Creating an Easy, Free Online Writing Group

How to start your own writing group

I’ve met many fabulous writers who live in various parts of the world and it makes me so sad that we can’t meet up over brews and read our books to each other, like Tolkien and Lewis and friends used to.

Of course with all the internet at my fingertips, I felt sure there had to be a way to have an online writer’s group that was effective, flexible, fun, and easy.

Well, my friend Rhea and I just did the impossible and totally designed an

easy

free

fun

no-pressure

flexible

way to have a fabulous writing accountability group with friends from all over the world.

We designed it use with our Art Stew friends (I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about Art Stew because I love it. If not, check out the @artstew52 on Instagram, the hashtag #artstew52 and the website.) But the coolest thing about this idea for an online writing group is that anyone can use it with whatever writing friends they choose. All they need is a knowledge of Google Docs and a gmail account. They don’t need to be in the same time zone, have tons of time to write, or have lots of time to do extensive feedback which they then awkwardly read to you over Skype.

This is how it works:

Set it all up:

  1. Gather up your writing friends

  2. Create a Google doc (using the free template linked below)

  3. In the Google doc, list a new font color for each week (for more fun ideas of what you can do, see the template).

  4. Next create author profiles (basically sections - also done for you in the template) in the Google doc (the template I’m sharing with you is set up with links at the top of the document so it’s easy to navigate to each author profile).

  5. Share the Google doc with your friends. Have them choose a cover photo for their author profile and have them upload any previous writing they have done using an agreed upon font color.

 

 Screen shot of the first page of the template.

Screen shot of the first page of the template.

Each week:

  1. Have each author copy and paste the words they’ve written into the document under their author profile using the font color of the week.

  2. Next, agree on how you want to do feedback. One option is to have every author commit to reading and giving feedback on at least one other post for that week. ONce they’ve done that, any additional feedback they give is by choice.

  3. Hold each other accountable to specific word counts if you want, create prizes or bragging rights for whoever writes the most, etc…

 

 Screen shot of my author profile within my Art Stew group.

Screen shot of my author profile within my Art Stew group.

Build on it:

  • Have a monthly Google hangout for brainstorming, celebrating, feedback, or whatever your group values most.

  • Set agreed upon times to meet up in the Google doc and write at the same time (you could even do this while doing a hangout if you wanted - or you can use the chat button if you want to talk while you write).

  • Set a goal to meet up at a writing conference or retreat at some point in the future, with the goal being everyone finishes their project before then.

  • You can literally keep it all in the Google Doc and use the chat button or comments, etc… to communicate with each other. Or you can set up a closed Facebook group or start a group email for everyone to use - or even swap phone numbers if you want.

That’s all there is to it. It’s dead simple, flexible, and fun. And it gets you writing.

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Action Items:

  • Access the template here (make sure you make a copy of it before making any edits).

  • Start your own writing group using the steps above.

  • Email me and let me know how your group is working out - did you make any tweaks? What worked and what didn’t? Any suggestions for improving the template?