This post was written by Ashley MacPherson.
Screenwriters today spend countless hours in front of the computer dreaming up new worlds, characters, and storylines — fueled by creativity and the human experience. However, unless staffed in a writer’s room or writing with a partner, it can be a pretty solo sport. Writer's are often looking for a sense of community within the industry and among those who share their craft.
In comes the writer’s group — a great way for screenwriters (especially those new to screenwriting, or writing part-time) to fuel their fire, learn, stay motivated, and connect with their peers.
Attendees of writer’s groups can range from groups of casual friends or classmates, to formally run programs by organizations. Duration and formats can also vary greatly. Some groups meet weekly and have requirements for pre-submitted work that will be a table read and get feedback. Others meet monthly with the goal of connection and topical conversation in screenwriting.
To get started, reflect on your goals — what you would like to get out of a writer’s group and how would you like to contribute. Some possible reflection questions include:
- Am I looking for support, staying motivated, and keeping up with my writing deadlines?
- Do I want to improve my writing with thoughtful and intentional feedback?
- Would it be helpful to kick around loglines with fellow screenwriters and read sample pages?
Next, determine if you want to join an existing group, or create your own within a community you are a part of (such as a university program or local networks). Research available groups and review their frequency, structure, and focus.
'Argo'Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Starting Your Own Writer’s Group
If you’d like to start your own group, the steps below:
1. Find other screenwriters to join the group
Muster up the 5 seconds of bravery to ask other writers if they’d be interested. This could be contacting friends, connections, or classmates, or exploring free programs and groups online where you find screenwriters near you. Put together a brief description of what you are hoping to get out of the group when looking for group members.
2. Gather the group’s preferences
Once you have an interest,hone in on preferences by creating and emailing a simple Google Form (or similar form tool) to the group to understand goals, timing, cadence, and format.
3. Formalize the structure
Review the results, pick a popular time, and coordinate the recurring invitation if virtual or the meeting location if in person. For virtual, this could be a Google Meet link (or other conference invites) to the invitation. Keep in mind you’ll need to pay for Google Meet or Zoom to extend meetings past certain durations. It is also helpful to set up a shared folder (such as Google Drive) for pre-submitted pages or docs to review during the sessions.
4. Prep and moderate the first session
In the first session, consider starting with intros if needed (or updates if you all know each other) as well as what each person wants to put into, and get out of, the group. Decide on format specifics — which could include things like rotating the moderator each week, or having a round-robin discussion at the beginning of each session where folks state their goal for the time together. Other options could include: table reads of new pages, feedback on pages, pitching a logline for feedback, general questions for the group, tips and best practices like books and resources, attending to say hello and provide feedback, etc.
5. Put the decisions made into practice and…you’re off!
Send out a recap of decisions made on the format. Some groups keep the format pretty light. Others require preparation, such as the moderator sending out activities to complete before the next session. In some cases, the moderator drives the agenda and timing during the meeting to make sure that each person in attendance has the time they need to accomplish their goal, while others keep it more free-flowing.
'Atonement'Credit: Universal Pictures
Create A Writer’s Group Today!
The potential for writer’s groups are endless — there is so much to be gained by sharing knowledge with each other, giving and receiving advice, boosting confidence, and generally connecting with other screenwriters. It can be inspiring to hear what others are working on and lovely to see their wins and be a part of their creative process. It can deliver the motivation to push on, even when it’s hard, and drive the accountability needed to keep writing, keep connecting, and keep refining the craft.
Overall, writer’s groups are an amazing tool for screenwriters to leverage and fill their cups — a small investment for a large gain of connection, motivation, and impactful feedback.
This post was written by Ashley MacPherson.