Find Your People! And make the most of your community!

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By Julie Tyler

Several weeks ago, I encouraged From Nothing To Novel‘s readers to create a community of writers who provide valuable feedback and meaningful social interaction. I based this advice on experiences facilitating a group of my own. Back in September ’16, I created the group on Meetup and began hosting meetings twice a month. Since September, we’ve all become more confident as writers, built meaningful relationships with each other, and started wonderful new projects.

I get excited about every meeting I host and enjoy reading every piece of writing members share.

Now that a new year has begun, core group members and I decided to discontinue the Meetup events and move forward as an autonomous group. So far, our autonomy has proven advantageous. I hope to offer this group an even better experience than we enjoyed in 2016. Below are some ideas for improving your group in 2017:

Limit membership to a number you can reasonably accommodate.

Is your group a Meetup? that’s great! Meetup is a convenient tool for getting the word out about your event and attracting new members who will keep the energy fresh. While it will take more than one meeting for members to feel comfortable with one another, you’ll eventually notice that several people show up consistently and that you’re gaining new members every week.

If your membership grows too large, however, your meetings may not be as productive as you’d like. Maybe you don’t have time to critique every member’s piece, leaving some people feeling excluded.  Perhaps several members never get a chance to have their piece reviewed, or too many people want to offer feedback at once. In all cases, participants won’t receive as much value from participating.

A core constituency, though, is a powerful step forward for your writers’ group. You become more familiar with each other’s writing styles, which means members will offer better feedback and grow as writers.  

And let’s face it. Serious writers attending a serious writers group need serious meetings. If you’ve garnered a core constituency, it may be time to close the group to new members. That way, your group can move forward with writers who know each other well and are committed to what your group is all about.

Refine your group’s mission.

Every productive writers’ group needs a clear, simple goal that everyone agrees to and that meetings are designed to accomplish. Consider modeling your group on these examples:

  • A group of beginner writers might set out to learn specific writing techniques and apply them to new projects. To achieve this goal, spend the first half of your meeting completing nifty writing exercises, like penning letters to your teenage selves, and following cool prompts, like the ones From Nothing To Novel offers on Instagram and Twitter. Spend the second half of your meeting workshopping everyone’s ongoing projects.
  • A group of seasoned writers might set out to prepare projects for publication. To achieve this goal, spend the first half of your meeting helping each other research literary journals, contests, or literary events where you and other members can submit work. Spend the second half helping each other revise projects specifically for the chosen publication venues.

And always, when one member reaches a personal writing milestone, such as finishing a novel chapter or landing a publication in an awesome journal, spend a few minutes during your next meeting celebrating as a group. One member’s success represents the success of the entire group.

When things get stale…

Open your group back up to new members. You can do this very easily,  by posting an invitation on Meetup, in the style of, “Hey, writers! We’re looking for a few new members to join us. Message me for more details!” Or, if you don’t want to use a public forum to invite new members, ask your current members to invite their friends or co-workers who have a keen interest in writing.

Whether your invitation is public or private, the group should spend time discussing the kind of writers you’re looking for. For example, are you looking only for fiction writers? Or writers who have a solid literary background? Or maybe you’re looking for people from a variety of professional backgrounds interested in writing across a variety of genres? No matter who you’re looking for, phrase your invitations to reach the ears of your ideal participant.

 

How have your group meetings been going? Share with us in the comments below!

 

Image credit: photo credit:

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

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