Summer Writing Groups: How to Manage a Peer Creative Writing Workshop
Summer is a great time to reconnect with writing friends and share story ideas or drafts. Whether you’re a creative writer, a content writer, or a hybrid of both, sharing writing with peers can dramatically improve your writing when done with care, tact, and adherence to agreed upon guidelines and procedures.
Creating a Core Group
The best writing groups tend to be small enough so that everyone can get feedback, but large enough to offer some diversity in perspective. If you know one or two writers whom you trust, suggest starting a group and asking them to invite one or two of their writing peers. This way, you’ll have a combination of readers who are familiar with your work, as well as those who will give you a fresh perspective.
Having a mix of writing styles can also benefit your collective writing practice; fiction writers can share their creative writing techniques, while content writers can offer practical ideas for editing your own work, meeting deadlines and racking up words on the page. To find fellow writers, try online writing forums or courses, or, better yet, local classes where you can meet face-to-face with fellow writers in your area.
Setting a Schedule and Sticking To It
The best laid plans of writers can get clobbered by work and family commitments. Be realistic about your ability to meet, and agree upon a schedule that works for the group. Here are just a few formats you can try:
- Monthly face-to-face meetings. If you can only meet once a month, try setting aside a solid block of time. A good formula is 30 minutes for catching up and socializing, then 30 minutes per piece. Be sure that the writers who are getting feedback send their pieces at least a week before the meeting so that everyone has time to read them and is prepared to offer constructive comments.
- Weekly brainstorms. These meetings can work in person, or via Google Hangout, Skype, or even email. The goal here is to get together with like minds and brainstorm ideas for new projects. This works best if you have a diverse group of writers who work in different niches so that the spirit is one of collaboration, not competition.
- Email check-ins. If meeting in person isn’t an option, set up a schedule where each member of the group gets a set time to email out a new piece and receive feedback individually from their peers. This method sometimes allows for deeper feedback since the communication is essentially all one-on-one.
While writing groups can be a great place to boost your self-confidence, the goal is to improve. Avoid superfluous flattery and give respectful, actionable criticism. To do this, ask yourself the following:
- What is this piece of writing trying to achieve?
- Is the writer successful in their goal?
- What can I suggest to help make this writer more successful?
Caitlin C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.