Friday, January 12, 2018

Tips to Start Your Own Cyber Small-Group for Writers

The Light Brigade: Our Own Cyber Small-Group for Writers

by Marcia Moston @MarciaMoston

Many of us would agree with writing greats Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, and Ernest Hemingway in saying “writing is a lonely job.” Some days, apart from the snoring pooch at our feet and a few quick forays into Facebook feeds, the only people we talk to are the imaginary ones in our heads. And sometimes even they fail to show up. Even though we don’t see immediate results, we remind ourselves we aren’t being non-productive. But on those days when all we have to show after hours at the computer is a hundred-word paragraph, we’re tempted to think that person who suggested we should get a real job was right after all. 

What we need is a Fitbit for writers. Something or someone who senses our lull in spirit and cheers us on—“Only five hundred more words! You can do it!” Or when we’ve reached a goal a little rocket goes off and tells us “You rock!” (I’ve only heard this happens. My fitness tracker hasn’t gotten past the nudging and prodding prompts.)

Perhaps you already have some sort of accountability. But what if you don’t have someone close by who shares your goals and beliefs? Or what if you long to be a part of a bigger, like-minded community? What then?

One option is to join, or form, a cyber small-group.

When writer Lori Roeleveld found herself lonely in Rhode Island several years ago, she extended an invitation to anyone interested in belonging to a cyber small group for Christian writers. Members would interact weekly for fellowship, encouragement, accountability and exhortation. Lori set a cut-off number for the group size. In the beginning several people came and went, but eventually the group jelled and has remained stable. I was one of those fortunate enough to get in.

We are at different ages and stages. We live in different states. We write in different genres. But each weekend for the past seven years our little band of writers has signed in to a Google doc to give an account of our writing efforts, Bible-reading, personal struggles, prayer requests and words of encouragement for one another. We know about each other’s families, coworkers, pets, writing efforts and spiritual hills and valleys, although some of us have never met face-to-face. We call ourselves the Light Brigade.

Unlike my Fitbit, which calculates success based on tangible goals (and has just suggested I take a stroll) the Light Brigade measures success by intangible things—the solidarity, perseverance and commitment that transcend number of words written and books published. I’m sure none of us realized how far-reaching our commitment to each other, our craft, and our God would be.

Here’s what some of the members have to say about the impact the group has had on them:

“Some of what LB has provided is (1) accountability, (2) an oasis from the "aloneness" of writing, (3) a momentary - but steady - chance to sit on the telephone wire with birds of a feather before flittering off and doing my thing, (4) a source of comfort and encouragement, (5) a sounding board (and probably sanity board most times), and (6) a chance to "gather" as Christ taught us, to praise, to help and to love one another.”

“Accountability to not let months go by without being reminded that I'm a writer. So easy to let the things of the world get between me and God's calling otherwise! It's been a safe place to confess struggles that only other writers "get" and to know they are being prayed for - or totally unrelated personal issues. It's also meant that every writer's conference is also a reunion of old friends instead of just a sea of new faces.”

“You ladies ground me, remind me I don't have to figure this out alone. I love the wisdom and perspective I gain, the instant prayer cover, the blessing of being able to support you all in your journeys, and our writing-journey diversity.”

 “Managing self-doubt, envy, discouragement, fear, disappointment, arrogance, and perseverance has been easier to learn from within the safety net of our merry band. The celebrations are sweeter knowing others share them, the let-downs softened, knowing others understand.”

It took time to get a group as committed as the Light Brigade has become. I don’t think you can expect that kind of trust in the beginning, but here are some things to consider if you want to start a group:
  • Purpose
  • Accountability—How? In what areas? What if someone consistently fails to check in?
  • Size
  • Closed group? How to decide on new members?
  • Dynamics—male and female? Christian and non-Christian?

Writing may be a lonely job, but with support, it’s as one said, “We know we aren't really alone—that there's a band of writing warriors just a click away ready to storm heaven on our behalf—that is priceless.”



Marcia Moston—author of the award-winning Call of a Coward-The God of Moses and the Middle-class Housewife—has written columns and features for several magazines and newspapers. She has served on the faculty of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and currently teaches her true love—memoir and creative nonfiction—at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on the Furman campus in South Carolina.


  1. A beautifully written and well-said article, Marcia (as usual). Thanks for posting it.

  2. Thank you for the reminder as to how blessed I am to be a part of the Light Brigade. I encourage everyone to be connected in some way -- and forming an online group is a beautiful means of connection.

    1. Yes. And I like the point that a conference can be a reunion of friends instead of a sea of new faces.

  3. Great post. A group in our writers guild here in Anderson, SC started a First Draft Society 4 years ago. We grew from 8 members to 20 now. We’re mostly local but have members in 5 states & Germany. Our age group range is 22 - 83 & includes 3 recent college grads, 2 ministers, an international jazz singer, an ex moonshine hauler, 3 couples, a number of current or retired teachers, and half of us have published at least one book. We publish our poems, songs, essays, and stories in a 200-page anthology every 2 months.... 23 so far & 4 in progress with different themes. We don’t critique, we just support - all online. To have your work appear in a book, you must contribute at least 3 pieces during a semester. Well, it works. Over half of our guild participate. You must be a member of the guild to participate. So far, so good. My $0.02 is that REAL writers support other writers, even when the REAL writers aren’t meeting their own goals. Jay Wright, Anderson, SC

  4. I'm so grateful technology can connect us with other writers. When I started writing, I didn't even know enough to look for a writing community online--or for the plethora of resources available for writers. I just started writing, and when the story was finished, I thought, "Now what?" Since Google has all the answers :), I googled. It didn't take long for me to realize how much support and encouragement I'd missed out on. Light Brigade and the First Draft Society sound wonderful.

    1. Yes. we have the advantage of being able to connect, unlike earlier writers. Glad you googled :) and found something that came next!