Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Still More Conversation about Writers’ Groups . . .


This discussion began on November 14th, and continued on Nov. 16th… Writers Groups

The last post had three different reader comments that all shared the important idea that a well-functioning writers’ group needed the potential for friendship among the participants…

Today’s first commenter, a regular here and from Australia, is an accomplished author and creator of virtual worlds:

“Over the years I have been in a number of writers’ groups. The first one was led by a published author, whose writing class we had attended. In this group we read our work out loud. However we did not provide a written copy of the work to help others follow the reading and now, in hindsight, I feel that was probably needed, if we wanted any kind of serious critique. Now I’m in a fantastic group of writers who have all been published, some extensively. We all take turns to send an emailed copy of the work we want to get feedback on (half the group one month and half the next). We read and edit the works with written comments on the emailed manuscripts, which we then bring to the meeting to discuss. Our meeting is usually held in a cafe. After lunch, where we socialise and catch up with our news, we get to work and discuss each submitted work in turn. We always try to honour the creativity of the writer and the value of their written work. At the same time we discuss the works in detail and make suggestions for improvements.

“The value of this approach is that it helps the writer, who may be too close to the work at that point, to get the perspective of other more detached opinions. It has been said that, after an initial draft, a writer should put a work away for a period of time so that when they return to it, some time later, they can see the work more clearly, warts and all. Having a ‘panel’ of experienced writers/readers to shorten that maturation time for the writer, with their considered opinions, is invaluable. But you do need to pick your ‘panel’. You need honest but non-destructive critics who take writing seriously :-)”

Interesting comparison of two different types of group…

And, the current group has three critical activities:

  • socialize and catch up on news
  • honor each other’s creativity
  • discuss in detail and make suggestions

So

Whether a group you might be in has all of those specific qualities or not, some form of “warming up”, “respecting”, and “close inspection and edification” are, I feel, important to consider as valuable group activities.

One other thing to consider from our Australian writer’s experience is the Preparation necessary for carrying out those particular group activities…

Our second commenter, a novelist and short story author, is a native of the Northern Plains of the USA and maintains his web site right here :-)

“I once co-founded and ran a community writers’ group in college. The experience was overall positive. I’d generally lead the discussions, critiquing a work by a member we were all to have read at some point that week. Once a month we’d do a writing exercise and then share the fruits of our rushed labor. Everyone enjoyed these writing sessions.

“I think the hardest part was simply not liking some of the writing. Sometimes one could see potential. Other times a piece was pretty good. Once in a while it was hard to give feedback for improvement because the group member’s story just didn’t feel at all inspired with even a grain of potential. Not only was it the hardest, but also the most dangerous part: trying to be truthful without being offensive. The best remedy I found was to ask lots of questions rather than jump right in with advice. If there was advice to be given, I had to get at the writer’s mindset first.”

Our new commenter has stated something that seems to me to be essential for writers’ group participants: using questions to hone in on the writer’s intentions before critiquing the writing, whether or not the work is “good” or “bad”…

What do you think about that last statement of mine?

For that matter, what stands out for you in either of our commenters’ experiences?

And

To prompt you to share a comment:

Are you in a writers’ group…?

What do you most enjoy about your group…?

Or, do you think you need to join a writers’ group…?

Or, are you sure a writers’ group would never fit your needs…?

Have you formed or are you about to form a group…?

What do you think is most important for a successful writers’ group…?

All it takes is one reader comment to continue this conversation :-)
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9 responses to “Still More Conversation about Writers’ Groups . . .

  1. Angela Yuriko Smith November 19, 2018 at 9:06 am

    I’ve belonged to many writer groups in the past and my experience has been varied.Some have turned out to be ego clubs existing only to tell each other how wonderful our work is. Those are my least favorite. Some have turned out to be ridiculously critical to the point where arguing about specific details kills the creative aspect and the group consensus is that everything is always terrible. I like those better, but not by much. I’ve gone to writer groups that get very complicated with emails going back and forth and critique schedules. Those are good for me but they take a commitment.

    Now I have an informal writers group. I join associations in my genre (my favorite to date is Horror Writers Association) and we organically team up to critique, review and support each other. Once a year we meet up face to face at Stokercon where old friendships are renewed, new friendships forged and a whole lot of honing our craft happens. My writers group has taken the monchu path, as in they are people I choose because we inspire and edify each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alexander M Zoltai November 19, 2018 at 9:28 am

      Well, Angela, you’ve just given this discussion the push it needs to continue on Wednesday :-)

      Will feature your comment then…

      BTW, the link with your name in your comment doesn’t go to your blog :-(

      Like

      • Angela Yuriko Smith November 19, 2018 at 9:34 am

        Thanks for pointing that out. I can’t seem to find where to change that. It goes to my old domain that I let die a few years ago. Same blog, different domain. I’ll keep looking for where to change that.

        Like

        • Alexander M Zoltai November 19, 2018 at 9:35 am

          Sure thing—don’t want you to lose a promo-link :-)

          Like

    • Jane Watson November 19, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      Hello Angela, what an interesting comment. Just in case you don’t know “Jane’ is also Arton :-)
      I have often tried to get my writers group to meet in a virtual world, mainly when a member may have been too ill to travel.. But it has never come about. The folks in my group often travelled very long distances to keep up and attend the group. I have always thought that a virtual meeting may be the solution.

      Like

      • Alexander M Zoltai November 19, 2018 at 5:34 pm

        Your comment may have been to Angela; but, it will be featured along with the others :-)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. R. Jean Bell November 19, 2018 at 9:49 am

    Your point about intentions is so true. My group asks for your goals with the piece and for the type of feedback you’re looking for at the time. While sometimes we might stray from that in what we give, it does help us focus our feedback and moderate it.

    When looking for peer review, it helps to have multiple members at a similar skill and goal level to yours, however, we’re not always good at assessing that ourselves. Some people underestimate their skills and others are blind to their own flaws.

    I’ve been in several groups in the past and my initial critique experience comes from college. I made my first professional sale yesterday and I owe it to my online writing family. They’ve glued me back together when I’ve gone to pieces and pushed me to improve my writing and editing skills constantly. They challenge what I think I know about writing and bring out the best in my work.

    I think writing group choice is often very personal and depends on your needs and expectations. An always-someone-there online group works well for me. I can stick my nose in when I need a break, a kick in the rear, a hug, or a brainstorm buddy. Helping others brainstorm can help me get excited about a story of my own or kick off a new idea for a story or exercise.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai November 19, 2018 at 9:53 am

      Delicious comment, Bex :-)

      Will feature it in the Wednesday post; and, I’ll certainly respond to it…

      Like

  3. Pingback: Even More Conversation about Writers’ Groups . . . | Notes from An Alien

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