Styles of writing group - which one is right for you?
There are many different styles of writing group available, and we hope you’ll find a group to suit you at WriterLink. Groups traditionally meet live in a café or community space, but many are online, event using Zoom, or chatting on WhatsApp. WriterLink helps writers with no previous experience of running a group to set up writing groups for their community. You’ll also find professionally run writing courses and services on our platform. Try our search page to find a group local to you or online.
Here are some of the most common styles of writing groups. We’ll describe their usual activities and tips to help make them a success.
- Feedback or critique of members' writing
- Writing workshop with exercises or writing practice
- Social or friendship group
- Goal setting
- Getting together to write your own projects
- Book group
- Co-authoring or writing partnerships
- Writers brainstorming or problem-solving group
- Writing groups with themes and speakers
- A mix of activities
- Writing courses and retreats
Feedback or critique of members' writing
In a critique groups writer’s share their work and seek feedback from other writers. WriterLink allows the upload of written work to a writing event page, where it can be shared privately and securely with other members of the group.
Sometimes in a feedback group, writers will read a story to the other members, but more commonly the work is circulated to the other writers to read before the event. It works best if there are clear rules for submissions.
The type of submission. Will the group read novel chapters, screenplays, short stories, poems, and non-fiction? Does anything go, or will you stick to a particular style of written work?
- The maximum word count. It is a good idea to give members an idea of how long a submission should be. A submission of around 3,000 words would cover most chapters or short stories. It’s a good idea to allow some flexibility, as a writer shouldn’t feel forced to cut a 3,400-word story to share it with the group.
- Rules around content. Will the group read violent stories, or stories using profanity? It is a good idea to state rules clearly if you want to avoid certain kinds of story.
- A deadline for submissions. Many feedback groups ask writers to submit stories or chapters a week before the event. This gives the other writers plenty of time to read the work. It could be that a few days is all that is needed if there are just a few stories to read.
- Number of submissions accepted. Smaller feedback groups work well with all members submitting stories at every session, generally 6 to 8 stories to read is manageable. If a group has many members it might be wise to take turns on who submits, as too many stories to read would be difficult for any member with a busy life.
In a feedback group event, writers should offer constructive criticism to help a writer improve the work in the next draft. It’s important to be encouraging and supportive to other writers, as well as giving tips for areas to improve. When you’re preparing your feedback, make sure you acknowledge what they’ve done right as well as what needs improvement. Every piece of writing has some strengths, so look for them and be prepared to point them out. Read our ‘how to give feedback to other writers’ guide for more advice.
Writing workshop with exercises or writing practice
In writing workshops, writers meet to practise their writing skills. They might use writing prompts such as a first line and then continue the story, or items or photos to inspire a writing theme. Members often read out their work to each other and discuss their learnings from the exercise.
These groups can be guided by a tutor who leads the group and provides the writing exercises, or friends can take it in turns to suggest exercises. At WriterLink we’ve made it easier for anyone to run a writing workshop by offering free downloadable writing exercises, helping writers practice skills such as describing character, improving dialogue and more.
Writing groups can be used to motivate members to make progress with their novels or other projects. Writers state a goal, perhaps to write 500 words a day, or to edit three chapters, then at the next event they check-in and report on what they have accomplished. They will set a new goal ahead of the next event, with other members helping to ensure it is specific, achievable, and realistic. This kind of group can work well live or online. It can help members take writing seriously and find time to get things done.
Getting together to write your own projects
Some writing groups are all about encouraging writers to put words on a page. Writers get together in cafes or community centres, to work on their own projects on laptops or paper. These groups are particularly popular during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) but work well at any time of the year. Sometimes these groups encourage productive writing by using ‘writing sprints’ here someone will announce a ‘5-minute sprint’ or similar and everyone will write quietly and see how many words they managed. It’s a fun way to ensure progress is made with a project. Appointments to write together have also become popular online, with initiatives such as #writershour on Twitter.
Writers sometimes like to read the same book then meet up to discuss what they thought of the novel. It’s useful to discuss a novel with other writers because rather than simply chatting about whether a book was enjoyable, writers can consider characters, story structure, genre, and how the novel was marketed. This can provoke useful discussions that can give each writer an insight into their own writing. Some writer’s book groups don’t read fiction, but instead read books about the craft of writing or story structure, then meet to discuss their learnings from the books.
Co-authoring or writing partnerships
In some writing groups, everyone gets together to work on one project. This might be a graphic novel involving people with different creative skills, or a writing partnership where two or three people work to write a book together. Many writing groups publish short story collections with a shared theme. Writing is often seen as a lonely solitary pursuit but writing as a team can work well.
Writers brainstorming or problem-solving group
Some writing groups are used to discuss the merits of ideas or find solutions to problems. Each member of the group will describe one problem they are finding with their work, it might be a difficulty finding a title for their novel, or struggling to pitch the story, or not being sure what happens next in the plot. The other writers will suggest solutions and try to help the writer find an answer.
Writing groups with themes and speakers
Some writing groups invite speakers to share their experience of writing, perhaps local authors, or small publishers. Other groups have themes for discussion such as character, story structure or specific genres.
A mix of activities
There’s no need to stick to just one activity in a group. Some writing groups start off with a short writing exercise, then write quietly together. Some groups share feedback on each other’s stories and set a goal. The majority of writing groups seem to meet monthly and stick to the same format each month, but there are no set rules, a writing group could use writing exercises in one session, and write together in the next. If you can’t find a writing group offering exactly the format you’re looking for, why don’t you consider starting your own WriterLink group?
Writing courses and retreats
WriterLink details a wide range of courses run by professional writing tutors. These might cover how to write a novel or plot a story, or they may use witing exercises to teach the craft of writing. You can find both live and online course at WriterLink, along with a range of other useful writing services from editing to writing retreats. Writing retreats are a great way to get away from everyday life and make time for writing. Explore a wide ranges of services to help you on your writing journey using the WriterLink search feature.
We hope this guide has helped you understand the many different styles of group that might help you improve your writing or make new friends. Why not search for a group to suit you now? Or why not set up your own WriterLink group?