Guest Blog Post | Nicholas Lepre: "Five Ways to Keep a Writing Group Together"

September 30, 2013
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For years, whenever I tried to start a writing group, it would evaporate after one meeting. Was it my writing? My personality? My bizarre insistence that all members have monosyllabic names?

In 2011, at the conclusion of a ten-week fiction workshop, I overheard some classmates discussing the possibility of starting a group. I am proud to say that this group is still going strong today thanks to a few guidelines.

1.  Have an agenda – Just like a corporate meeting, a writing group works best when there is specific business to attend to. An agenda helps keep things on track.

2.  Set goals with deadlines – Every six months, we discuss our personal writing goals together, including areas for improvement. For example, if one writer seems to continually submit stories written in third person present, the group might suggest s/he try to work on first person narratives. In 2012, one of my summer goals was to complete three short stories and submit them to literary magazines before the end of December.

3.  Discuss published work – Each meeting, we discuss one recently published short story. We’ve read and discussed short stories from over forty literary magazines (ARDOR included, of course) and we’ve only scratched the surface of what is available on the Internet.

4.  Keep things fresh – Go to local literary events together. Change your meeting frequency or format or meeting location on occasion.

5.  Have fun – Give your writing group a name. Something stupid and embarrassing (and if it contains a pun, even better). Joke around with each other. We start each critique with what we call “throw away” comments, where we have some laughs over logistical problems or point out unintentionally comical sentences before getting down to serious feedback.

The real joy of having a writing group is breaking away from the constraints of a traditional fiction workshop. These guidelines are in no way comprehensive or mandatory – they’re simply the things that have kept us going. Go find your own writing group, and if you need help coming up with a terrible name, I’m more than happy to oblige.

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Nicholas Lepre is a fiction writer from Boston, Massachusetts. His stories have appeared in The Threepenny Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and APIARY.



Follow Nicholas on Twitter:  @NicholasLepre

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