Find Your People! Part II: How To Build a Writing Community

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By Julie Tyler

Hopefully Part I: Three Reasons For Building a Writing Community has thoroughly convinced you to get out there and find your people. Or, if you’ve already found your people and established a cohesive group, great!

Part II shares how I started a Writers’ Critique Group in Miami and offers fresh approaches to collaborating with other writers.

Here’s how I built a writing community:

Ever since my grad school days at UT where I met Deidre Garriott and Whitney Jones, I’ve been accustomed to having close friends who were also writer-collaborators. Even now, with the three of us living in three different states, we continue to function as a team, thanks to Facebook, Skype, and Allegiant’s direct flights between Fort Lauderdale and Knoxville.

Moving to Miami in 2014, though, meant that I needed to expand my writing community to include writers I could meet with in person and on a regular basis. In two years of looking, I made a few connections with writers. But I still felt isolated and craved being a part of a cohesive writing community.

My non-writer friends were sympathetic to my plight and offered the simplest and most logical solution.

“Julie,” they said, “why don’t you just start your own group?

“I reckon I ought to.”

After a few months of dragging my feet, I finally decided to follow their advice. Within five minutes of creating a Meetup event for the Writers’ Critique Group SoBe, several writers RSVPed “Yes!” and posted how excited they were to attend the inaugural meeting.

As the date of the first meeting drew closer, I set up a few group agreements for all members, myself included, to follow. They have worked so nicely that I recommend bringing them into your community’s next collaboration:

Agreement #1 –> Writers should prepare to share a short work-in-progress, so that everyone is an active participant.

Agreement #2 –> Writers should polish their works-in-progress, so that critique buddies don’t have to struggle to read them.

Agreement #3 –> Writers should gracefully give and receive supportive feedback, so that we all grow as writers.

Going forward:

Following agreement #3 works best, I’ve found, when a group models its critique on a format offered by The Field, a nation-wide organization founded “by artists, for artists.” Using The Field’s format, my group avoids saying what is “wrong” with a writer’s work-in-progress, and instead focuses on describing what we “see, feel, and hear” through reading the piece. For example:

“I feel sad for the character in this chapter. The emotional tone is clear.

“I can really imagine the setting based on these details, except for the part when the character leaves the city. What if you added more environmental details to that part?”

Then, we describe a development we “would like the writer to work on.” For example:

“I think this part would benefit from more dialogue. I’d like to hear what these enemies have to say to one another.”

“I would really like this chapter to open with more action. That would get our                     attention better than the descriptive opener.”

After you incorporate The Field’s critique format into your group meetings, you’ll likely observe an immediate effect on members. Writers will appreciate learning what kinds of impressions their works-in-progress make on others. They’ll walk away confidently plotting how to revise. They arrive at the next meeting with works-in-progress that make even better connections with their readers.

What are your favorite ways to collaborate with other writers? Share your ideas in the comments section below!

Image credit: photo credit:

theirhistory<ahref=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/22326055@N06/16961565680″>Berridge, Nottingham via photopin (license)

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