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writing group

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Definition:

A group of people (typically three to six) who meet regularly to read and respond to one another's writing.

Though most writing groups meet in person at regularly scheduled times, members of some groups collaborate through email, wikis, videoconferencing, or other computer-mediated forms of communication.

Graduate students often form writing groups so that members can assist one another with theses and dissertations. For nonacademic writers, information about finding or starting a writing group can generally be found at a local library, bookstore, or continuing education center.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • The Company of Writers
    "In writing groups, we come together for community and connection. We may believe it has everything to do with the writing: to make it better, to learn the craft, or even the need for a place to show up with completed work, using the group as a de facto disciplinarian. And all this may be true. But ultimately we join writing groups because we are looking for safety and freedom . . ..

    "Groups nurture our self-esteem as writers. Here the writer is taken seriously, our work is treated with respect and so are we. People empathize with us, they understand and accept us and what we do, our opinions are listened to and valued, our intuition and creative process are respected.

    "In groups we learn from each other and provide a safety net for one another."
    (Judy Reeves, Writing Alone, Writing Together: A Guide for Writers and Writing Groups. New World Library, 2002)


  • Organizing a Writing Group
    "Organize a group of four to five who'll agree to meet periodically, maybe once a month for an extended working lunch of 90 minutes or so. . . .

    "Begin by setting out some ground rules. First, stress the importance of tact. There are many ways to give critical feedback. Choose one that's honest but not spiteful. Second, give good comments with the bad. An editor who's unduly harsh--or entirely uncritical--helps no one. Sometimes what writers need most is a little encouragement. Third, devote the time you have together to each other. Turn off your cell phones and other gadgets."
    (Bryan A. Garner, "Why You Should Start a Learning Group." Garner on Language and Writing. American Bar Association, 2009)


  • Participating Effectively in an Academic Writing Group
    "Early on, each meeting should start with a summary of each person's project in this three-part sentence: I'm working on X because I want to find out Y, so that I (and you) can better understand Z . . .. As your projects advance, develop an opening 'elevator story,' a short summary of your project that you could give someone on the way to a meeting. It should include your research question, your best guess at an answer, and the kind of evidence you expect to use to support it. The group can then follow up with questions, responses, and suggestions.

    "Don't limit your talk to just your story, however. Talk about your readers: Why should they be interested in your question? How might they respond to your argument? Will they trust your evidence? Will they have other evidence in mind? . . . Later the group can read one another's outlines and drafts to imagine how their final readers will respond. If your group has a problem with your draft, so will your readers. But for most writers, a writing group is most valuable for the discipline it imposes. It is easier to meet a schedule when you know you must report to others."
    (Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research, 3rd ed. Univ. of Chicago Press, 2008)


  • Advantages of a Multidisciplinary Writing Group
    "Because our groups are multidisciplinary, participants are regularly challenged to explain what they're writing about by those from different fields. This review by other student peers from different disciplines can be just as rigorous as review by conference or even journal reviewers--but is more purposefully developmental because the author has the chance to rebut, negotiate and discuss the feedback. It is common to see, through this process of questioning and being asked to explain and clarify meaning, the author return to his or her original text and rework it with a better appreciation of what the readership needs to know."
    (Claire Aitchison, "Learning Together to Publish: Writing Group Pedagogies for Doctoral Publishing." Publishing Pedagogies for the Doctorate and Beyond, ed. by Claire Aitchison, Barbara Kamler, and Alison Lee. Routledge, 2010)
Also Known As: writing circle, writing workshop

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