The Realist Writer appeared for nine issues between 1952 and 1954 before being incorporated into Overland. Essentially a bulletin for the Melbourne Realist Writers Group (RWG), the Realist Writer provided a medium for members to share their work. The RWG promoted the genre of social realism and attempted to establish a culture of readers and writers in Australia's working-class. Associated with the Communist Party, the RWG found itself without a sympathetic publication when Stephen Murray-Smith, editor of Overland, began to select contributions primarily on literary merit rather than the ideologically based assessments of the Realist Writer. Overland severed its ties with the Communist Party in 1956. Two years later the Realist Writer was revived, beginning a new phase in the development of social realism in Australia.
Printed on a roneo copier in the home of Vera Deacon, two hundred copies of the Realist Writer were produced for the first issue of the new series in 1958. Eighteen months passed before the next issue was released. But by May 1961, the first printed Realist Writer was produced, the sixth issue of the new series. With the assistance of an editorial committee, Frank Hardy was editor during the early years of the new series, maintaining an emphasis on the working-class point of view. But with branches of the RWG in Brisbane Sydney and Perth by this time, the function of the Realist Writer began to evolve from an irregular bulletin to become a significant national publication, attracting interest and contributions from writers outside of the groups.
Ray Williams was appointed editor in 1962, guiding the Realist Writer through this transitional phase. Printing up to two dozen pages, the Realist Writer now accepted fiction and poetry. Contributors included Frank Hardy, Enid Morton, Dorothy Hewett, Joan Hendry, Merv Lilley, Kath Walker, Katharine Susannah Prichard, Judah Waten, Aileen Palmer and Kylie Tennant. Under Williams, the magazine began to expand beyond the working-class themes of its origins, facing criticism from some members, particularly the Brisbane group. Nevertheless, Williams continued to press for a wider scope. Although there is no explanantion given, the changes in editorial policy might be reflected in the change of title to the Realist for the new series of the magazine in 1964.