The Problem of Writing Circles

An artist’s rendition of the average writer’s group.

Writing is a solitary activity, done on a messy desk in the dead of night. Authors type out word after word, wondering if anyone would want to read the tales they spin entirely in their head and, even better, pay them for it. They often band together with those of similar interests to encourage each other and promote each other’s work.

However, this leads to a very serious problem for new or unknown writers: the only audience they have is other writers, whether pro or amateur. Thus, they are only writing for each other, and no one else reads them.

This phenomenon is most obvious with short stories: there is absolutely no broad audience for them, but authors hear that they’re a good way to test the waters and get one’s foot in the door, so they buy and read them to “understand the market” and hone their craft. As a result, the audience for short stories — such as it is — consists mainly of aspiring writers, not passionate readers. Authors who make any money at writing usually write novel series.

However, this problem extends beyond short stories. If an author spends most of his time speaking to other authors, he will only have built a connection with a very small, incestuous group that will give him a limited circle of readers instead of a sustainable fanbase. Authors who are successful often have a crop of fans who regularly communicate with them online — and not always about their books.

Perhaps that is one solution to the problem: have interests other than writing and reading, and write about them at length. All of the authors with real audiences seem to have this in common, and authors will do well to emulate those at the top of the game. It always helps to broaden one’s horizons, after all.

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4 Responses to The Problem of Writing Circles

  1. PCBushi says:

    A couple of the most famous examples – the Inklings and the the Lovecraft Circle – show that writing circles can be effective, but it really depends on the writer(s). Jack Vance agreed with you and thought they were artificial and boring.

    • Rawle Nyanzi says:

      I thought so. It’s like Tolkien’s approach to worldbuilding: everyone thinks they can do it, but most aren’t equipped to.

      • Xaver Basora says:


        Eccellent point. I have an interest in model building and calligraphy. I’d like to incorporate fountain pens, and calligraphy as well asmodel building. in my stories.
        I’ve explained models i’ve built in forums and explaining how I built or painted a model imposes a helpful discipline in writing

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