Thirteen Ways of Talking About Writing Groups
Successful writing groups will negotiate these questions. There are no right answers, but all members need to agree on procedures and goals.
- How often will the group meet? Once a week, twice a week, every other week? Where will the group meet? Coffee shop, library, lounge?
- How will the members communicate between meetings? Phone, email, messages in mailboxes?
- 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 will this exchange work? Central drop-off point, campus mail, e-mail, web page?
- What happens when members who are scheduled to submit writing are unprepared or can’t attend the meeting? Cancel, postpone, skip a turn?
- What kinds of writing are—or are not—suitable for consideration by 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?
- 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?
- 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?