Participating in regular sessions with a writing group is fantastic for your practice, motivation, morale and development as a writer. Being part of such a group can have any or all of the following benefits:
- Keeping you motivated and holding you accountable to your writing goals
- Providing useful feedback in the form of critiques and comments from fellow members
- Giving you an insight into the way others work
- Allowing you to connect with like-minded people
Whether you join an existing group or start a new one from scratch, your writing is sure to improve – and you’ll make some great new writerly friends, too.
Writing NSW currently hosts 2 groups. You can browse these groups and request to join via the contact information on our writing group listing page. If you want to start your own group, never fear: we’ve put together some handy guidelines to help you through the process.
Things to consider before starting a writing group
Doing some brainstorming and planning before you start your own writing group will ensure that it’s a successful and rewarding venture. Here are a few things to consider before you begin:
What purpose will the group serve?
In order for your writing group to succeed, it needs to have a purpose and/or an objective. Groups tend to do better if their members are all at the same level, interested in the same style of writing, and/or keen to achieve the same objective.
Ask yourself a few questions about your potential group:
- Will it be genre-based (literary fiction, speculative fiction, crime etc.) or focused on a particular style of writing (poetry, children’s literature, memoir etc.)?
- Will it be goal-based? For example, you might hold a group for writers working on their first manuscript, or simply for those wishing to improve their skills by writing more regularly.
- Will it be based around a desire to gain feedback from others, or simply to gain inspiration and motivation?
What format will your meetings take?
It’s wise to have thought out an established format/time plan before your first meeting. This doesn’t have to be set in stone; according to the needs of the group, you can change and improve things as your meetings continue. Try out a few things and see what works best for everyone.
Here are some things to consider:
- Will there be set writing exercises for everyone to complete each week?
- Will you take it in turns to submit pieces for feedback? What will the deadlines be?
- Who will lead the group? Will there be a single convenor every week or will you take turns?
- Will you meet face to face or online, eg via Zoom? See our Resource Sheet for how to hold Online Meetings.
How often will you meet?
This is another important consideration. Getting together too often may not allow for enough writing time in between meetings; meeting too infrequently may lead to lack of momentum or engagement. Generally, a fortnightly or monthly meeting seems to work well for many groups.
Perhaps hold an initial meeting in which potential members can discuss their availability and come to an arrangement that suits everybody.
What will the ground rules be?
If your group involves any critiquing or feedback aspects, you’ll need to establish some ground rules to ensure a safe and welcoming space for all members. Your group will run smoothly if everyone is honest, courteous and constructive in their feedback, concentrating on both aspects that could be improved and aspects that work well. Remember to critique the story, not the author, and try not to argue over differences in opinion lest things get out of hand.
How to start a group at Writing NSW
We love hosting writing groups here at Garry Owen House! Provided that all group participants are members of Writing NSW, we’re happy to provide a free meeting space (subject to availability), as well as access to tea and coffee making facilities. We’ll also list your group details on our website.
If you’re interested in starting your own group, take the following steps:
1. Seek out potential members
Gauge interest from writers you already know and ask whether they’d be interested in attending a group. You can also advertise online or with a poster in a community space.
2. Contact us to find out room availabilities
Get in touch with us to enquire about room sizes and day/time availabilities. We’ll do our best to accommodate your group.
3. Fill out a Writing Group Agreement form
While you’re chatting with us about room availabilities, you should also request a Writing Group Application form. You’ll need to fill out some details about your group, including the convenor’s name and contact details, the group size, and the day/time/frequency of your meetings.
4. Hold your first meeting!
It’s time to kick things off! Make sure everyone brings paper, pens and writing samples if needed.
5. Ensure there’s efficient communication within your group
Decide how you’re going to maintain contact within your group. Exchange phone numbers/emails, or perhaps start a private Facebook group where you can touch base and keep up to date.
Ready to start your own writing group? Contact us for more information.
Want to know more about how a writing group works? Hear from Scripto Libris, a writing group who meet at Writing NSW on the second Saturday of each month. We sat down with the group for Spotlight On.
You can also read Lisa Nicol’s keynote speech from our 2023 Writing Group Open Night, where we celebrated the many writing groups that are hosted at Writing NSW.
More from Writing NSW
Check out our full range of writing courses in Sydney, our online writing courses and our feedback programs to see how we can help you on your creative writing journey. Find out about our grants and prizes, as well as writing groups across NSW, and sign up to our weekly newsletter for writing events, opportunities and giveaways.