Aspiring Young Writers’ Group: Common Cause

Ben Kirkby begins his weekly column about his writers’ group.



Writing is isolating and it’s difficult to knuckle down with. This is why the writer’s meet-ups that my friends and I have are so helpful. Nearly every week, three (occasionally four) of us knock together a time, grab coffee and pull apart each of our weekly offerings.


This routine evolved out of groupwork in writing classes at Deakin. This was how we met, learning that we were all keen on writing as a hobby. Wanting to keep up our writing outside of class we found that groupwork was especially effective.


This week we’re taking turns with readings. First off is Amy. She’s the quietest of the group though her words on the page speak louder than her voice, often to the extent of making the rest of us feel like amateurs (oh wait, we are). She’s working on a paranormal story about the ghost of an eldest sibling attempting to prevent her younger brothers’ and sisters’ lives unravelling. She’s parked this today though as she needs our help with a short story for one of her classes. Another spooky one, this story tells of a couple living on the edge of a desert that routinely take in travellers suffering from a sinister kind of desert madness. She reads a sample bashed together just before our meeting. Jim exclaims: “Wow, and you knocked that together in an hour? You sure don’t stall.”


Meanwhile I’m half cringing, half smirking because I’m the exact opposite. I sit and agonise over every sentence, teeth-grindingly so on some occasions.


Next, is Jim’s work. A script for a TV sitcom pilot. It follows a run of the mill group of students with the twist being one of them is a disguised alien. Jim’s an easy-going but slightly cynical psych major and his work takes inspiration from our uni experience. We divide the speaking parts between the three of us. Knowing what Jim has told us about the characters we each do our best impressions. Afterward, Amy says to me: “Some of the weird characters from stuff we watch on movie nights are leaking into your performance, Ben.”


“Well that was the idea,” I respond. Maybe I should be doing drama instead? Though I suppose my knack for recall has its uses.


Finally, we come to my chunk of writing. My work is a sci fi intrigue novel with a space setting about the theft of a mysterious archaeological object. My sample is a character interaction, a conversation between two characters in a sparring match. As I read through it, there are intermittent chuckles from Jim and Amy. First response I get upon finishing is Jim saying: “Wish I’d thought of some of those lines, there’s some absolute crackers in there.”


I love a good compliment as much as anyone, but I’m surprised I got that kind of response.


I guess that’s the benefit of this group. We help each other gauge how our stuff might land with readers. In return, we each get something to read, something new to learn from. There’s also a fresh pair of eyes on your own work, some outside suggestions and most importantly, the drive to churn something out for next week. The reciprocal energy amplifies our creativity and work ethic.


What I love most is the closeness and familiarity that stems from our honest and caring praise and criticism – along with some much-needed nagging to get off backsides and work! It’s almost like being amongst family.


I’ve always had a creative drive. In the past I’ve expressed this through other outlets – drawing, filming and acting in home movies. Creative writing is a more recent interest but since taking it up I’ve noticed a real spike in my artistic drive, like something shiny I can’t help but chase.


One thing I’ve learned while part of the group is that there’s still a lot of hard slog. Simply ploughing through and forcing myself to work however confirms lessons I hear many experienced writers parroting. An example is not to edit as you go but instead fling as much down as you can, in this way maintaining momentum. Then there’s a technique I learned from Jim, and quite an effective one at that. “Try taking all your characters’ dialogue and laying it out like a script format,” he says. “It should help to really polish and sharpen it up.” And honestly, he’s right.


In our own way we each bring something unique, be it particular skills, insight or personality. Jim has a real knack for getting people talking and creating a strong conversation while Amy presents some serious character and scene smarts. Meanwhile I’m often praised for my logical eye with any piece of writing I’m dealing with. It also helps that our personalities mesh well too, be they friendly and easy going, witty and measured or goofy but honest. The dynamic is always buzzing.


We come to the end today’s session, another productive few hours of bouncing ideas off one another, keeping us sharp and learning from each other’s insights. As always, I’m looking forward to next week’s catch up, no doubt with more breakthroughs, pitfalls and signs of promise to come.



This is the first in a series of pieces which will be published each Monday across the summer.


Ben Kirky is a Richmond fan. He tells the story of his discovery of the mighty Tiges in The Tigers Almanac 2019.


The Tigers Almanac 2019 is out NOW.
Order copies HERE.

Orders will be posted from Dec 11.





Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.



About Ben Kirkby

Ben moved to Melbourne at the start of 2016 from country NSW. Shortly after declaring his intent to live in Melbourne permanently, his uncle Sam suggested "If you're going to live here you've got to get along to the footy at some point". After seeing his first football match (Hawthorn vs Sydney, round 9 2016) Ben's interest in AFL took off in a way highly unexpected by both himself and his extended family. Ben's team alignment was uncertain for a time, seeing an interest taken primarily toward Hawthorn during much of the 2016 season, but during the finals series he declared his intent to follow the way of his cousins and uncle and become a Richmond Supporter, primarily on the grounds of them being the team he most wanted to see win, among a long list of other reasons. Needless to say the following year saw him very happy with his choice.


  1. Well done Ben.
    What your piece shows is that whilst writing is ultimately a solitary activity, we can only learn and improve by interacting with others. Your writers’ group is obviously helping you enormously, with its supportive blend of encouragement and constructive criticism. But the easiest and most effective pathway to good writing is reading. Different styles. Different genres. And what better opportunity to do so than through the Footy Almanac? You could start anywhere but just from today’s front page, I’d highly recommend the powerful pieces on climate change and the debates they’ve provoked. And Anson Cameron’s piece about returning to his childhood home of Shepparton is a ripper (and might be evocative for you given your recent trip back to northern NSW).
    Looking forward to the next instalments. Keep up the good work!

  2. Yes, I'm that Amy says

    This is amazing Ben. I enjoyed reading this very much and I can’t wait to keep reading the following articles!

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