Writing Groups: Where to Find ‘Em and Why to Join ‘Em

Abi Wurdeman
June 5, 2024

Writers are used to being alone. In fact, many of us hunt down solitude like a starving puma stalking a fat squirrel. We crave space for ourselves—a little distance from the constant chatter of our everyday lives so we can hear the voices of our characters.

So it may feel counterintuitive to actively seek out a writing group. How can we make progress on our projects by adding more chatter to our lives—more meetings to show up for and relationships to maintain?

The short answer is that a good writers’ group can boost your productivity and skill set in ways that simply aren’t possible on your own.

The long answer is, well, the rest of this article.

You’re about to learn everything you could possibly want to know about arranging regular meetups with writerly friends. You’ll discover all the benefits of joining a group, how to find one that’s right for you, and what it takes to build a strong, supportive micro-community for the long term.

But before we get into any of that, we’re gonna want to get on the same page about what a writing group is and what you can expect when you join one.

What are Writing Groups?

Three writers hang out together at a small outdoor café table.

When someone uses the term “writing group,” they could be referring to a lot of things.

It might be a community of writers who get together to discuss all things writing. It might be a meetup where folks get together to write side-by-side as a way to stay accountable and feel a little less alone in their craft. This is also known as a write-in.

But most of the time, “writing group” refers to a small collection of writers who meet regularly to give each other feedback on their works in progress. They might also hold write-ins and will definitely discuss writing and publishing in general. But their central purpose is to keep each other on track and help one another improve. 

That’s the type of writing group we’re talking about in this article.

Types of Writing Groups

As you’ve likely noticed, the world of writing is vast and varied. To ensure group members are able to truly connect and help one another, writing groups typically indicate a specific area of focus. 

After all, you can only get so much out of a romance writers’ group when you write science fiction

Here are few ways these groups might distinguish themselves:

Form - If you only want to write and discuss novels, you can find a group for that. Same deal for poetry, screenwriting, short stories, creative nonfiction… you name it. 

Genre - A genre-specific group is great for advancing your expertise within that genre. Who better to evaluate the quality of your red herrings than your fellow mystery writers? 

Goals - Some writers’ groups focus on fulfilling specific goals together. They all write and share personal essays that they plan to submit to literary magazines or support one another on their self-publishing journeys.

Mentality - Whether you’re looking to hang with chill hobbyists, driven professionals, or something in between, there’s a gathering out there for you.

Structure - Who gets to share their work when? Are there deadlines? Assignments or challenges? What’s the feedback process? We’ll dig into the particulars of structure later. For now, know that this, too, can be a defining feature of a writing group.

Benefits of Joining a Writing Group

A person sitting at a computer and wearing headphones around their neck smiles and gives a thumbs up.

As I previously mentioned, a writing group can enrich your work and writing process in countless meaningful ways. But before we dig into all those highly practical advantages, I’d like to point out that having a community like this will also enrich your life.

This is an opportunity to hang out with other writers and talk about something you love. You get to discuss the book you’re reading and the novel you’re writing. You can celebrate writing victories and mourn losses with the people who understand exactly how you feel.

In short, it’s fun. And you need fun, especially during those seasons when your creativity crusts over or you still can’t nail the opening scene after fourteen rewrites. 

But in case fun is not enough, here are a whole bunch of other reasons to find a group of one’s own:

Get Valuable Feedback

This is one of the top reasons writers join writing groups. Most of these gatherings center around sharing work and providing constructive feedback.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always a joy to get notes on your work from several other people all at once, but it is a necessary and constant element of every author’s journey. Your peers' insights will make you a better writer.

Not to mention, a writers’ group offers a supportive space where you can get comfortable with the feedback process so you’re better prepared to handle the criticism—constructive and otherwise—of gatekeepers, readers, reviewers, and editors.

Learn to Read Critically

It’s amazing how much you can learn about writing when you critique someone else’s work.

When we read as readers, as opposed to reading as writers, we tend to focus more on our feelings toward the story. We know the plot dragged or the protagonist was an utter delight, but we think about the choices the author made to create that experience.

When we read for the purpose of giving feedback, however, we try to understand why something does or doesn’t work for us. 

“It was too slow” becomes “There’s a lot of background information that doesn’t directly connect to the action or help me connect emotionally with the character. Maybe you could sprinkle some of that exposition throughout the story instead of dropping it all at once.”

The more you get used to reading someone else’s manuscript this way, the more natural it becomes to critically evaluate your own.

Stay Accountable

A person wearing a dress shirt, suit jacket, and pajama pants stands in a kitchen, taking a video meeting on a laptop.

Most writing groups are structured with regular deadlines. It might be that everyone shares their next five pages and the group discusses all the assignments in the next meeting. Or maybe the goal is to provide feedback on one person’s writing at each meet-up.

However your group does its thing, you can count on a built-in expectation that you’ll have something to share when it’s your turn. If you’re lucky, you’ll be in a group with writers who take deadlines very seriously and will lay the guilt on thick if you slack off.

Expand Your Writing Community

It’s always wonderful to make new friends who love what you love. If you plan to build an author career, however, connecting with fellow writers isn’t just nice. It’s essential.

Your writer friends will provide feedback, share resources, and keep you clued into new developments in the publishing industry. One day, they may even introduce you to agents, editors, or potential collaborators.

Perhaps most importantly, they’ll be a regular source of encouragement. No one understands this process better than a fellow writer, and no one will be quite as good at reminding you that success takes time, especially in this field.

Boost Creativity

Joining a writing group is a great way to keep your creativity switched on.

For one thing, you have deadlines to meet, a bunch of writing to read and critique, and a standing appointment to discuss the craft with fellow authors. These things alone ensure that your brain spends more time in the literary zone.

Plus, writing groups are great places to share inspiration, embark on creative challenges, and exercise those brainstorming muscles as you help each other dream up solutions to story problems.

How Writing Groups Work

Five people gather around a laptop in a living room.

That all sounds pretty good, right? But what does it actually look like to participate in a writing group? How is it structured and what will the other members expect from you?

Because there are so many different kinds of writers’ groups, there isn’t one clear answer. Nevertheless, I can offer a basic rundown of how these groups tend to operate.

Here’s the general overview:


Most writing groups have a specific system for sharing and critiquing work. As I mentioned above, your group might discuss short pieces from all members in a single meeting or spend each get-together on only one writer’s work.

Either way, you’ll likely have a deadline for submitting your story. Some writers’ groups have members share their work for the first time during the meeting, though that system is less common. It doesn’t give the other writers enough time or space to carefully consider their critiques.

Providing Feedback

As for the feedback process itself, it might resemble a typical writers’ workshop, with participants sharing their thoughts in a larger group discussion. Or it might take a more structured approach, with each member taking a turn to share all their insights at once.

Some writing groups stick with verbal feedback, but if you have any say in it, I recommend pushing for written feedback as well. This makes it easier for the writer receiving the critique to listen and absorb rather than frantically writing notes, hoping they’ll remember what their notes mean.

As you prepare your critique for a fellow writer, don’t worry much about smaller details like grammar and word choice, unless their submission is a technical mess and you want to gently remind them to do some copy editing before they submit it to a literary magazine.

Typically, writing groups focus on larger issues. Is the conflict compelling? Does the writing draw you in? Does the dialogue sound natural

When you deliver your critique, remember that your goal is to be helpful and kind. Feedback is an art, and you can learn more about mastering that art here.

Receiving Feedback

We also have a guide for receiving feedback, so I’ll keep this brief.

It’s important to express gratitude for the critiques you receive, even if you don’t feel particularly grateful in the moment. 

You can expect to get feedback that’s brilliant and inspiring. You’ll probably also hear advice that feels dead wrong at first, then makes a lot of sense after you’ve slept on it. And you’ll definitely receive notes that are way off and never make it into your manuscript.

No matter how you feel about the feedback itself, you’re receiving it because a busy person took time from their own life to try to help you become a better writer. That’s something to appreciate, even if it’s obvious they completely missed the whole point of your story.

Finding the Right Creative Writing Group

A person wearing glasses and bluetooth ear buds types on a computer.

These days, you can always find online writing groups if you struggle to find one in real life. There are loads of them out there. You can look for smaller groups through writing-centered sites like NaNoWriMo or join a big virtual writing group through online communities like Critique Circle.

And, of course, you can always find critique partners and writing groups in Dabble’s Story Craft Café.

But if you’d prefer to join an in-person group, start by checking out the physical and online bulletin boards at your local libraries, bookstores, and community college. If there’s a group in your area that’s currently looking for new members, they’re likely to advertise there.

You can also search for local writing groups on Google or sites like meetup.com. If you’re still not finding anything that interests you, you can always start your own group. More on that in a bit.

As you do all this hunting, remember that the goal is to find the group that’s right for you. Let’s talk about some details you should keep an eye out for.

Key Considerations

Remember way back in the day, at the beginning of this article, when we talked about all the different types of writing groups out there? You may recall that we discussed how a group might differentiate itself by any or all of these details:

  • Form of writing - Is it fiction? Nonfiction? Half-hour scripted comedy?
  • Genre - Are these romance writers? Fantasy? Literary fiction?
  • Goal - Does this group exist to hold members accountable for getting their words in? As a source of feedback during the novel-writing process?
  • Mentality - Do members seem pretty hardcore about building a career? Or are they looking for kindred spirits in this journey of creative exploration?
  • Structure - How often do members submit their writing to one another? How does the feedback process work? 

Take some time to look at that list and consider what would be most helpful to you right now. You might not feel strongly about all five points, and that’s fine. Maybe you definitely want to be in a sci-fi writing group and your ultimate goal is to publish a novel, but you don’t care if the group is open to short stories and flash fiction, too.

Also consider the size of the group. In a smaller group, you’re likely to get more specific feedback—and get it more frequently—than you would in a large gathering.

And of course, keep safety in mind when you prepare to join any in-person group. If you don’t already know any of the current members, attend your first meeting in a public place, not a stranger’s living room.

Starting Your Own Writing Group

If you can’t find your ideal writing group out there in the wide world, start your own!

You can put out a call for new members in all the same places you looked for groups—places like library bulletin boards and online forums.

You can also build your community gradually. Already have a couple of writer friends you’d love to start a group with? Ask them if they’d be down for sharing and critiquing work in a more structured way. Encourage them to invite friends of their own. 

Even if it’s just the three of you for now, you can always add more members in the future. 

However you do it, make sure you have clear and honest conversations about what you want this writing group to look like. Discuss the structure, goals, and even the vibe you’re going for. 

If you want this to be a tough-love literary boot camp, say so. If you want it to be a place of encouragement and gentle feedback, make that clear.

Getting everyone on the same page at the very beginning ensures a pleasant experience going forward. On that note…

Nurturing a Successful Writing Group

A happy group of writers all holding notebooks gather around a table.

Whether you start your own writing group or choose to join a pre-existing one, you have a role to play in helping the community run smoothly. 

Remember, your writers’ group could be a source of insight, encouragement, and even publishing opportunities for years to come. Even if the group eventually disbands, the relationships you built don’t have to.

So here are some quick tips for doing your part to make this whole thing a positive and enriching experience for everyone: 

Build Trust

For most writers, it already takes courage to state their authorly ambitions out loud. To then take it a step further and invite other writers to semi-publicly critique their attempts at bringing that dream to life… that’s a whole other level of guts.

Remember that when you share your feedback, welcome new members, and respond to your fellow writers’ stories about their publishing struggles. Everyone’s at least a little bit afraid of this bold journey they’re on, and everyone’s here to connect with people who get it.

So be that person. Listen with interest and compassion. Offer constructive feedback and celebrate great writing. And when one of the other writers enjoys a victory that sparks a little jealousy in your heart (it happens to all of us), offer nothing but excitement and support, trusting that your turn is coming.

Encourage Diversity and Inclusion

When you bring multiple people together, you’re going to have diverse needs and perspectives. Be the kind of person who can make space for others.

In the context of a writing group, this could come down to practical considerations, like choosing meeting places that are physically accessible to all group members.

Where the issue of inclusion comes up most often, however, is in feedback. 

A member might point out that a fellow writer has unknowingly written a character that perpetuates a harmful stereotype of the critiquer’s own community. Or a member who’s struggled with mental health might offer suggestions to help another writer tackle the topic in a more insightful way.

Suggestions like these are extremely valuable. They’re also generous. There’s a degree of risk when a group member offers feedback like that, as some writers might become defensive, confrontational, or accuse the critiquer of being too sensitive.

Ultimately, every writer gets to decide which notes to incorporate into their own story. But please, whether you’re the direct recipient of the feedback or a fellow critiquer, express appreciation for perspectives no one else can offer.

Stay Engaged

Like all things in life, a writers’ group can get a little too comfortable. Everybody stops worrying about impressing everyone else, and the next thing you know, someone misses their submission deadline by a day. 

That makes everybody feel okay about being late the next time around. Folks start reading each other’s work hastily half an hour before the meeting starts. Members roll in twenty minutes late. Everybody’s half in, half out, and no one’s sure if this is worth it anymore.

It’s not the end of the world. Sometimes writing groups fall apart. Sometimes members have to step away because there’s too much else going on. Life evolves and the group will, too.

But I’d encourage you to stay reliable and gently encourage your fellow writers to stay on track. Be someone your group can count on for on-time submissions, thoughtful feedback, and engaged conversation.

If you ever need to step away or miss a meeting, that’s fine. But when you’re in, be all in.

And if you’re the only one, don’t be afraid to go find a more committed community.

Wade Into the Writing Group Waters With Us

Screenshot of the Story Craft Café home page with an image of a leaf that says "I BeLeaf in You."

A writing group is one of the best opportunities you have to drastically improve your craft and build relationships within the writing community. It’s an excellent source of knowledge, inspiration, and encouragement.

But if you’re not used to sharing and discussing your work in a group setting, it can also be a little intimidating. That’s where Dabble comes in.

Our Story Craft Café is a free online community full of friendly fellow writers who’d love to talk shop with you. You can join conversations about craft, genre, and the business of writing. Pop in for community word sprints. Share your work and offer feedback on someone else’s. 

Find your people in a low-pressure environment and let those critique partnerships happen naturally.

You can also join us for Feedback Fridays on YouTube, where Doug and Robert offer a friendly critique of material submitted by a lucky Dabbler. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the art of writing and feedbackery (real word, don’t question it). 

If you’re feeling bold and have a Dabble Premium subscription, you can even submit your work for a critique.

Not a Dabbler but always been a little curious? Try it for free for 14 days! Dabble is an all-in-one learning program with loads of features, but it’s easy to learn, so 14 days gives you plenty of time to decide if it’s right for you. Click here to get started—no credit card necessary.

Abi Wurdeman

Abi Wurdeman is the author of Cross-Section of a Human Heart: A Memoir of Early Adulthood, as well as the novella, Holiday Gifts for Insufferable People. She also writes for film and television with her brother and writing partner, Phil Wurdeman. On occasion, Abi pretends to be a poet. One of her poems is (legally) stamped into a sidewalk in Santa Clarita, California. When she’s not writing, Abi is most likely hiking, reading, or texting her mother pictures of her houseplants to ask why they look like that.