Writing circle pros: 8 reasons to share your story

Writing circle pros: 8 reasons to share your story

What is a writing circle or workshop? It’s a space (either online or in person) to share and discuss writing and grow. Read 8 reasons to join a writing circle and find accountability while building rapport with other writers:

Writing circle benefits: A simple list

  1. Stay accountable to writing goals
  2. Learn from writers of all levels
  3. Find like-minded beta readers
  4. Get varied points of view
  5. Learn more about writing craft
  6. Build lasting connections
  7. People-watch for insight
  8. Grow with structured support

Let’s explore why writing circles and workshops are helpful in more detail:

1. Stay accountable to writing goals

When we polled members of our Coaching and Group Coaching programs on what they found most helpful, ‘accountability’ was a common thread.

Why does a writing circle or writing sprint group make it easier to stay accountable to your writing?

To be ‘accountable’ means to be ‘answerable to’ a group or principle.

When you know others are attending your writing circle and chasing similar writing goals to your own, it motivates you. Having someone checking in and invested in your own goals helps. And let’s be honest – FOMO (fear of missing out) is a big motivator, too.

In a moderated writing circle in particular, you have the accountability that comes with a guide who is experienced in attaining the goal you’ve set out to achieve.

If you prefer privacy as you go, working 1-on-1 with a book writing coach with whom you click is a sure way to make steady progress.

2. Learn from writers of all levels

Why are writing circles worth joining compared to, for example, getting an MFA?

An MFA does have many benefits. Academic writing degrees are useful for showing authority in your byline. They provide credentials to include in query letters (or for teaching creative writing yourself in the future). In a typical MFA course, you will find lecturers with extensive publishing acumen or publishing industry expertise and have an unusual degree of access to some.

The plus-side of writing circles is they are a fraction of the cost of an MFA (when moderated and organized) or even free (if peer to peer). Many academic courses have additional credit requirements, not all of which may align with your own writing goals or interests. Maybe you’re writing your first book and don’t want a grade, just the growth.

In a good writing circle, you learn from writers of all levels, too, from experienced writers to beginners whose craft, strengths and insights complement your own less developed areas.

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3. Find like-minded beta readers

Many writing circle members when asked about the benefits of writing groups on Quora spoke of the value of having early readers.

Kara Krelove, for example, says a main benefit is:

An outside eye on your work, BEFORE you try to shop it to editors/agents/publishers.

Contributor, via Quora

First readers or ‘beta readers’ are valuable. The early input in a constructive, moderated space can save you time on developing something that would have benefitted from early course-adjustment.

In some cases, writing circles in themselves can even lead to publishing opportunities such as group-curated anthologies. [E.G. A poetry-writing workshop I attended for two years as a student had our poems anthologized by a local publishing house as a result of the workshop’s output – ed’s note].

Writing circle and community quote - Flannery O'Connor

4. Get varied points of view

Meeting like-minded writers is a great boon. Yet so is getting varied points of view on your work.

Other authors will have walked interesting paths of their own, and will each bring different strengths to your writing circle.

You may meet members who have specialist understanding of musical terms, a second language, an industry, an era, a place.

Some members may write in a different genre to you. The understanding different genres bring their authors (such as the importance of pace in thrillers) will benefit your own work in the feedback you receive.

5. Learn more about writing craft

Writing craft is a vast subject that can seem daunting. POV, characterization, narrative and narratorial devices and more.

A writing circle is a great space to learn more about writing craft through studying it in action, in works that are not yet ‘perfect’ (or rather, finished).

Giving weekly critiques on Now Novel, for example, has been as instructive an educator as a college degree in literature. The two, in fact, are similarly structured: Moderated discussion groups, analyzing work through close reading, and frequent critique. Both foster better understanding; a keener sense of the mechanics of great stories.

We’ve written before about how giving writing feedback builds your own ability.

6. Build lasting connections

The social aspect of a writing circle is valuable, too.

Writing is a lonely business, at times. Many responders to the Quora question ‘What are the benefits and drawbacks of joining a writing group?’ mentioned the relationships they built as the greatest part of writing workshops.

The writing groups on Now Novel are a testament to this – there is a core of regular critique-givers who have earned ‘Top Critiquer’ badges by giving other members regular, considered feedback.

Within this group connections have been forged and a community of constructive, mutual care. A writing circle or group is a story-dedicated space where you can celebrate each milestone with others who understand the often arduous writing journey.

Online critique group quote - Rae Carson

7. People-watch for insight

‘People-watching’ is something most writers do by instinct. Observing small quirks and traits, and what gives a person their distinctive persona.

The author Iris Murdoch had a theory of ‘unselfing’ (turning our focus outward to see things ‘as they are’). Observing people while suspending judgment (as much as one can) is a great way to gain understanding; wisdom, even.

Whether you have an online writing circle or an in-person meetup, it’s a great opportunity to observe and gain deep insights into people.

There may be the member who looks prim but writes scorching erotica, or a less confident member who turns out to have one of the most powerful, searing voices in the group.

People are full of beautiful and intriguing contrasts such as these, and a writing circle provides a thought-provoking space to study character and the interests and ideas of other writers in an ‘unselfing’ way. Over time, you enrich your own writing with the layers of other voices.

8. Grow with structured support

Writing circles provide you with something truly valuable in the writing process: Structure.

Last post we shared a quote by Sue Monk Kidd about how she likes to journal ‘through the chaos phase’ of a project.

Stories have many ‘chaos phases’ (as many of Now Novel’s members will attest). A good writing circle is like a harbor to anchor in and replenish motivation, or a beacon above the tossing waves of a chaos phase.

Have you been in a writing circle? Share what you loved most about it in the comments.

Join a structured, coached writing group with writing sprints, coach Q&As, professional feedback and a plan to finish your book.

4 Replies to “Writing circle pros: 8 reasons to share your story”

  1. I enjoyed the article, however I was hoping to get more information or suggestions on HOW to find a writing circle. Should it be writers who write the same genre or different genres? If it is online, where are some of the resources to be found? If I have to start my own, how do I begin?

    1. Hi Mary Jo, thank you for this helpful feedback, I will add more information on this area. Speaking from experience, I found my longest-attended writing circle by attending a university-run summer school writing workshop, after which the workshop leader invited attendees to a monthly workshop at her home (which I attended on and off for around two years).

      Writing circles affiliated to a university, course or online writing community (like our own here at Now Novel) are a good option as you will find experienced authors and editors moderating them (because circle leaders write and teach craft for a living, these will typically involve membership or attendance fees, but one of the benefits of this is it helps to ensure that everyone who attends really wants to be there and make progress, plus you get the benefit of professional feedback and advice).

      You could otherwise join a free one (for example, our writing groups on Now Novel include a critique submission system and a chat forum where a core of long-time members tirelessly leave considered, thoughtful and constructive feedback). If you’re looking for one in your area, your local university, community college or library may list active circles.

      If you would like to start your own, I would suggest thinking of a good name and whether you want it to be genre-bound or open to all genres, then reaching out to local writing-adjacent institutions such as libraries or smaller book merchants to find out whether you can list your writing group. If starting your own, I would recommend drawing up a constitution for the group too that members agree to abide by, to ensure that any antisocial or counter-productive behaviour by any new attendee can be addressed and resolved.

      I hope this is helpful, let me know if you have any further questions.

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