Notes from An Alien

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Tag Archives: Blog Conversations

Even More Conversation about Writers’ Groups . . .


Writers' Groups This discussion began on November 14th, and continued on Nov. 16th, and 19th

We’ve covered quite a bit of ground in those past posts…

And, there’s quite a bit more to cover today.

Our first commenter is from the U.S.A. and is a former journalist and award-winning author who I’ve spent time with in a virtual world:

“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.”

This first comment reminds me of two links from past posts in this series, about elements of a successful writers’ group and hidden dangers of writers’ groups…

Two things that stand out for me in this comment are the “organic” nature of her current writers’ group, which I take as meaning they naturally and easily formed the group; and, the fact that they inspire and edify each other…

The next comment is from a regular contributor, an accomplished author from Australia, and is directed at the last commenter they were both in the virtual world I mentioned… ) :-)

“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.”

Would that our Australian friend could accomplish that goal; but, I’ve talked to her about this and some of her fellow group members seem quite resistant to stepping into a new environment; yet, being in a virtual world certainly opens up the geographical distance that a writers’ group can span…

Our final commenter is from Denmark and is an author, poet, editor, photographer, and blogger who happens to be one of the admins in an online group that I recently joined. Her first sentence refers to a statement from a past post: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’“:

“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.”

Congratulations to her for that first sale; and, appreciation for such an instructive comment to wrap-up this portion of our discussion… However, I must do a pull-quote about what a writers’ group can do:

“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.”

So

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 :-)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message
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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 :-)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message

More Conversation about Writers’ Groups . . .


This blog conversation began on November 14th… Writers' Groups

I shared quite a bit about my experience with and understanding of writers’ groups; plus, revealed a few famous writers who favored the group experience; and, pointed to a site that discussed different types of writers’ groups and the elements of successful groups…

So, before we get to the reader comments that are the reason for these discussions, I’ll share this link about four hidden dangers of writing groups from Jane Friedman. Perhaps reading it will prompt you to make a comment that I could feature in the next installment :-)

But, let’s get back to this installment and the comments that will power this discussion forward.

The first reader to respond is a writer from Maine, in the USA, and someone I  follow on Wattpad (where you can read some of her work...):

“I’ve had various experiences but am happy to report that my current writers group is fantastic. We are a small, supportive, diverse group of writers. What we do is gather together and read from our current projects—not for critique but simply to share. We end up having discussions that come up from the readings, and if someone wants some particular feedback she can request it, but mostly it’s just encouragement and applause. We had a weekend ‘retreat’ this summer where we each brought a couple of exercises or prompts to share and that was fun. Otherwise, it’s more of a gathering of people who enjoy writing. Sometimes we go to public readings together. Unfortunately for me, I’ve moved all the way across the country. I’ve ‘joined’ the meeting via technology a couple of times, but it just isn’t as satisfying. I think the key is to find people you’d want to hang around regardless of the writing.”

The most interesting thing for me in this comment is that I do something quite similar with my Best Friend in a virtual world she’s built—sharing, hanging out, talking things over—though, some of our writerly activities spill over into email… ( We’ve never met in “real life” but certainly know each other quite well from the 8 years we’ve been getting together in virtual reality :-)

I do hope our commenter can find a group in her new location that’s just as valuable and fun; or, amp-up the technological meetings—perhaps by creating a virtual world to meet in

~~~~~~~~~

Does our first comment spark any responses you’d be willing to share at the end of this post?

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The second reader who shared is a writer, poet and artist from Belgium who’s also an admin in a writing community I’ve just barely begun to hang out in:

“I’m in an online community. I joined an online group in September last year, shortly after finishing my first short story. That group evolved into another group, and then we evolved again, into the group we are now.

“In a short time, I’ve grown a lot. I’ve learned a lot. And I honestly don’t think I’d have accomplished that on my own. We push each other onwards and upwards. Share craft, reading tips, experiences, knowledge gained. We help each other brainstorm and revise. We cheer for every submission made and commiserate with every rejection.

“Spending time with other creative minds acts as a catalyst for my own creative mind, and I couldn’t imagine my life without the INKlings in it, to be honest.”

~~~~~~~~~

Have you been in an online writers’ group? Care to share about it at the end of the post?

~~~~~~~~~

Our third reader comment is from a self-publishing writer in the United Kingdom who’s been a rather regular commenter here:

“I think the writing group I joined since I started publishing has sort of evolved. The lead writer has written a number of books and publishes with Feedaread. That group meets in her house and we read whatever we are working on at the time and accept criticism. However we are also friends and meet outside the regular sessions and organise marketing opportunities like stalls at craft fairs and participate in book shows. We have also produced two anthologies.

“We also met for a workshop/group where one of our number gave us a writing exercise and homework but unfortunately this is no longer operating due to illness.

“The first group has had a number of successes but the greatest success is the social and supportive element. Once one leaves work it is not always easy to find like minded companions.”

I’ll guess that the “leaves work” part of that comment means a day job; but, her group is extremely well-rounded when it comes to a variety of writerly activities :-)

~~~~~~~~~

Have you been in such an active writers’ group? Want to share your experiences?

~~~~~~~~~

So

Three comments from writers who treasure the social and friendship qualities of their groups…

It appears they may have avoided the “hidden dangers” of writing groups…

And, if you’re thinking of forming a group, I’ll just list the bullet points from that article on potential challenges for writers’ groups:

1. No one tells the truth and no one really wants to hear it.

2. Struggling writers are not often the best judges of struggling writing.

3. Failure is not an option in a writer’s group, but failure is a part of the writing process.

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 :-)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message

A Blog Conversation about Writers’ Groups . . .


Our previous conversation here was about Book Promotion; but, it ended due to a lack of reader comment… Writers' Groups

I’ll begin this new discussion by sharing that I’ve only attended two writers’ groups in my relatively long life and didn’t see the benefits of the arrangement.

My not appreciating the experience could have been due to the way they were conducted or the particular people attending; though, now that I’m quite a bit older then when they happened, I could add my individual “disposition” to why they didn’t work for me.

However

My best friend is and has been for many years quite faithful in her attendance and participation in her writers’ group; and, she happens to have quite the independent mind; so, there must be something worthwhile in certain writers’ groups, for certain people…

I’m sure there’s a profusion of different kinds of writers’ groups in the world since, in the first place, writers are usually quite unique folks; and, in the second place, a group of writers couldn’t very well form a group without it also being unique; though, I suppose there are a few groups out there that copy the structure and behavior of other groups and either fail or limp along helping none of the participants…

And, I should mention, this discussion isn’t about writing “workshops” (usually, limited-time events); but, there could be workshop elements in a regularly-meeting group…

As far as the “right” kind of group, I could only imagine it would need to have a first meeting with the immediate group of writers; and, those writers would need to “write the first draft” of what their particular group needed to accomplish for the members—a collaborative sketching out of the type of “organism” the group could become—the group’s “story”…

Naturally, if other writers were admitted to the group, the “story” would need some sort of “revision” based on the new “characters”—not necessarily a complete recasting of the group; but, at least, some adjustments for the creative nature of the new participants…

So…

Maybe I’ve just drawn up a plan for a writers’ group I could join :-)

Then again, being a septuagenarian, I’ll continue plotting my writer’s voyage alone; yet, certainly, stopping in my best friend’s port of call for a bit of writerly banter and, perhaps, from time to time, a sounding out of a new way to set my sails…

Though, from what I’ve just said, you might think my friend and I have a writers’ group; but, in my definition of “group”, there must be at least three people…

However, recently, I’ve been visiting a “writing community“; but, due to the intensive nature of my personal writing activities, I only check in for short spells of friendly chat…

And, no matter what I may say about our discussion topic, folks who’ve attained some renown in writerly pursuits have belonged to writers’ groups.

According to an article on Inked Voices the following writers found value in the group experience:

J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Virginia Woolf, EM Forster, John Maynard Keynes, Robert Frost, Rupert Brooke, Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald…

And, even if you don’t want to pay to join Inked Voices programs, they still have interesting pages on different types of writers’ groups and various elements of successful groups

Finally, I should mention there are online writers’ groups, as well as a few in virtual worlds…

So…

Are you in a writers’ group…?

What do you most enjoy about your writers’ group…?

Do you think you need to join a writers’ group…?

Are you sure a writers’ group could never fit your needs…?

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

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

All it takes is one reader comment to continue this conversation :-)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message

Still More Conversation about Book Promotion . . .


This discussion began on November 7th and continued on Nov. 9th… Book Promotion

We’ve talked a bit about the book Be the Gateway and dealt with having no idea how to promote a book and Book Fairs and Book Talks; and, here we are with the following comment (which is letting us continue the conversation) from an accomplished author from Australia:

“I think that true promotion requires reaching out to other people – it’s not bashing them over the head. As Dan says: ‘…It means we have to engage with other human beings…’

“I think ‘engage’ is an important word here.

“My first publisher, who was mainstream, insisted that folks needed to hear about (be bashed over the head about) a book eleven times before they remembered it properly and they would then buy it. Apparently this method meant that the publisher thought it would be a good idea if I spoke on the ‘Overnight Racing Channel’. You can imagine the scene:

“‘…and here’s Roadrunner going down the strait; a length away from Black Caviar; and, here’s Jane Watson, who has just written a novel. Thanks for coming in, Jane’.

“You need to engage with other like-minded people who may want to read your book.

“A book is not a bar of soap… or, a racehorse…”

I must restate that last Truth:

“A book is not a bar of soap… or, a racehorse…”

Though, there are those authors who treat books as mere commodities; and, sad to say, there are mere commodities that try to pretend they’re real, honest “books”…

I know our Australian author; and, just to make the publisher’s lack of professionalism clear, her book has absolutely nothing to do with horse racing…

BTW, the publisher was Picador / Pan Macmillan Australia…

Now, I’m compelled to share the Etymology of “Engage”, since our author emphasised it

“early 15c., ‘to pledge’ (something, as security for payment), from Old French engagier ‘bind (by promise or oath), pledge; pawn’ (12c.), from phrase en gage ‘under pledge’, from en ‘in’ (see en- (1)) + gage ‘pledge’, through Frankish from Proto-Germanic *wadiare ‘pledge’ (see wed). It shows the common evolution of Germanic -w- to central French -g- (see gu-).

“Meaning ‘attract and occupy the attention of’ is from 1640s; that of ’employ, secure for aid, employment or use’ is from 1640s, from notion of ‘binding as by a pledge’; meaning ‘enter into combat or contest with’ is from 1640s. Specific sense of ‘promise to marry’ is 1610s (implied in engaged). Machinery sense is from 1884. Also from the French word are German engagiren, Dutch engageren, Danish engagere.”

I must admit, there are a few historical meanings of engage that don’t fit our author’s use of the word: “bind” [though, “promise” or “oath” could apply…], “pawn”, “employ”, “combat or contest” [though, too many folks feel they do apply to book promotion]; yet, “promise to marry” does have a bit of pertinence here, if taken metaphorically…

I believe an author’s choice of the “inappropriate” meanings of engage comes from their feeling that other folks need to be forced into making a decision to buy a book; and, if not clearly forced, then heavily coerced…

Yes, the number of books being published is large and constantly growing; but, most of them won’t sell well; so, why try to engage with an attitude of force—it is still true that honey attracts better than vinegar…

So

My interpretation of Engaging people to consider your book is quite similar to traditional engagement vows—it’s a two-way deal—the author is making a vow that their presentation of the book is true and fair; and, the reader is vowing to give the book a fair chance…

Or, you can beat them over the head until a few succumb and buy the book and never finish reading it because they have a hangover from your selling them a commodity…

And, what about your second and further books—don’t you want a truly enthusiastic reader?

Naturally, you must tell them the truth when your promoting—nothing worse than comparing a book to famous authors’ works when it’s far from them; but then, it’s so easy in our culture to absorb the ploys and gimmicks of advertisers…

So

What have you done in the way of Book Promotion…?

What do you already know for sure about Book Promotion…?

Who could you recommend who knows how to promote books…?

Why do books need careful and devoted promotion…?

Where should books be promoted…?

Does it takes a lot of money to promote books…?

Does an author have to hire others to successfully promote a book…?

Care to share some of your experience with Book Promotion…?

Want to be the first to share a comment so this conversation can continue…? :-)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message