How to Run a Writing Club
Last night my friends and I celebrated the 1 year anniversary of the Writeryjig Clubamabob, our little writing group. I baked a birthday cake, Jo baked brownies and we all sang Happy Birthday to the club. I think we’re all a little surprised, but very proud that we’ve made it to the year mark.
So, as a little extra commemoration, I thought I would put together a how to guide, for anyone thinking about setting up their own group. If you’re an aspiring writer, I highly recommend joining, or creating your own group, because WE ALL NEED SUPPORT. No novel is written alone.
Step 1: Getting the Idea
The idea to start our writing group was born one afternoon in a Costa. I had just announced I was starting a masters, a couple of my friends were in the middle of theirs, and Jo turned to me and said, “This is making me think I want to do a masters. But I don’t. I just want the consistent feedback that we used to get in seminars.” (Or something to that effect.)
I suggested that she join a writing group, but I think we both quickly put that idea to bed. There’s a certain level of trust required for sharing first draft fiction, and the idea of reading stuff out in front of strangers (as many writing groups require) put us both on edge.
“Well, I guess we’ll have to start our own then?”
Step 2: Setting Up Shop
Jo and I talked a bit about how we would want to run a writing group. As feedback for all was key, we decided to base the structure largely on how our seminars were run at university. Later, when we introduced the idea to a few others, we decided we would need to stay small, with work circulated at least a week before the session so that everyone had chance to read and make notes about the work submitted. We also decided to set a word limit of 5000 for each submission, so that it would be a manageable amount to read.
Step 3: Social Media
The long standing, randomly selected header image for the WC. I wish I knew who made this.
In order to make life easier, I decided to set up a private Facebook group where we could vote for and discuss meeting dates and exchange work. Having the group also meant I could invite everyone to the events with minimal difficulty, and we could bug each other with writing jokes when we felt like it too.
This was also the point at which a name was needed. Writeryjig Clubamabob was a name that I made up as a place holder…but it very much stuck. However, when it came to singing Happy Birthday last night, we called it “Club” to save ourselves the tongue twister.
Step 4: Recruitment
When it came to finding club members, we didn’t have far to go. We started with a few friends from uni, Jo and I, Megan, Rachel and Tori. Some of us had done English with Creative Writing, some of us English. Some of us had been writing fiction most of our lives, some of us had never really tried before. It was a good mix. On top of that, we extended a few invites to folks we knew outside of our group. Ian, my physicist/metallurgist friend and former flatmate, joined the group when I sarcastically said to him over dinner, “So if you ever decide to write a novel, feel free to join.”
Little did I know…he already had many, many….many words written.
Later, James joined our group, after what I imagine was a much politer invitation from Megan. And thus, we have our current group of seven.
Step 5: Location, Location, Location
The Floozie in the Jacuzzi
Finding a suitable place for the group to take place was a little tricky. A lot of us work and some needed to catch trains at set times to get home, so we were looking for somewhere that we could all get to by 6ish.
Fortunately, in Birmingham, there are a few coffee shops that stay open quite late. Although we did end up changing venues because Starbucks started messing around with the closing hours and we ended up having to finish one club session next to the Floozie in the Jacuzzi in Victoria Square. Wasn’t the best.
If you can run club sessions in your house, or some other quiet location, I would recommend it. But if not coffee shops are a great option.
Step 6: Reassess and Rota
As I mentioned, we intended to keep the club small so that we could give everyone regular feedback. However, at 7 members, we were already running into problems. Mainly, getting through everyone’s work before people had to leave or waiting staff came to boot us out.
After playing around with word counts, and trying to tighten up the running order, we eventually decided to set up a rota, with 4 slots per session. This meant we could keep the semi-freeform feedback and larger word counts, but still stay within the time constraints.
Step 7: Dinner time!
After every session, we usually head somewhere for food and hang out for a while. This is mainly because you can’t really eat much in a coffee shop, so when we finish at around 8:30/9:00 pm we’re all starving.
It gives us a chance to chill and unwind. Sharing your work can be stressful, and things occasionally get a bit heated, so I think it’s good to have some time after where we can talk about life and remember that we’re arguing out of love 😉
Step 8: Celebrate Achievements
The Crown of Publication feat. Jo and Rachel trying to lean out of view, while Tori attempts to mask them with her jumper.
Finally, I think it’s really important to celebrate achievements, which is why I’m really psyched about the wonderful “Crown of Publication” that Jo brought to the meeting last night. The crown is to be worn in our author photos when we finally get published. It’s a fantastic idea, and I can’t wait to say I’m worthy of the honour 😀
But, of course, we also needed to celebrate having successfully run the writing group for a whole year. In that time:
- Megan has reached the 10k mark of her first draft, and introduced FEMALES into what I think we all hope will turn out to be a fluffy gay romance, but probs not given the terminal illness and everything.
- Jo has set a personal best at staying motivated and working on a single novel idea for and extended period of time. And she made Tori cry in the process.
- Rachel has given us 4 drafts of her novel opening, each one better than the last, and has solved the problem of having too many balls. I should say it’s a historical romance novel.
- Ian has learnt that paragraphs shouldn’t be 1000 words long, and has blown us away with many badass women.
- James has proved himself and excellent re-drafter and kept us in suspense over murder. GIVE US MURDER.
- Tori has introduced us to a character with more snark that one could possibly dream of, and another that we all just want to roll into a duvet burrito and protect from the world. Oh, and she’s grammared us all, hard.
- As for me? I’ve provoked multiple arguments over whether my novel is one about romance or abuse, and have officially surpassed the word count for the last novel I tried to write by 10k.
So, I guess, this blog is not just to commemorate the group reaching its first birthday, but also to celebrate all of our achievements this year. We did the things guys. Well done to all of us. Here’s to the year to come.
P.S. To the lady who came up, rubbed me on the shoulder and wished me Happy Birthday after we all sang. You made my night, even if it wasn’t my birthday. Bless you! And I’m sorry if I couldn’t keep a straight face.