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Writing groups and other people’s opinions

April 22, 2011

In an earlier post, I discussed writing as a solitary craft as opposed to a social venture. Let us have a look at a few ways that writing can be used when others are involved.

I’d like to thank my readers for playing along with the 140 characters challenge. Some of the pitches were absolutely stunning! If you want to read even more great pitches, please visit Write Your Own Story. I was thrilled that she spread the word on her blog and got her readers to participate.
I think that one of the things I like most about blogging is exactly this kind of thing. Interacting, getting to know other writers (and readers), being able to share experiences and getting inspired. Blogs are a great way to share writing prompts and challenges. I’m getting increasingly glad that I finally caved in and made a blog.

On this side of the screen, I am in two writing groups. One has been in existence for several years and meets weekly or biweekly, while the other is a looser (not loser!) group of NaNoWriMo writers in my local area.
A while ago, The Empty Pen discussed writing groups and bringing a piece for critique and because I thought it really interesting to read how other groups work, I thought I’d share what my groups do.

In the first writing group, we are six regular members. A couple of days before our meetings, one of us puts up a short piece (max 2,000 words) on our intern website. The others then read it and prepare a critique for the next meeting. Sometimes it’s a complete short story, but very often it’s a chapter or a scene from a novel project. What the six of us have in common is writing and reading and an age group spanning just about a decade. We have different backgrounds (though all of us are somewhat bookish) and tastes in literature. I find it nice to get different points of view on what I write, and now that we have been doing it for a while, I often know what kind of response to expect from the various members. We all have our little pet peeves or key issues.
After we have discussed the text, the writer of it gets to decide a challenge or writing prompt for everybody. This can be anything. We’ve had to write a colour, draw a random genre out of a hat, do β€œwhat if” scenarios with characters from our novel projects, write a scene based on a quote from a book, write a story only in dialogue and so on. Basically a bit of everything. Usually we read our take on each challenge out loud for the others to hear and comment.
Eaach year in December we do a crossover story where we “donate” a couple of characters each and then take turns in writing an episode. Our poor characters have been through a lot (including hitting Santa Claus with a car and saving the world from zombie elves).

The NaNoWriMo group I only joined this year. We only meet every second month. A few of us sometimes get together more often for a write-in. We don’t do a lot of organised critiques or writing prompts, but at the moment we are writing two collaborative stories. We are five people doing one of them (two chapters each). Unfortunately I can’t reveal the concept now, but we are working from a certain set of key words that have been predetermined for each chapter and will decide where the story goes. The other is a chain writing experiment where one person writes 500 words, sends it on to the next who then writes 500 words and sends only those 500 on to the next person and so on. I’m sure that will take us somewhere funny.

If any of you have experiences with writing groups, please share how you go about it. Do you do writing prompts? Comment each other’s stories? How about critique groups online? (I haven’t really tried that, but I’d like to hear how they work.)

Finally, please allow me a moment of plugging. My story, Treasure, is going live on Every Day Fiction on the 26th of April. Right around the corner. (I’m slightly anxious to see what people think of it.) I hope some of you will take a moment to read it.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2011 4:27 pm

    Congrats on the publication! I’ll definitely have to check it out next week.

    I’ve been a part of a few writing groups, including doing workshops in my MFA program. They’ve all been different, and most have been helpful in different ways.

    One of the biggest benefits I’ve found to a good writing group is that it’ll keep you honest. You have to keep writing to be part of it, so it helps you put those words on the page in the first place.

    Like

    • April 22, 2011 9:17 pm

      Thank you very much!
      And that’s a really good point. We start every meeting with a “what have we been writing since last time” round, and it makes me better at keeping track of what I’m doing (and that I am doing something) one week to the next.

      Like

  2. April 22, 2011 6:03 pm

    For me, it’s important to have a writing group made up of people who have the same goals (to be traditionally published, to be self-published, writing just as a hobby).

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    • April 22, 2011 9:20 pm

      I can definitely see your point with that. We have talked about goals in the “regular” group. We don’t have exactly the same goals, but we’re leaning in the same direction.

      Like

  3. April 23, 2011 12:06 pm

    Congratulations on “Treasure”…how exciting! I look forward to reading it.

    And thank you for linking back. It’s always interesting to see how other writing groups work, so I’m enjoying the comments as well as your post. I like the idea of donating characters. That sounds like an interesting challenge…I’m picturing who in my group would love it and who would be resistant! Funny how well you get to know people from meeting only once a month.

    Like

    • April 23, 2011 12:12 pm

      Thank you! I hope you’ll like it. πŸ˜€

      And you’re welcome. πŸ™‚ I like exchanging experiences and ideas like this. It is quite funny. We usually do an outline for the story first and some character profiles so that everybody involved get to know the characters well. Crossovers are fun!

      Like

  4. April 26, 2011 3:50 pm

    “Treasure” is adorable. πŸ™‚

    I’m in an online writing group of sorts- ROW80- but the group mainly exists to give its members moral support. Not much in the way of critiquing. Before I moved out east, I was in an in-person poetry group. We would tear each others’ poems to shreds. (Not literally.) I miss that.

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    • April 26, 2011 4:14 pm

      Aw, thank you! (And for the comment on EDF too. Much appreciated! :D)
      Moral support is a good thing. We do that as well in my groups. I can understand why you would miss the critique part, though. It’s really useful, and meeting in person is too I think.

      Like

  5. christicorbett permalink
    April 27, 2011 5:39 am

    I belong to a writers group and while I was excited to be with like-minded “writing” people when I first joined, lately I’m starting to reconsider my participation.

    I’m the only one actively looking for publication so I’m missing out on sharing the query letter journey, synopsis troubles, and marketplace news.

    I live in a small town (like, only ONE stoplight kind of small town) so there aren’t really any other options :(.

    To make matters worse, my beta reader has up and disappeared.

    Ok, rant over. I think this is exactly why connecting with other writers online is so important!

    Christi Corbett
    http://christicorbett.wordpress.com

    Like

    • April 27, 2011 9:29 am

      I understand your dilemma there. Hopefully you can still get something out of being with other writers even though they don’t share your ambitions exactly. And, like you say, connecting with writers online is important because it can give you something else.
      Thank you for your comment – on EDF too! I’m glad you liked the story! πŸ˜€

      Like

    • April 27, 2011 2:51 pm

      Christi, I feel your pain. It can be really tough to find people who share your same goals, level of dedication and commitment.

      I’d suggest searching out some groups online. One that I know can be pretty helpful is http://www.critters.org. That’s only for sci-fi, fantasy and horror, but I’m sure there are others if you’re in a different genre.

      Also, there are a number of Yahoo groups and that kind of thing that a little searching will ferret out.

      Good luck!
      -Nate

      Like

  6. April 28, 2011 4:06 pm

    Don’t mind at all! Just hope people find it helpful.

    Like

    • April 28, 2011 4:27 pm

      Thank you! I think they will. I’m digging around for more of the same kind and have found some that I’ll look into.

      Like

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