Monday, March 1, 2010

Writing Group Essentials

About a decade ago, I didn't know I was capable of writing a whole novel.The idea of keeping a story going for 300 pages seemed impossible. I knew I could write. I'd always had teachers commend my writing. I loved writing stories even when I was eight years old. I owe some credit to a third grade teacher who had us write creative stories and then mimeographed the pages and gave them to us. Ever since that first publishing experience I was hooked! It was my goal to get published again. After going back to school and getting a degree in English, I hoped to continue on with my development and so we formed a writing group. For our first meeting,I wrote a short, short story without an ending. I essentially had three interesting characters, a great setting, and a good premise and from there my first novel, "A Question of Trust" was born. Since then I've published a 2nd book and written three more that I hope will someday find a home. I owe most of my writing success to my writing groups.
Here's a few guidelines: 1. Take your writing group day seriously. This means to plan on having something to share each time. Your group can only handle so many times, of "I didn't write anything this time."
2. Whether you meet once a month, twice, or every week, try very hard to make it to most of your meetings. Put it on the calendar and plan around it.
3. Keep the group small enough that you can each share your writing and discuss it. I belong to two Critique groups, both with 3 to 5 members. You each need at least 30 minutes to share and discuss.
4. Plan on catching up with the latest news, but don't let this dominate your discussion. If you need to use a timer.
5. Don't let one person dominate. If it's you--cool it next time.
6. When critiquing always give more positive comments then negative ones. Most of us learn more from what we are doing right, than what we are doing wrong. Don't just make up a suggestion if you don't really think it. Bad advice is not better than no advice.
7. Be generous. If you know of good resources, contests, workshops, publication options, then share with the group.
8. Share in each others joys and sorrows. In one of my groups when I'd been rejected yet another time, the group had a little sympathy tea for me. It made me feel better to know they cared. When I got my first book published, I took my first group out to breakfast to celebrate. When someone get's published--be genuinely happy for them. Your time will come!
9. You can get over-grouped. In other words, if you go to so many writing groups that you are having trouble finding the time to write, then it may be time to cut back.
10. If you haven't found a group to join, then start your own.


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Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I love my writing group. We've been meeting for over 20 years. These ladies have been with me through it all, my lows and highs. I'm glad I found your blog. Hope to see you at the Storymakers conference. :)