Writers Group: How to Build a Fantastic Writing Community

by Sue Weems | 24 comments

A few years ago, I had only shared my writing with family and friends and a few blog followers. I was writing, but I wasn’t growing. I knew I needed accountability, fresh and critical eyes on my work, and a writers' group if I wanted to move forward. But I’m an introvert who moves often, and I was terrified to share my work.

Writers Group: How to Build a Fantastic Writing Community

The pressure to get better eventually won out over my fear, and I’m a stronger writer for it today. How do you find a community of writers to push you to improve and encourage you when you’re stuck?

Writing is a solitary profession for the most part, but sooner or later, we realize we need a network of people, from beta readers to editors and eventually readers. Some writers retreat, discouraged by unkind comments or unsupportive friends or family, believing that someday, somehow their work will reach a wider audience.

But writing alone and hard work aren't enough by themselves. Very few writers can write and launch a book and career entirely in isolation. (Plus, being a part of a writing or creative community is much more fun.)

Here are a few small steps for finding, joining, or building a writing community.

How to Find a Writers' Group

In order to join a writers' group, first you need to find other writers. Try these two strategies to find the people who could become your community.

Take a class

Writing classes are a terrific way to meet writers, learn new skills, and invest in your craft. Whether online or in person, commit to completing every lesson and reaching out to classmates.

I’ve taken a number of classes in person and online, and by the end of a course, only the strongest survive. These are the people who are more likely to take their writing (and yours!) more seriously. Challenge yourself to stay in touch via social media or email.

Join a critique or writers' group

Writers meet up all over the world. Check out your local library for writers' groups that are open to new members, or consider online forums such as ours, Becoming Writer.

I was living abroad a few years ago, looking for accountability, when I found The Write Practice and joined. The weekly accountability kept me writing consistently, and over time, I found a niche of writers who I still turn to for critique, support, and encouragement. They have enriched my writing and life in countless ways.

Check out these tips for how gather the right people and create a writers' group that lasts. Don’t be afraid to give a group a trial period, and switch if it isn’t a constructive, encouraging place to learn and grow.

How to Make Your Writers' Group Amazing

Once you find a community of writers that seems to be a good fit, do these three things to keep your community thriving:

Give and Take

When you first begin with a writers' group, it will be uncomfortable. Recognize that those early days are time for you to feel out the guidelines and expectations of the group.

Be honest about what you can give and humbly receive feedback. (That said, do not tolerate rudeness or abuse—leave any group that allows it immediately.) Make sure you don’t dominate the group or its members with a barrage of questions or your work.

Not sure how to give great feedback? Check out our guide to the components of amazing feedback.

As with most relationships, there must be a healthy amount of both giving and taking to make it work.

Be consistent

Once you find a writers' group or class, be consistent about attendance and participation, even if you have decided it will be for a four to six week or meeting trial period.

Some days you will not feel prepared, but go anyway to support the group. Consistency is key in the early days of creating a new habit, so follow through on your commitment.

Once group members see that you are a trustworthy and engaged individual, your interactions with the group will be richer and more productive as well.

Keep learning

Attitude is everything when you work with a group. Stay positive, committing to learn from everyone you meet.

Even when a writer in your group is just beginning, find ways to respectfully engage their work. You'll find it grows you as a writer.

I can always tell who is going to be the strongest writer in a class by the end of the semester—it isn’t the person with the best technical skills. It’s the person who humbly and hungrily absorbs all feedback, working to put that feedback to work. They don’t think they know it all, and they are quick to find the good in others.

Find Your Community Now

The best time to find a writing community is today. Don’t put it off until you have a book ready, when you join groups to shout “Look at my book! Read my book!” It’s much more rewarding to struggle forward together, learning and spurring each other on.

When your book is ready, you will find you have beta readers and launch team members ready to help and cheer.

What experiences have you had with writers' groups? What keeps you from joining one? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

One of the great things about The Write Practice is you don't have to look far to find your writing community. In fact, you'll find community if you scroll down to the comments. Today, let's practice the first strategy to maintaining healthy community: give and take.

Share an excerpt from your work in progress in the comments below. Or, take ten minutes to write a new piece based on this prompt: first day at a new school. Then, share your story in the comments.

With the remainder of your time (five minutes if you just wrote, or fifteen minutes if you're sharing a prewritten piece), respond to the pieces other writers have shared. In order to receive great support from your community, you have to support others, so take time to leave thoughtful feedback for your fellow writers.

BONUS: Looking for a writers' group? We'd love to see you in Becoming Writer, the online writing community here at The Write Practice.

Sue Weems is a writer, teacher, and traveler with an advanced degree in (mostly fictional) revenge. When she’s not rationalizing her love for parentheses (and dramatic asides), she follows a sailor around the globe with their four children, two dogs, and an impossibly tall stack of books to read. You can read more of her writing tips on her website.

24 Comments

  1. Christine

    I think writing groups are a great idea and would like to be part of one. Now the BUT…

    What keeps me from joining a writer’s group? For one thing, physical distance. I live in a rural area, quite sparsely populated. (Fewer people=very few writers.) We’re an hour from the nearest city — a long drive home on cold winter nights.

    I was part of a writing group there, but that disbanded for lack of continued interest and attendance. I’ve heard of another writer’s group in the city, but never been to a meeting. I needn’t be so particular, but I am; I don’t want to drive that hour in and out again to read and listen to a lot of genres I’d never read by choice and certainly never write.

    I’m a rather conservative-minded older lady; I’d like to be part of an on-line writing group where we share non-fiction or contemporary, fairly “clean” stories. No paranormal, no horror, no thriller, no fantasy, no erotica. If someone can recommend a group like that, I’d love to check it out.

    Reply
    • MaryJoM

      Hi, Christine! I understand where you’re coming from, but. The but is that being exposed to other genres may give you some ideas or approaches you hadn’t thought of. I’m lucky enough to be in a critique Circle and we have members who do straight-up fiction, historical romance, fantasy, vampire stories, and historical novels based on post-Civil War family histories. Me? I’ve done a memoir (which I can’t find an agent for), and a number of short stories.

      Besides this group, I’d suggest you try Two Drops of Ink as a starter. It’s a good mix of writers and would give you the chance to get some exposure (in a good way).

    • Christine

      Thank you. I was checking for small writing groups on Goodreads after I wrote this. I think a person could start their own, but it might take time.

    • WendS

      Hi Christine. I’m with you on this. Let me know if you find anything

    • Evelyn Sinclair

      Christine, I respond to you as a conservative older lady, and agree entirely with your desire for “clean” writing. Stick with the write practice where your personal style of writing will engender responses to encourage you. I am a recent member and have found it easy to engage with the pieces I appreciate and I can chose to ignore the others. I imagine this is a fairly large group and you might therefore find a smaller cohesive group to your liking.

    • Mary Rohrer Dexter

      I had not problem finding a writing group at my local library and I live in a very small town. I enjoy the group. I also am part of an online group that has a mix of ages. I am older and so far everything shared in the group I am in has been clean. It is specific to “creative non fiction”. If you want to investigate this group it is at the following link: https://www.familyhistorywritingstudio.com I think one has to take a couple of the classes to be able to participate in the group so a participant knows the genre. But the classes are not expensive and are both fun and informative. If you like family histories.

    • Christine

      There are various writing groups you can join if you’re willing to pay. I see this one asks for $200 US for the lessons that will get you into the group. The advantage, or disadvantage, is that the group is limited in genre. I’m doing NanoWrimo now, so will put out some feelers there.

    • Mary Rohrer Dexter

      I did not spend $200. I took one class that was 50 Canadian dollars. I think they recommend a second class. There is a fee to get into the group itself but I was lucky and slipped in during the introductory rate. Glad you have found a spot Christine. Best of luck!

  2. Luis A.J.

    It was Cora’s first day at the Academy of Witchcraft.

    Her parents told her that it would be a great—and challenging—experience and that she would make lots of friends in the process. They had bought all of the necessary supplies to ease her journey at her new school, meaning she was fully prepared for whatever came at her; or so she thought.

    The first thing she noticed was the paper-planes flying around the school grounds and various cliques with kids waving their wands in the air while muttering spells. Right after, she saw how a group of seniors swung their staffs in a vertical motion causing the planes to split in half and fall onto the grass below. They laughed their lungs out and some of the kids with wands showed watery eyes and ran inside.

    Cora closed her eyes thinking (knowing) that this was going to be a tough year for her, but she quickly opened them, showing a glint of determination. A look that would show that she was ready for the new adventure ahead.

    Reply
    • Sue

      Thanks for being brave and sharing your practice, Luis.

  3. S.Ramalingam

    I could still remember it vividly.It was the first day of my school when I was just a kid of 5 years old.Early in the morning at about 0830 a.m I accompanied my dad I went to my school to join.I was wearing a new dress, having a new school bag wherein I had a plastic box filled with two pencils, a sharpner, an eraser and a two rupee coin given as pocket money by my father.In addition I had a box filled with toffees.What I could do with just Rs 2/-?It was some 50 years ago.In those days Rs 2/- meant a lot.I could have some toffees or some nuts or buy a new pencil or even a pen.My father admitted me in the school.I wished the class teacher with a good morning.Then I distributed sweets to my class mates.Then I was seated in the third row, in the midst of a small boy and a girl.Then my father went home.The class was commenced with a recital of Tamil Thai Vazhthu, which meant that we paid our respect to the Tamil Goddess.We simply recited what the class teacher said. Being the first working day of school and my first day at school, the class teacher just asked our names.I told the teacher I was Ram, the only son of my parents.As time went I became friends with my neighbors namely Arun and Bama.They were so cute.I learnt a lot from them.Arun’s father was a police man and Bama’s father, a doctor.My father was an advocate.Being a tinytot, my thoughts mostly lingered on playing.Arun said he could play hide and seek.Bama said she could play the game of thief and the police man.Since we were in school, we did not play our favourite games.We decided to play our favourite games some other time.At about 11.00 a.m, we were almost tired.The class teacher helped us to lean on our desk and have a nap.When we woke up it was 1130 a.m.The class teacher told us that was all for the day and ordered us to back to our home.I could see my father was waiting outside the school with a smile on his face.Perhaps it was due to my successful completion of my first day in the school.My father patted me on my back for not crying on the first day of my school.I really wondered, why quite a few of my class mates cried.But I thoroughly enjoyed my first day in my school.I went back to home with my father.As soon as I reached home, I boasted much to my mother on my first day at school.My mother hailed me as a cute boy.

    Reply
  4. Elena

    I wanted to add to your sources also the NaNoWriMo local/ regional groups as good writers groups. This was the place I met amazing writing-oriented people of different generations whom I wouldn;t have met otherwise. And all of us didn;t have around them any people interested in writing until meeting us.

    Reply
    • Sue

      Thank you for mentioning this, especially during November!

  5. Evelyn Sinclair

    My first experience of a writers’ group was at a community event with an open invitation to join a local writer for one hour of sharing. The event was based 60 miles from my home. When I arrived at the appointed time I was the only person to have signed up. This proved to be very helpful as I had the tutor’s full and undivided attention. We discussed some ideas I had, and he shared some of the local successes he was aware of. He does run a local group, but distance precluded me from joining that one. He then named a couple of weekly meetings available in my home town, and also reminded me of residential opportunities at a well known rural retreat.
    I have yet to follow up on any of his suggestions. However I have found the Write Practice and it feels comfortable, so I will hang out here for a while and see how things develop.

    Reply
    • Sue

      Glad to have you here! It takes a bit to get comfortable in any new group. Good luck!

  6. Marta Fonseca

    You should try using WattPad, it’s an amazing community regardless of how long you’ve been writing and how confident about it.

    Reply
    • Sue

      So glad you mentioned this! Many of my students have had success in Wattpad. I need to wade in.

  7. Sebastian Halifax

    Chapter 3

    My
    days and nights blended into solitary darkness. I dreaded my captor’s visits as
    much as the lonely silence in her dungeon.

    With
    each visit, she brought new methods of increasing my pain as well as her
    pleasure. Afterwards she would collect samples of my blood and seed, no doubt
    for some sorcerous ritual of hers.

    It was
    during one of these sleepless nights after her visit that I heard a strange
    scurrying on the stone floor. It stopped, than resumed on the table to which I
    was bound. As it neared I saw it was a rat. For a moment it stared at me, than
    proceeded to gnaw at my bonds.

    I sat
    up on the table, rubbing my sore wrists. The rat scurried back into the
    darkness from whence it came. I decided to search the rest of the dungeon
    outside this chamber.

    I opened
    the door a crack. I peered through, looking for any anyone heading this way.
    Satisfied, I surveyed my surroundings. Piteous moaning came from the other
    cells. A nearby table displayed many instruments of torture, along with a club,
    which I took.

    As I
    turned to investigate the cells, I heard the familiar footsteps down the stairs
    that led to the dungeon. I reentered the chamber and stood near the door, my
    club poised to strike.

    The door
    opened, the torchlight illuminating part of the room. As she entered, I swung
    my club toward her head. The blow sent her reeling to the floor. Picking up the
    torch, I lit the candles on the wall. I could now see the interior. In a corner
    of the far wall I found another bundle of ropes.

    I
    lifted her unconscious body to the table, binding her to the iron rings. The
    knife she had used on me lay on the nearby shelf. I used it to shred her dress
    from her body.

    I paused to admire my handiwork. At last, my
    captor lay as I had; bound, naked and helpless. I wanted to make her suffer and
    ensure it endured until she would beg for death’s cold embrace.

    The
    voice of necessity stilled my wrath. If she is missing, they will search for
    her. I haven’t the strength nor skill at arms to deal with the guards. I
    decided to put vengeance aside in favor of more immediate needs.

    ***

    The moon
    shone as the night’s lantern when I emerged from the dungeon. The halls were empty
    save for the occasional guard patrol. I made my way to the kitchen, where I
    grabbed as much food as I could carry and brought it to the dungeon.

    By now
    she had awakened, struggling to break her bonds without success. Her muffled
    pleas and curses were little more than buzzing flies in my ears.

    A
    curious mark painted upon her leg caught my eye. It was a large bleeding eye,
    likened to the symbol of that altar where the vrylamyr fell. Curious, I touched
    the mark. I saw visions of the lady chanting before a blood-stained altar,
    carving the mark into men’s flesh.

    My hand,
    moving of its own accord, snatched the knife from the table. I carved the
    symbol above her heart, than plunged it into her flesh.

    An
    invigorating wave of energy swept through me as her life faded. I felt
    stronger, my vitality restored.

    The
    reverie of the moment faded; now I needed to escape this place. I remembered
    the cells I had passed on my first day. The occupants within could be of use to
    me.

    Exiting
    the chamber, I opened the door to the first cell. In it lay an old man, lying
    in a most pitiful state. A husk where once stood a man. I opened the
    other cells, but met with the same result. This is what I would’ve become had I
    not slain that bitch.

    They
    served no purpose in living, save one. Their minds long consumed by time and
    torture, they offered no resistance as I sent them to the Fates. Their blood,
    undeserving to run through the their veins, would serve me better.

    ***

    I took a
    horse from the stables. It was dawn when I rode away from that place. I
    resolved to continue my journey, but first I had another matter to attend to.

    When I
    arrived, the villagers came out to see. They reacted to my presence with
    dumbfounded astonishment. “Your oppressor is dead. Your fate is in your
    own hands now.”

    After
    moments of stunned silence, the villagers knelt before me. “We accept you
    as our new lord. Do with us as you see fit.”

    Pathetic,
    I relieve them of their burden, yet they seek another to weigh them down. I should
    kill them for their part in my incarceration, but I must continue my journey.
    “Return any items you have stolen from me, and I will cool my wrath.”
    They moved with haste, handing me a sack containing my belongings. I gave one
    last scornful look upon those pitiful creatures. Spurring my horse on, I left
    that village far behind me. Like cattle, they existed only to follow, to serve
    their betters. It will be their demise one day.

    To be continued…

    Reply
  8. Hanaa

    I am hanaa and I have been writing journals since long time, and always wanted to make a book . And after 30 years I decided to finish my book. the book name is woman in the cellar it is about woman go to the psychiatrist where she tells him her life story. when she goes to the session she has to wait in the waiting room where she meets other patients who tells their problems as well.

    Reply
  9. TerriblyTerrific

    I need to abide by these suggestions. Writing can be a lonely job. I do need to take a writing class. I need to definitely receive some feedback on writing. And, I need to join a group of other writers, as well. Thank you. Much needed.

    Reply
  10. Karamjit Kaur

    My first experience of a writers’ group was at a community event with an open invitation to join a local writer for one hour of sharing. The event was based 60 miles from my home. When I arrived at the appointed time I was the only person to have signed up. This proved to be very helpful as I had the tutor’s full and undivided attention.

    http://www.emetechnologies.com/industrial-training-in-chandigarh/6-months-cse-training-in-chandigarh-&-mohali.php

    Reply
  11. Amber

    Hello ladies. I understand what you are saying. I recently started my own on-line forum and am looking for members to get the ball rolling. I am giving away free lifetime memberships to anyone interested, just email me at thewritedestination@gmail.com and I will get you set up. My goal, once I have enough members is to put people in groups by genre. I feel that you can give a better critique to someone in a genre you are familiar with as well as getting stronger input. Let’s face it, you know the tropes and conventions of what you read and write the best. I’m wanting to foster closer relationships in small groups and hopefully collaborations and lifetime friendships will spring forth. If your interested, let me know. I wish you all rounded characters and plots that sizzle. Best, Amber.

    Reply
  12. Sonya Ramsey

    This class has often encourage me to continue to write I read the comments on a regular basis and take lots of notes here is an example on something I’m writing….

    Drop him in the shark tank says Princess no no I will tell you what you want to know about your sister death. It better be good or you are going in the shark tank Sam. When I joined the family loan sharking business I knew we committed serveral crimes however I never knew it would allow us so much pain and heart ache until my sister was found died at St. Mary Academy.

    Reply

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