25/05/2011
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How to form a writers' group - ten top tips

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Writing Magazine and Writers Online can provide great help and support for keen writers and lovers of literature, but there’s no substitute for meeting on a regular basis with a group of like-minded people. You may already know of an existing writers' group in your local area, or find one through our Writers' Groups Directory, but if not, why not start your own? It’s easier than you might think.

1 Decide what you want from your writers' group.
• support and encouragement?
• constructive criticism?
• deadlines to work towards?
• a social occasion and chance to spent time with writing friends or focused work?
It’s up to you to decide.

2 How often will your writers' group meet?
Once a month, fortnightly or weekly? Bear in mind that the more often you meet, the greater the commitment you are asking of your members. Make sure everyone has time to actually write something between meetings.

3 Start finding like-minded writers to join your group.
• Do you have writing friends in the area? If they enjoy it, they will probably know other writers who would be glad to come along.
• Set up a page for your group on a social networking site such as Facebook, and start inviting friends via the internet. Or ask for new members on Talkback.
• Advertise locally, in a newspaper or local shop. Remember that once you publicise the group you will have to expect people you don’t already know and like to turn up, so be prepared to welcome newcomers of all types.

4 Decide where you would like to hold your meetings.
Small informal groups would probably be most comfortable taking turns to host the group at members' homes. Agree on what is expected from each host - eg comfortable seating and nibbles.
Larger groups will be better in public venues. Perhaps a local pub has a room you could use? It may even be free if you all buy a drink or two at the bar. Would your local library be an option?

5 Agree on roles and responsibilities.
Again, these will vary depending on the size and scope of your group. Members could take it in turn to chair meetings, an important role to keep order and run the meeting. Appoint members to look after finances, administration, publicity, etc.

6 Calculate financial implications.
Ensure any financial commitments are covered by the group as a whole. Anyone who objects to a small contribution to cover refreshments or paper and printing is not committed and should be (politely) asked to pay up or leave!

7 Keep an eye on your paperwork.
Set up a system for keeping track of everything – who your members are, whether anyone owes anything, contact details in case you have to cancel the meeting one week, any planned holidays and so on.

8 Publicise the group in the local area.
Some members will inevitably drop out or miss some meetings. To grow – or even maintain numbers – you will have to be on the lookout for new members; hopefully existing members will enjoy the meetings so much that they will recommend the group to all their friends as well.
Local newspapers are often on the lookout for interesting groups and societies in the area, and may be only too glad to give you some coverage. Remember to ask them to include details of how people interested in joining can get in touch. Set up a specific email account for the group so that you don’t have to give out your personal details.

9 Know where you’re heading.
Once your group is up and running, decide in what direction you would like to go. You might want to include any or all of these activities:
• critique of members' work.
• exercises and prompts for new writing.
• analysis of successful books or other writing.
• guest speakers, such as local published writers.
• publishing an anthology.
• organising a writing event or readings in your town.

10 Enjoy it!
Don't lose sight of your reasons for starting up the group in the first place, so make sure you look forward to each meeting.

• And don't forget to submit your group's details for inclusion in our directory, or in the Writers' Round-up section of Writing Magazine

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