A Writing Circle is a group of writers who meet regularly to share writing time, provide writing feedback, and/or provide writing-related support. Writing Circles facilitate productivity by creating a supportive community. Here are a few suggestions for successful Writing Circles.
Create a group of 3-7 members committed to regular attendance:
A smaller group gives each member more time to share work and receive feedback. A larger group provides broader input and is easier to sustain if members periodically cannot attend.
Hold an organizing meeting:
- Discuss why you want to be in a Writing Circle, and your personal goals as a writer (short-term and long-term) and hopes for being involved in the Writing Circle (e.g., accountability – including shared writing time, feedback, support).
- Agree on what kinds of writing are—or aren’t—suitable for the group (type and stage), and agree on a page limits to be shared (e.g., an entire journal article or book chapter or limit reading to 5-10 pages to keep workload manageable?)
- Do you want to focus on dissemination writing (manuscripts, books, etc.) or proposals?
- Do you want to review outlines, sections of products, full first drafts, etc.?
- Will you address writing topics (pre-writing strategies, challenges, etc.)?
- Agree on meeting format.
- Agree on a deadline for pre-distribution, reading and recording feedback.
- Agree on meeting frequency, length, and set up a schedule for presenting work, with 1-2 members receiving feedback at each meeting.
- Agree on communication structure between meetings. Will you touch base in between meetings with questions or updates?
- Discuss other topics of importance to group members, including desired Ground Rules, adding new members, etc.
- Appoint a group facilitator to keep the group focused to fulfill its intended purpose (and does not become primarily a social club), a convener to set meetings and reminders, a time keeper, and a note taker (as desired by authors). These roles can rotate.
Hold regular meetings:
- Writers should let readers know what level of feedback they are seeking (developmental editing, copyediting, etc.) and any specific questions they would like the group to address.
- Set a positive tone by starting with a round of what members like about the piece before turning to constructive criticism.
- Remind members to couch criticism supportively and to own their opinion rather than make declarations of what the writer “must do.”
- Let authors choose whether they will bring revised work back to the group. This allows writers to receive feedback without any obligation to incorporate it.
Evaluate regularly how the Writing Circle is going for everyone:
- What is working (keep)?
- What is not working (change)?