Writers groups can be a huge source of ongoing support for what is a tough goal — finishing that book and getting it out into the world. Here are signs your group might need a bit of stirring up — and some ideas to do just that.
There are many reasons why writers might not be showing up — it could be anything from flagging motivation or lack of dedication to the craft to merely Zoom fatigue. And any group is subject to change and attrition.
But if most of your creative dynamic is worth preserving, be brave and take a poll to see where there are expectations that might not be being met. Is the time or place not equally convenient for everyone? Is everyone’s work getting the same amount of attention from the group?
Same ol’, same ol’ pages
Yes, we’re all guilty of it — noodling on the same pages until they shine … or maybe until you’ve worn them out. Or maybe some of you are in the hard, messy middle of a novel and are full of self-doubt. If members of your group have been bringing in versions of the same work over and over, or are feeling in a slog, maybe take a shake-up break.
Next time you meet, do a 15-minute timed writing exercise by using an off-the-wall prompt (examples – “Shoe monster in the closet” “What I found at the garbage dump” “A most unexpected, unusual romance”). It will stir your creative juices in a fun way.
Alternately, you can assign everyone to join a group that regularly prompts (like the free Sundance Co//ab Writer’s Cafe, which offers group prompts on Mondays and Fridays), and bring the finished work in for the next group.
Does your group have a little too much in common — age, ethnicity, sex, background? TV writers rooms are usually composed of a varied mix of different writers with different life experiences to ensure scripts include a range of outlooks. Take a page from their processes and broaden the types of voices that could inform your group’s stories.
If you’re not ready to open up to new members, maybe try out some guest writers to pump some new blood and fresh perspectives through the group.
Stalled forward movement
Even if your writing is proceeding, writing the book is only half the battle. If your group truly wants to be published, you should all understand how the book industry works. This way, you can begin to set yourselves up for publishing success and support each other in taking steps towards seeing your work in print and in the hands of readers.
Don’t know how to start? There are lots of helpful articles on this website — and your group can also engage me to speak on the book publishing topics that are most useful at the stage of your members.
The support of a writer’s group can be invaluable — don’t let the bumps in your shared road stop you from the important feedback and cheerleading that can move you all towards finished books.