Deciding How the Group Will Function
Successful writing groups will negotiate these questions. There are no right answers, but all members need to agree on procedures and goals.
- What kind of writing group are you hoping for? Groups can function exclusively as one type or some combination of types, but it’s important that members are candid about what would suit their needs.
- Accountability group: These are working groups. Members meet in a shared physical or virtual space and they write while they’re together. They keep each other accountable by showing up to work and expecting others to do the same. Members might also work independently but have a system for regular progress updates to the group.
- Feedback group: These groups share writing and provide feedback on one another’s drafts. Groups can be disciplinary or interdisciplinary. Members of disciplinary groups are able to give knowledgeable content feedback. Members of interdisciplinary groups can give feedback on how clearly the writers have expressed their ideas to non-expert readers.
- Support group: These groups meet to discuss the experience of writing, to share their favorite strategies, to talk through their challenges, to provide emotional support, etc.
- How often will the group meet? Once a week, twice a week, every other week? Where will the group meet? Coffee shop, library, lounge, virtual space?
- How will the members communicate between meetings? Email? Text? Messaging through collaboration software like Slack?
- Will one person be in charge of facilitating the meetings and the overall structure of the group? What will be the responsibilities of this facilitator? Keeping the group on track? Reminding participants of what they are supposed to bring? Taking notes during the meeting? Does this position rotate? How?
- What system will members use to decide who will submit writing for any particular meeting? For example, a group of four might meet once a week, with two people submitting writing for each meeting.
- Will members submit writing ahead of time? If so, how far in advance? And how will this exchange work? Through shared Google docs, collaboration software, email attachments, shared OneDrive folders?
- What happens when members who are scheduled to submit writing are unprepared or can’t attend the meeting? Cancel, postpone, skip a turn?
- What level of commitment do you expect? What happens if members don’t attend regularly?
- What kinds of writing are—or aren’t—suitable for the group? Dissertation chapters, conference papers, letters, abstracts, grant proposals? How short or long should submissions be? A tricky sentence, a few paragraphs, 3-5 pages, up to 10 pages, chapter-length sections?
- What will you do during the meeting? Practice conference presentations, discuss general writing problems, explain written comments, suggest research sources or methods, debate options for a particular text, offer support, check in about the week’s writing activities, state writing goals for the coming week?
- How will you get the meeting back on track if members spend too much time not talking about the writing?
- At what stage in the writing process may drafts be submitted to the group? Loose ideas, free writing, outlines, rough drafts, polished drafts, drafts that have been seen by outside readers?
- What kind of feedback are members most interested in, and how will members specify these needs at any particular point? Responding to arguments and organization, style concerns, use of sources, grammar and editing points?
- How will members respond to each other’s writing? By commenting directly on the draft, oral comments in the meeting, on a separate response sheet, via e-mail or other messaging platform?
- How many times can a single piece of writing be revised and resubmitted? Once, three times, forever until it’s finished?
- If any members feel that the group is not meeting their needs, how will they make their concerns known?
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