On Friday Glenn and and I visited our local writers’ group to talk with them about writing and getting published. The Pig Tail Alley Writers’ Group has been in existence for eighteen years, quite a record. Seven writers now make up the group and they have a wide range of interests from mysteries to YA. One of the topics we discussed was writing groups themselves. I thought I might cover some of the information here since I rarely see writers’ groups discussed anymore.
My writing critique partner and I began a group in Okeechobee about five years ago. We decided from our experiences with other groups that the first thing we needed to do was come up with a set of guidelines, one not so rigid that it wouldn’t allow for writers with different goals, but would lay out critique etiquette as well as the manner in which the group would proceed.
Here’s a run-down on what we developed:
KNOW YOUR GOALS. BE PROFESSIONAL
Provide constructive feedback to writers serious about developing their craft with the goal of writing something for presentation and publication.
Bring manuscripts in professional format: double spaced, indent, pages numbered, spell-checked.
(The goals of the writers may be different from one another, some may wish to get published, others not, but we believed one goal for all should be improving their writing.)
PROVIDE COURTEOUS, CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM
Offer courteous, constructive criticism.
Help others improve their writing without rewriting their work.
Respect the person’s own writing voice.
(No one can improve with vague input such as “I liked it” if there are no specifics why it worked or what didn’t work and why. We were adamant that others should not write for the person, however.)
Accept feedback as well intended.
Try to find something positive to say first.
Stay on track during discussion.
(Since we met only once a week and rarely saw one another between times, we found it necessary to take a few minutes at the beginning to catch up on news, both personal and professional. It was easier to stay on track during the readings and critiques.)
Respond to reader’s work after they’ve read. Do not interrupt during the reading.
Read five pages (double spaced) or less of your original work unless otherwise indicated.
(It’s necessary to provide your writing members with your work to be able to give precise feedback. It’s difficult to critique writing if you only hear the work.)
If you’re bringing a guest, please let us know.
(We thought this was only polite.)
Groups may develop different guidelines especially with respect to number of pages read, but there are points here that can be applied to all writing groups especially with respect to feedback
Not all writing groups work equally well. I suspect part of the problem may be that the members have not agreed upon a way to proceed. Written guidelines help.
Have you joined a writers’ group, several? What have been your experiences? What have you found makes a group work well?