An Example of a Successful Writing Group
There are no hard and fast rules about organizing a writing group. After all, any agreement between the members needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the individual needs and expectations of a variety of writers, all of who might have vastly different approaches to both writing and peer review, otherwise the group is doomed to failure from the beginning. The important thing is to be willing to adapt to circumstances as they arise.
A Problem Your Writing Group May Face
For example, one problem that arose with my current writing group is that a few members that were friends outside the group began discussing the work of their fellow writers in private. This became obvious during discussions and led to a lot of drama and hurt feelings. So, we had to make a rule that a writer’s work could only be discussed during group sessions.
Another early problem was that many writers felt that the feedback they were getting from the group sessions was very limited and repetitive. The group was criticized for allowing only a few voices to dominate our discussions and for consistently wasting time with long derails that weren’t particularly helpful.
We addressed this situation by requiring that all participants bring some form of written feedback to give to the writer. This could take the form of notes, a marked printout of the writer’s work, or even a letter. The important thing was to provide a way for members to provide individual feedback that wasn’t biased by the larger discussion.
To Discipline or Not?
But perhaps the most important change that was made to our original charter was the fact that we removed any disciplinary measures for breaking the rules. In the early days of the group, we had a complex series of punishments for things like coming to a meeting without reading the story or missing a submission deadline. Members could lose their space in the rotation, be suspended, or even kicked out of the group if the violation was serious enough.
Unfortunately, this only led to feelings of frustration and persecution and we quickly learned that it was better to treat all of the members like the adults they were. If a member wasn’t a good fit for the group, either because they were consistently late or didn’t give good feedback, we would ask them to leave, but otherwise there was no need for any sort of punishment. And after we abolished these measures, there was much less tension and drama between members.
All of these situations could have been disastrous for the group, but because the group was open, honest, and respectful of one another, we were able to overcome them and make the group stronger than ever. And there’s no reason that any other writing group can’t do the same thing, as long as they’re willing to communicate their needs and find a compromise that can benefit everyone.
That’s it for our discussion on writing groups. Hopefully, it was helpful enough that all of you will be starting your own writing groups soon. Next time, we’ll take a look at something a little different: how to collaborate with people who are not writers. Until then, stay safe and keep writing!
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