Pursuing a career as a writer can be lonely. Most of your day is spent cooped up in your office, pounding away at the keyboard until someone finally reminds you that it’s time for dinner. But a solitary life isn’t conducive to creativity, so writers must be willing to go looking for community, preferably outside of their friends and family. One way that you can build a community of writers is by starting your own Writers’ Critique Group. Not only will this give you an opportunity for social networking, but it will also provide you with a sounding board for your work.
In order to start your own writers’ critique group, you will need to answer certain questions about how the group will be run. If you will be the “Chairman” of the group, it is up to you to create a writers’ group to which lots of writers want to belong. Before you start recruiting members, answer these questions:
–What type of writers will be welcome in the writers’ critique group? (i.e. certain genres or types of writing)
–Where will the writers’ critique group meet? (i.e. your house, the library, a local community college)
–When will the writers’ critique group meet? (i.e. once a week, once a month)
–How will you find members for the writers’ critique group? (i.e. flyers, word of mouth, a website)
Once you have determine the answers to those questions, it will be time to form the actual group. Most writers’ critique groups are informal gatherings of fellow writers who read their work aloud or pass out copies of their latest works to be critiqued by the other members. You could have multiple readings/writings in one night or you could spotlight one member on a rotation for each meeting. Whatever the case, you’ll need to decide how meetings will be held and who will preside over them.
Although most writers’ critique groups are informal, it is usually best to choose one or two people to be “moderators” (like you would find in an online forum) to make sure that rules are followed and everyone gets a chance to speak. That doesn’t mean you have to be a dictator about how the meetings are run, but in order for a writers’ critique group to be beneficial, certain rules must be followed. For example, you might want to have rules about expressing negative opinions of a piece of work. Creativity can lead to overzealous behavior in which feelings are hurt and animosity is built.
You might also want to have a time limit on readings and writings. For example, if you are a group of fiction novel writers, you won’t have time to read an entire book in a one- or two-hour meeting. In that case, you might want to limit critiques to certain segments of a budding novel or you could pass out copies of a novel the week before the meeting so that everyone has a chance to review the material. It’s important that everyone feels they have had an ample time to share, but it’s equally important that progress be made toward bettering the group as writers.
A writers’ critique group should also be composed of members who are comfortable with one another. The addition of a person who makes everyone else feel uncomfortable will destroy the entire group dynamic, thus making it difficult for members to be open and honest with their critiques. For that reason, you should have a method of adding a new member to the group so that everyone feels secure. While I wouldn’t be completely opposed to the idea of adding new members, you should also be careful about who you allow to join.
Starting a writers’ critique group is an enjoyable and healthy experience, but don’t make it too difficult. Talk to other writers you know to gauge interest in the project, and then start putting meetings together. Address problems as a group and keep positive energy flowing by creating a welcoming atmosphere for all writers.