What Is a Writing Circle?

F. Ruiz

A writing circle is a type of writing support group in which writers come together. Usually, the primary focus of a writing circle is to improve one’s writing craft through peer critiques and workshop sessions. Other goals can be encouragement, a sense of community, sharing experiences, sharing career advice and professional networking.

Interested writers can find groups through bulletin boards in libraries or bookstores.
Interested writers can find groups through bulletin boards in libraries or bookstores.

Many writers find that getting feedback on their work is an important step in the writing process. Writers often report that giving feedback to others also helps them improve their own writing because they learn from the strengths and weaknesses of their peers. A writing circle is one common vehicle that writers use to give and receive writing feedback.

Each writing circle is unique. Writing circles vary in how productive they expect their members to be and how much material they expect their members to review. They also differ in how frequently they meet; common intervals are weekly or monthly. Some groups have a formal structure in which the writer whose work is being critiqued sits and listens as others discuss it, and he or she is allowed to ask questions only after this discussion is complete. Other groups include more unstructured exchanges between the author and the other participants.

Many circles are open to newcomers and advanced writers alike. Others might allow only accomplished, published authors in a particular genre to participate, such as renowned mystery novelists. The rationale behind selective groups is that their participants tend to feel that they will benefit the most if they are all close to other members in talent and skill level. By contrast, groups that welcome all levels usually have a different philosophy. Additionally, some advanced writers enjoy helping newer writers improve their skills and achieve their writing goals.

Whether an individual writes poetry or short stories, novels or screenplays, comedy, mystery, fantasy or other genres, an appropriate writing circle is likely to exist. Location can be an issue, however. In big cities, it tends to be easier to find an appropriate writing group than it is in more isolated areas.

Interested writers can find groups through places such as online postings, bulletin boards in libraries or bookstores, word of mouth and newspaper or magazine ads. Writers who have difficulty finding an in-person group might decide to start their own writing circle. Alternatively, the Internet provides the option of online support groups. Using a search engine will lead to many options from which to choose. Online groups sometimes don’t have set meeting times, and members instead interact by chatting with whoever else happens to be online at a given time or by posting their opinions on a message board.

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