A writing group offers many perks. Mutual encouragement, greater accountability to your writing goals, and more. Read more about how to find a writing group and why it’ll make you a better, more productive writer:
First, what does a writing group do?
A writing group meets regularly, either in person or digitally.
Each writing group may have a slightly different purpose or focus. Some writing groups and organisations gather around a genre (e.g. the Romance Writers of South Africa, co-founded by writing Coach Romy Sommer). Others gather around specific interests, challenges or goals.
A writing group will typically provide:
- Opportunities to network and connect with other writers, including professional authors
- A space for discussing writing process and ideas
- Opportunities for writing critique and feedback
- Writing development through study of members’ work, learning materials, and/or writing tasks and exercises
How to find a writing group, plus 7 pros of writing workshops
To find a writing group that helps you make progress and get more joy out of writing, you can:
- Find writing groups by shared interests
- Search for writing groups in your area
- Connect guided program led by authors and editors who coach writing professionally
- Find community on social media using writing hashtags
With the aid of the right writers’ group, you’ll:
- Stay accountable to your writing goals
- Improve your story craft
- Get specific, actionable advice
- Build a mutual writing network
- Access subject expertise
- Enjoy the stability of structure
- Find additional tools for writing productivity
Let’s unpack each of these options for how to find a writing group, after which we’ll examine the pros briefly:
A. Find writing groups by shared interests
Writing organisations such as The Mystery Writers of America provide interest-based writing groups.
This enables you to meet with others writing in a similar genre or on similar subjects. You could find:
- Helpful resources based on your interests
- Discussion of and help with writing challenges specific to your genre niche
- Avenues for mutual promotion and active readers who will support your work
- Interest-specific conferences, contests and more
- Additional help such as in-person or virtual meet-ups and mentoring
A moderated writing group is particularly useful, since this will include professional direction, support, and insight-driven answers.
B. Search for writing groups in your area
If you’d like to connect with other writers in your specific area, you could Google ‘writing groups near me’.
Nearby libraries and other educational facilities such as universities or community colleges may be useful places to search arts faculty message boards.
Keep in mind, however, that many groups have moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meeting online with a group does provide the joy of being part of an eclectic, even multinational writing group. Digital writing circle pros such more varied perspectives on your writing means more learning and insights.
C. Connect in a coached, guided group
One of the challenges of virtual writing groups vs in-person writing groups is ensuring the group stays constructive, motivated and accountable.
A guided writing group combining mutual feedback and discussion with novel coaching by professional writers is one option for a more structured, accountable process.
Groups easily get out of hand when not lead. A moderated group attracts people who are serious about constructive feedback, learning, and growing together.
This is an ideal choice if you want to stay accountable to writing goals in a space that is safe and tailored towards an ultimate end-goal such as finding an agent, self-publishing or being published traditionally.
D. Find community on social media using writing hashtags
The major social media platforms have active writer communities who share material using hashtags such as #writingcommunity, #writinglife and #writersof [Instagram/Twitter/Country and other identifiers].
Sharing relevant content that will appeal to this digital writing community is one way to discover and connect with like-minded others on these platforms.
The advantage of a writers’ platform built for writers, however, is you weed out the more unsavoury elements of social media (trolling, fake/bot accounts, harassment and so forth).
We’ve explored some ideas on how to join a writing group. Let’s examine some of the benefits:
1. Stay accountable to your writing goals
It’s easy to name something you’d love to do, like writing a book. Yet even with this passion, sticking to ‘the plan’ (or having a cohesive plan to begin with) is so often hard.
Writing groups help you stay accountable to your writing goals.
For example, in the member-created Draft Writing Daily Streak Counters Accountability Group, we have shared daily word counts, current writing challenges, and mutual encouragement.
Stacking small habits is a big part of building the motivation and endurance to finish telling your story.
When you have a group to account to and others to speak to when you falter or need perspective, you’ll stick to your goals more consistently.
2. Improve your story craft
In talking about improving our writing craft, we often focus on receiving feedback.
Critique groups are indeed a valuable way to gain individual insights on your writing and identify patterns; what works (and what doesn’t).
Where critique groups benefit you enormously, however, is also in giving writing feedback.
Troubleshooting others’ stories provides an excellent way to fill gaps in our own storytelling abilities.
Writers have different challenges by nature. Some may struggle to write the transitions, the links, between this part and that. Others may go for broad brush strokes, leaving out precise detail (or be over-detailed, with not enough of the ‘macro’ picture).
Giving and receiving feedback pools our collective resources. We all borrow from each other’s strong points, and weaker areas, too. The end result? A hive-like, shared wisdom.
3. Get specific, actionable advice
General improvement in your story craft is a natural result of being part of a writing group and consistently engaging in shared story feedback and discussion.
Writing groups are also wonderful spaces for getting specific, actionable advice. Spotting and working on a specific grammatical error you tend to make, or identifying inconsistencies in character motives, for example.
The advantage of a writing group is that each member picks up on subtly different things, based on their own fascinations and bugbears.
This is what makes a writers’ workshop so effective for personal and creative growth.
4. Build a mutual writing network
When you find an online writing group, you start to build a useful network with others in the same space as you.
You’ll find journalists who could help get the word out about your project further down the line, publishing professionals who have rare insights to share on finding and approaching agents, and more.
To build a useful and enduring network make sure that you:
- Engage consistently: Take part in discussion, ask (and answer) questions
- Balance give and take: Some of us like to hold the floor; some of us like to hold back. Make sure you give to discussion groups or threads without constantly turning the conversation back to yourself (better group etiquette)
5. Access subject expertise
Joining a writing group is also a means to access multiple areas of expertise.
In a coached group, a published author will be able to share tips about publishing – its schedules, processes, do’s and don’ts – you might not find as easily among writing peers.
Yet each member of your writing group is also a potential source of expertise.
Each member brings a mix of vocational and personal experiences; i.e. knowledge. A writer with a vetinary background, for example, may pick up on details to do with animals in your story a non-specialist reader would not.
6. Enjoy the stability of structure
Writing by nature is often a chaotic, unstructured process.
Sometimes it’s hard to work out what step to take next. ‘Choose your own adventure’ all too easily becomes sitting at home, not writing.
One of the great advantages of a regular writing group is a structured, repeated process. Weekly or monthly tasks or group readings provide small ways to chip away at sculpting a successful writing habit.
7. Find additional tools for productivity
Being part of a writing group provides additional tools for staying productive, such as group writing sprints.
What is a writing sprint? Essentially, you meet for a fixed period (in person or virtually) and all write together during that time.
Having an appointment like this provides a simple and effective way to make sure you show up for your sessions. There is the added ‘FOMO’ of being the one who doesn’t make the session. A drop-in writing sprint adds the freedom and flexibility of showing up when you need that additional kick of motivation and camaraderie.
Additionally, members may share their preferred writing tools and tips and suggestions for getting more out of your own writing process.
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