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Speculative Fiction

What Is a Writing Group?

If you’re thinking of joining a writing group, but you’re wondering what they really do, then discover the answer here.

As a writing group specialising in speculative fiction genres, we’re often asked two questions: What is Speculative Fiction? and “What is a writing group?”

But surely a writing group is just a group of people who like  books? What’s to explain?

More than you might think, because there are lots of different types of writing group.

Writing Group Versus Book Group

Occasionally, Manchester Speculative Fiction gets mistaken for a book group.

A book group is a bunch of people who read books together. A writing group is a bunch of people who get together to write books.

Writing Group Versus Creative Writing Group

Usually, writing groups focus on fiction, and that’s why they’re also sometimes called creative writing groups. But in practice, the terms are interchangeable, as non-fiction writing groups are rare.

Types of Writing Group

There are two main types of writing group:

  • Writing workshop groups
  • Writing critique groups

There are also two ways for writing groups to get together: real life and online.

What’s a Writing Critique Group?

Our group, Manchester Speculative Fiction, is a writing critique group.

In a writing critique group, the members don’t write at the meetings. They write in their own time and then submit their work to the group meetings for constructive criticism using one of two common processes:

  • Submit work before the meeting and critique it during the meeting, using something like the Milford System (this the system Manchester Speculative Fiction uses).
  • Read work out during the meeting and have it discussed immediately after.

A writing critique group is the best sort to join if want to improve your writing.

What Is a Writing Workshop Group?

In a writing workshop group, the members write at the meetings.

The participants either do writing exercises, or they simply co-write, i.e. sit and write on their own, but in a supportive atmosphere. Sometimes, towards the end of the meeting, people read out what they’ve been working on and ask for feedback.

A writing workshop group is great if your main writing issue is just getting words down on the page.

Online Versus Real Life

Nowadays, it’s entirely possible to join a writing group that meets only online, using chat software. This has the huge advantage of not having to live near the rest of the writing group members. It has the usual disadvantage of any online group: lack of personal contact and opportunity to make friends.

Manchester Speculative Fiction operates a hybrid system where we meet once a month in real life and once a month online (see Meetings).

Want to Join?

If you’d like to come along to our Manchester writing group, then please contact us.

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By Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin has been a member of the Manchester Speculative Fiction Writing Group since 2012 and edited its first two anthologies. His novels have won, or been listed for, multiple prizes including the Terry Pratchett Prize, YouWriteOn Book of the Year and Arthur C. Clarke Award.