You’ve decided to form a writing group. Congratulations! The Writing Center has established this kit to help writers like you get a group going and help it succeed, right from the start.

Starting a writing group, especially your first one, can be a little overwhelming. To help your group get off on the right foot, we’ve put together this collection of handouts for your group members to fill out before the first meeting. These will help you break the ice, learn about each other’s writing needs and group interactions, and start to plan a structure and schedule for your group that will work for everyone.

Everyone should read the “Thirteen Ways” handout before the first meeting and bring a copy of each worksheet, filled out, as well as one copy of a short writing sample to give to each group member (an excerpt from a paper would be fine). Of course, your group can modify this starter kit by adding other questions you would like each person to answer beforehand or subtracting worksheets that you don’t think will help you.

In your first meeting, your group might start by talking about why each of you wanted to join a writing group (using the Personal Goals sheet), then move on to discussing yourselves as writers (using your Writing Inventory and sharing your writing samples and the “About this Writing Sample” sheets). Finally, you might discuss your preferences for working together (using the Group Work inventory) and figure out a good time and place to meet (using the Schedule Inventory). All of these conversations can help you set some ground rules for your group, which you may want to write down, and will help you get to know one another as writers and group members. You might develop your own writing group “creed” at your first meeting to set the tone for future sessions.

It may be a good idea to close your first meeting by scheduling the next meeting and setting an agenda for it. Groups usually get off to a good start when the first meeting sets most of the ground rules, at least tentatively, and then subsequent meetings get right down to talking about and working on writing. By setting an agenda for the next meeting (who will bring writing, what you will work on, etc.), you can be sure that your group will start helping one another with writing issues almost immediately, and you can all leave the first meeting knowing what you should do between then and the next session.