As some of you might recall, I once gave advice on how to behave in a writer’s group in The Dos and Donts of Being in a Writer’s Group. That post is aimed at those looking to be members of a writing group, and to tell them how to stay being a member, lest they get removed if they don’t follow my advice.
Well, this post is aimed at those who are run or are thinking about starting their own writer’s group. I was once an organizer for one on meetup.com which I ran for about a year and half. I was also briefly part of another before that, which I’ll get to shortly. So here is my advice on how to make your group run smoothly, make it an enjoyable experience for everyone, and not lose members or see your group be blacklisted because of your lousy leadership.
DO Remember the Group is for Everyone – Not Just You!
While your reasons for creating a writer’s group will naturally be self-centered – ie, meeting other writers, getting others to critique your work – once the ball gets rolling, it can’t be all about you. You would have to give what you want your members to give to you. If you want a thorough critique, give the same to anyone who submits their work. Don’t make your meetings all about you. If it goes to way, you’re going to find it difficult to keep your members coming to your meetings.
Don’t Be Wholly Unlikable:
Don’t be rude and unpleasant to your members over anything. For the first writer’s group I joined, I submitted a synopsis of a high fantasy story. During the first meeting, it was pointed out as heavily flawed by a few members, including the organizer who was aloof and kind of cranky. I was a little shaken by the critiques because I felt foolish for having submitted something that was so flawed. But since the other members encouraged me to work on it, I did and I submitted the revised synopsis a few months later. Unfortunately, those encouraging members were not there that time, but that cranky organizer was – and boy was he ready to go after me. He not only ripped apart my work, he mocked and even made a few crude comments about the female main character. He also did it with this smug smile on his face as though he loved knifing me in front of everyone. And because of his rules of no response until everyone was done, I had to sit quietly as he went on and on with the damn smile on his face. Needless to say, I never came back to that group and it eventually it shut down. Gee, I wonder why?
So the bottom line is, don’t be a lousy person – even to those who submit poor writing. I once had someone who submitted something that had terrible grammar and paragraph structure, empty characters, and too many plot holes in only 10 pages. But instead of being rude, I pointed out what needed to be done to make the piece a lot of better. There was no need for me to be nasty, and there’s no need for you either.
DO Anticipate Wacky People:
I’m sure we’re all aware that there are a lot of wackos out there – and guess what? They’ll find their way to join your group and come to your meetings. Maybe you’ll have an inkling that’s there’s something a bit off about them once you get their email request or meet them when they arrive for the meeting. If so, get ready. I mean, don’t get ready for combat. But keep an eye on them. In my experience, I had some grouch come to my meeting…only to criticize it. He complained that there were too few members and how that wasn’t helpful for the writers, and he basically said I wasn’t a good organizer. This guy was not another author or aspiring author, he didn’t work for Meetup.com or anything related to what I was doing. To this day, I still can’t figure out what made him show up for that meeting, other than he was some miserable a-hole who wanted to make others miserable. People are weird.
Better Yet…DO Anticipate Drama!
There will come a time when you‘ll have to deal with pain in the ass members. Either they don’t follow your rules or they aren’t good for the group in general, it will be best to remove them to avoid any problems. And if you know for it is best to remove them, don’t hesitate. I made the mistake of hesitating because for some reason, I was worried of even more drama. Sigh! But I did get around the removing someone who refused to follow my rules. Too bad now and then I see him when I travel home from work. Let’s just say, if looks could kill!
DON’T Lose Your Cool if Things Don’t Work Out:
A common problem I had was the lack of attendance or frequent no-shows. I found it rude and annoying that it happened, and at one point I got peeved. I had spent a few months trying to make my group as inviting and interesting as possible, with little results. I followed advice from other meetup organizers, but no luck. After almost no one attended a simple social, non-critique meeting, I was so upset that I sent an email to the group saying how I was disappointed by the lack of attendance. That wasn’t cool of me at all. It was downright foolish and bitchy of me. So, learn from me and don’t lose it – even when things don’t work out the way you want them to.
Eventually, I closed my group because I was tired of the drama and poor attendance. I probably should’ve done a lot better in running my group. So learn from me so yours will work out better than my group did!