theme of ‘character’ this week. The group spend 10 minutes writing a letter from an invented character about their hopes for the future. The group organise lets the members know when the time is nearly up. When everyone has finished the organizer asks for volunteers to share what they have written. As the letters are read out the writers give feedback on the stories. The group try another short writing exercise and share thoughts on the exercise again. The final section of the event is a discussion about everyone’s favourite novel characters, and why they find them compelling. Members who want to continue chatting go to a nearby coffee shop after the event,

A friendly social group

Where and when: Meets monthly in a bar at 7.30pm.

Rules: Anything goes.

Activity: Introduction to new members. Buy drinks at the bar, chat! The group sometimes has a theme for discussion at the event. E.g. Characters, titles, pitching your idea. It’s an informal group for members to meet other local writers and make friends.

There are many ways to run a writing group and it’s important to set up the kind of group that you will enjoy, and that you will find easy to organise. New organisers should expect to adapt the format of the group in the first few months as it becomes clearer what works for the group members.

Starting a writing group is a useful service to the community, and it can also be great fun and lead to many new friendships. If you have any questions about starting a group at WriterLink please get in touch.