Mutual support can be one of the most important functions of a writing group. Sometimes encouragement and the knowledge that others are interested in and committed to your work and your progress as a writer can be just as helpful as feedback. To that end, your writing group may want to reserve some time in each session to “touch base” or “check in” with one another. During this time you could:
Some writing groups ask members to distribute their work in advance of the group meeting, particularly if the piece of writing in question is lengthy. You might distribute your writing at one meeting for discussion at the next; leave writing in people’s mailboxes; drop writing off at people’s carrels or offices; or send writing via e-mail, either by pasting material into an e-mail message or by including it as an attachment. Readers can offer the most helpful feedback when the writer has provided a list of questions, trouble spots, or issues for them to consider in their responses.
The following ideas might help you respond to work that has been distributed beforehand:
Some groups prefer to bring writing, particularly shorter pieces, to the group meeting for immediate discussion. You might bring a draft of an entire paper, a section of a paper, or just a sentence or two that you can’t seem to get “just right.” Many of the above ideas will work just as well for writing that has been presented during the meeting of the writing group. However, since writing presented during the meeting will be new to everyone except the author, you might try these additional strategies:
Sometimes, especially with new writing or writers needing a boost of confidence, it can be helpful to share writing without anticipating feedback. This kind of sharing can help writers get over fears about distributing their work or being judged.
Writing groups can provide not only feedback and a forum in which to share work, but also creative problem-solving for your writing troubles. Your group might try some of these brainstorming ideas:
Your writing group may choose to write during some of its meetings. Here are some ideas for what to write:
Just as writing during group meetings can prove beneficial, reading can sometimes help writing groups work together better:
Just as guest lecturers in courses sometimes spice up the classroom experience, guests in writing groups can enliven the discussion:
Your writing group can also help you plan your writing schedule for the week: