Setting Up Your Own Writing Group

People who form writing groups say they make more progress on their writing projects than they did previously. Writing groups provide accountability, community, regular time and space to write, and, if you set your group up accordingly, feedback on your drafts.

Research on writing productivity shows definitively that people who write for shorter periods of time regularly and frequently produce many more pages for publication than those who binge-write (Boice 1989, 1997). In addition, joining a group can reduce a writer’s sense of isolation. And if you form a writing-and-feedback group, you’ll get good practice in giving and receiving oral and written feedback—valuable skills for a professional.

If you are interested in establishing a writing group, you can set up an appointment to consult with one of our graduate writing specialists, who can discuss your goals with you and guide you through some of the decision points and logistics involved. Send a message to wcenter@gmu.edu saying you’d like to schedule a meeting to discuss setting up a writing group.                                                 

Types of writing groups

Write-together group – Meets to write together

Group members typically agree to arrive on time, stay for the duration, and turn off social media. Begins with brief goal-setting conversation; ends with brief reports of progress.

Feedback group - Meets to provide and discuss feedback on writing projects

Before each meeting one or more writers share a draft; group members read in advance and provide feedback during the meeting.

Accountability group – Meets to report progress on writing projects

Group members meet to report progress over the previous week, set goals for the following week, discuss issues, and share resources.

Policies and procedures to decide                                                  

Groups function best when policies and procedures are established collaboratively:

  • When, where, how often will you meet?
  • How many writers can participate?
  • How will a typical meeting be structured?
  • Will a single person facilitate, or will this role go to a different person each week?
  • What are the policies for attendance?
  • Feedback groups: How will you share drafts? What is the target document length?

Activities for getting started

  • Do a writing inventory to learn when and where you do your best writing
  • Discuss best practices in providing feedback

Resources

These centers provide detailed toolkits for new writing groups:

Resources for giving and receiving feedback:

  • Guiding Questions for Providing Feedback
  • Reader and Writer Response Moves
  • Language for Polite Feedback

Selected Publications

Boice, Robert. 1997. "Strategies for Enhancing Scholarly Productivity." In Writing and Publishing for Academic Authors, edited by Joseph Michael Moxley and Todd W. Taylor, 19 - 34. Lanham, MD: Bowman & Littlefield. 

-----. 1989. "Procrastination, Busyness, and Bingeing." Behavior Research and Therapy, 27: 605-11.

Gradin, Sherrie, Jennifer Pauley-Gose, and Candace Stewart. 2006. “Disciplinary Differences, Rhetorical Resonances: Graduate Writing Groups Beyond the Humanities.” Praxis 3 (2): 2-6. http://www.praxisuwc.com/new-page-83.

Hixson, Cory, Walter Lee, Dierdre Hunter, Marie Paretti, Holly Matsovich, and Rachel McCord. 2016. “Understanding the Structural and Attitudinal Elements That Sustain a Graduate Student Writing Group in an Engineering Department.” WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship 40 (5-6): 18-25.

Maher, Damian, Leonie Seaton, Cathi McMullen, Terry Fitzgerald, Emi Otsuji, and Alison Lee. 2008. “'Becoming and Being Writers': The Experiences of Doctoral Students in Writing Groups.” Studies in Continuing Education 30 (3): 263-275.

Maher, Michelle, Amber Falluccab and Helen Mulhern Halasz. 2013. “Write On! Through to the PhD: Using Writing Groups to Facilitate Doctoral Degree Progress.”  Studies in Continuing Education 35 (2): 193-208.

Phillips, Talinn. 2012. “Graduate Writing Groups: Shaping Writing and Writers from Student to Scholar.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 10 (1): 1-7.