The magic of twos and threes: things to do in a writing group

by Big World Writing Club Moderator A1

Are you in a writing group?

You might be, if there’s more than one of you.

That’s right: two people can be a writing group, as long as they’re both committed to it. In practice, my working writing groups settle around three (including myself). I actually belong to multiple groups, some of them on-line and some in-person. Here’s a list of things we do in my various writing groups:

1) Meet regularly. This can be anything from weekly to monthly. For my part, there’s Big World Writing Club, an informal group of on-line writing pals that convenes on Saturday mornings for writing bouts and writer chat, the MnNaNo writers’ group, and various subcaucuses thereof. And there are overlaps between all of those.

2) Set personal goals and check in on progress. One of my groups is an ambitious crew; we’re to the stage where we have goals for the entire year, with approximate timelines for what we hope to get done in each month. We’re social animals, and supporting each other in reaching our goals can make us feel that what we’re doing is real. And the goals don’t have to be the same for everyone in the group: only things that we want to get done.

3) Run writing bouts. Since NaNoWriMo 2010, I’ve been looking for opportunities to run writing sprints with my writing buddies. Pretty much anybody who wanders through my writing life gets invited to a write-in. After all, writers who write get more written than writers who don’t. Sometimes we all need to hear “Write now.

4) Read to each other. No critique, no response: just read, and then let the next person read. It’s a wonderful way to feel heard, as well as to find all the awkwardnesses that don’t show up when you’re reading silently. The very best is sitting around the fireside: it calls up the roots of what we’re doing, which is storytelling. There’s the pleasure of performing your own work, and the pleasure of story hour. The joy of reading and being read to never gets old.

5) Brainstorm, throw out wild prompts and make up challenges – and take them up as a group. At its heart, art is a game of constraints and revolution: make the rules and then bend them. Arbitrary prompts can call up all sorts of magic, because they invoke the spirit of play.

6) Have fun. That means food, walks, coffee, silly jokes, and the other finer things in life. We’re serious about our writing, but that means that we shouldn’t be grim about it.

What are your favorite things to do in your writing group?


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