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BlueTexas
01-11-2007, 10:47 AM
I'm this has been covered before, but I was unable to find it. Hope this is posted in the right place.

I'm super-excited, there's finally a new writing group close enough that I can attend.

I'd love whatever advice you all might have to give on how these things work. I've only ever been to one in person group before, and it was so awful I never went back. The one night I was there it was monopolized by an awful self-important jerk. She passed around her new vanity press book of poetry that was just awful and everyone else kow-towed to her. It was not where I wanted to be.

I'm really, really shy about sharing my writing around people whom I don't know, and who have gone to college, because I haven't. This group is at a bookstore very near a college...so...advice, please!

johnzakour
01-11-2007, 05:26 PM
I'm sure you can just go look and listen and take out of it what you can. I'm sure they won't force you to read.

I went to a local writing group in my area a couple of times. I just listened to other people and chimed in with my thoughts now and then.

PeeDee
01-11-2007, 06:49 PM
On the forums, I tend to take a moment and think before I post. That way, it takes me 200 words and a little bit of manners to call someone a damn silly idiot.

I'm always convinced that in a real person writing group, I wouldn't have the same restraint. And if someone got off-the-wall nitpicky, I would wind up with "Cripes, it's a damn STORY, shaddup!"

S'long as you take whatever advice a writer's group can give you with a massive piece of salt (you know, a horse's saltlick) then they can be fun. You can also meet some very intelligent and interesting people with loads of perspective. Unfortunately, writer's groups also contain all the people who didn't get any perspective when they were handing it around.

Definitely try it. You don't have to read, just sit in and listen. You can always say you haven't got anything to read quite yet, but if you come back for another meeting, you'll find something.

And I realize this is no help at all, but I think reading out loud is a delight. I don't do it often, but I enjoy it when I do. For one thing, it changes how you write your stories, because your hind brain goes "That's silly, I'm not going to read that out loud!" It streamlines things, in other words.

Maryn
01-11-2007, 07:12 PM
I'm the co-founder of a local writing group in its 14th year. None of us were published when it started; now we have all seen print, so despite those who nay-say about such groups, for some people they work.

First, don't fret about the college-vs.-no-college aspect. I've seen plenty of your posts here and it's obvious to me that you're not going to embarrass yourself by sharing your writing--when and only when you're ready.

I've got a handout on how our group works; if you'd like me to email a copy, just shoot me a PM with your email address and I'd be glad to.

Any decent group will allow newcomers to observe, not forcing participation. Here are some aspects of a good group:


Members share a common goal, usually paid publication.
Members have equal status. There's no kingpin who considers himself or herself the best writer--even though someone surely is.
The work is not read aloud, since a good reader elevates work.
Writing is not critiqued on the spot but distributed to be read and mulled over for a future meeting.
Members appear to like and respect one another.
The group focuses on a genre, or if it does not, critiques of work in a genre are made only by those who read and/or write in that genre. Poets, screenwriters, and fantasy authors may be unqualified to critique slash erotica, for example, unless they read it.
The members' skill levels are all adequate. Everybody can write competent, comprehensible English with few errors. A writer with poor skills can suck 90% of the group's energy into teaching him or her English basics.
Critique is delivered aloud but is also written. Critics return to the author both a written critique and a marked manuscript, since the author can't remember every remark, and not everything worth noting on a ms. is worth the whole group's time.
The group is friendly but spends most of its meeting time on writing-related activities, not socializing.
The group supports writers facing challenges and celebrates members' successes.


Warning signs of a toxic group include:
A bossy member who dominates others without challenge.
Members whose opinion of the author affects judgment of the writing.
Goals you can't accept as valid--for you. Nothing wrong with writing for self-discovery, recovery, or self-publication, but the standards for success will be wildly different from those who want to sell their writing.
Participation in or tolerance of petty squabbles, favoritism, feuds, etc.
Critiques which suggest the critic doesn't know how to critique, is completely unfamiliar with the genre, or otherwise clueless.
Critiques which subtly bash the writer rather than the work.
Authors who are defensive of their work, even hostile, rather than grateful for all input, including negative.
Members who bend any rules the group might have, such as sharing work containing graphic violence when the group has agreed it won't.
Members who don't pay their share of any tab for food or beverages, unless the others cheerfully cover for him or her, indicating this isn't the norm.
Field trips or guest speakers which benefit only a few members.

Maryn, hoping this helps

PeeDee
01-11-2007, 07:29 PM
The one meeting I attended would appear to have fallen squarely into the "toxic group" category....

johnzakour
01-11-2007, 08:17 PM
I'm the co-founder of a local writing group in its 14th year. None of us were published when it started; now we have all seen print, so despite those who nay-say about such groups, for some people they work.



I don't believe this collaborates the notion that writing groups work. To me that's kind of coincidental data. (There's actually a statisical term for it but I never paid that much attention in stats class.) Who's to say you all wouldn't have been published if you weren't members of a writer's group?

Not that writer's groups don't serve a purpose, they can be helpful, but so can hanging out at the mall and just watching people. So can watching TV. We never know what's going to give us the spark we need.

Try the writing group out, if you like it fine. If not, I don't think it will hurt your career in anyway.

PeeDee
01-11-2007, 08:19 PM
Writer's groups, like writer's forums, have the potential to be fun. I think having fun with like-minded people is well worth it.

johnzakour
01-11-2007, 08:23 PM
Writer's groups, like writer's forums, have the potential to be fun. I think having fun with like-minded people is well worth it.

I won't dispute that. Plus they usually have good snacks. (The groups not the forums....)

PeeDee
01-11-2007, 08:26 PM
Agreed. AW is fine and dandy but the food is frankly lacking around here.


*Worst Joke of the Day Alert*

And I didn't even know Frankly Lacking that well!!!

:D

(sorry)

Kate Thornton
01-11-2007, 08:39 PM
Maryn and PeeDee have excellent points. (No, wait, I mean they *bring up* excellent points. Although whatever pointy things they may have may indeed be excellent. But I digress...)

Go have a good time watching and snacking and see if it looks like it will work for you. Beware the Prima Donnas and the Ugly Bunnies who monopolize and naysay, but give it a try. Ya never know, you might make friends or find long-lost relatives or stumble into a wonderful group.

FergieC
01-11-2007, 09:04 PM
They do vary a lot. I’ve been in loads. One was a back-slapping, oh that was wonderful, dear group of old ladies writing about cats, and a guy with only three stories that he’d written 30 years ago and was still re-writing. One was excellent, with a tutor, and multi-published writers and there were no holds barred on criticism – it could be brutal, and many a new writer was sent skittering away after just watching for one evening (that one, they didn’t let folk read on their first night). Most of the rest have been been in-between – some good writers, good critters, some that were terrible, some groups don’t do an awful lot but are great for social life (which is OK too), others are great introductions to the literary scene if you’ve moved.

So it all depends on what you’re looking for, but they're worth a try, for sure. I still hate reading my writing out loud, but it's good experience, and the groups have given me a chance to get experience in front of larger audiences, with a microphone too at times.

Bubastes
01-11-2007, 09:08 PM
Beware the Prima Donnas and the Ugly Bunnies who monopolize and naysay, but give it a try. Ya never know, you might make friends or find long-lost relatives or stumble into a wonderful group.

I've encountered Prima Donnas, but what's an Ugly Bunny?

PeeDee
01-11-2007, 09:12 PM
I've encountered Prima Donnas, but what's an Ugly Bunny?

People who are idiots and I've shoved a pen in their eye.

:D

Shadow_Ferret
01-11-2007, 09:24 PM
An in person writing group? You mean you actually go out of the house and meet these people, talk to them, shake their hands, and discuss writing?

Ew. No thanks. I hate being around people.

I was a member of one of those and I just did it for the membership card. Never ever met anyone who belongs to it.

farfromfearless
01-11-2007, 09:25 PM
You need to find a group of peers who are mature enough not to discriminate based on your education level. From my limited experience, I found that smaller groups tend to be more productive than larger groups where there is a greater chance for clique socialization - annoying as hell - with smaller groups of folks, its much easier to exchange ideas and get focused feedback that might be more useful than mass feedback from larger groups.

Maryn has made some excellent points about group discussion and what identifies a good group from a toxic one. Groups should act like a round table - everyone is equal, everyone gets a chance to add constructive input and crits; published or not, everyone should know they are all on the same level and act accordingly.

The bottom line is: find a constructive group.

Carmy
01-11-2007, 09:42 PM
Like Maryn, I've been a member of a writing group for 13 years. Most of us are published. We know and trust each other, critiques are good and although they tell it as it is, they are carefully worded to be encouraging.

Writers need feedback from other writers.

PeeDee
01-11-2007, 09:43 PM
Like Maryn, I've been a member of a writing group for 13 years. Most of us are published. We know and trust each other, critiques are good and although they tell it as it is, they are carefully worded to be encouraging.

Writers need feedback from other writers.

Feedback from other writers can be nice, but I wouldn't go so far as to say they need feedback from other writers.

Kate Thornton
01-11-2007, 10:17 PM
I've encountered Prima Donnas, but what's an Ugly Bunny?

Ugly Bunnies are the negative nellies who smile while they softly tell you it's no use trying, your stuff stinks, and despair is the norm. I like PeeDee's method of dealing with them.

PeeDee
01-11-2007, 10:22 PM
They surface online too, complain that the short story market is dead, PublishAmerica is wonderful, the major publishers have always hated personally you and always will, and you are going to die poor and unpublished.

If you get a lot of them, then they act like they're a band of survivors huddled together against the horrible and incomprehensible world of publishing that has rallied itself against them. It's worryingly intense.

johnzakour
01-11-2007, 10:31 PM
Feedback from other writers can be nice, but I wouldn't go so far as to say they need feedback from other writers.

I agree with Pete on this one... It's nice, but unless another writer can buy or sell your work it's not needed and can even get in the way of your progress.

farfromfearless
01-11-2007, 10:36 PM
They surface online too, complain that the short story market is dead, PublishAmerica is wonderful, the major publishers have always hated personally you and always will, and you are going to die poor and unpublished.

If you get a lot of them, then they act like they're a band of survivors huddled together against the horrible and incomprehensible world of publishing that has rallied itself against them. It's worryingly intense.

Off Topic: I read an aticle in the latest issue of The Writer Magazine, by a self-published author - I wish I could remember his name - but the tone of the piece really turned me off; it was mostly beacuse I got the sense that the author lacked the authority of experience in mainstream publishing and many of his points on the cons of publishing mainstream came off more like specualtion. At one point I believe he even admitted this. For him it was a holy grail - for me it was extra padding for my recycle bin.

PeeDee
01-11-2007, 10:48 PM
It worries me, because a perfectly capable writer can get caught up in this "Us vs. Them" theory and washed away from any chance at ever majorly publishing, out of feer and a desire to belong.

...

John, that's twice we've agreed now. Except we never quite disagree. I think the universe is probably out of sync. We need to have a blazing row sometime this week, or everything's going to collapse.

It wasn't until I came on AW that I showed fellow writers anything I wrote. What I did was write it, make it more gooderer, and then it would go to the readers, or to publication, depending on what it was.

The concept of beta reading, or needing auctorial input is a recent concept to me that never occured to me for years and years. I like it, but I like it because it gives me readers, and someone to say either "I like it," or "I don't like it." It doesn't change much else. I can take or leave it. I usually leave it. It's very rare that anyone reads my story who is not an editor at a publisher of some sort, or someone whom I just like having read my stuff for the sheer pleasure of it.

I knew one girl who finished writing a short story and had one hour before she had to go on a trip. She had her market picked out, I told her to send it...but she wouldn't....because she just had to have her Betas look it over. That was six months that story sat around.

Fear is a lot of what drives young writers to do things besides write. Some of it's harmless (some of it, like writer's groups, are fun and a good way to make friends, something I'm always in favor of). Some of it is paying someone 100 dollars to edit your manuscript professionaly, or some tripe like that.

johnzakour
01-11-2007, 10:55 PM
It worries me, because a perfectly capable writer can get caught up in this "Us vs. Them" theory and washed away from any chance at ever majorly publishing, out of feer and a desire to belong.

...

John, that's twice we've agreed now. Except we never quite disagree. I think the universe is probably out of sync. We need to have a blazing row sometime this week, or everything's going to collapse.


I disagree with you on that. (Hopefully that's enough to save the universe...]



It wasn't until I came on AW that I showed fellow writers anything I wrote. What I did was write it, make it more gooderer, and then it would go to the readers, or to publication, depending on what it was.

The concept of beta reading, or needing auctorial input is a recent concept to me that never occured to me for years and years. I like it, but I like it because it gives me readers, and someone to say either "I like it," or "I don't like it." It doesn't change much else. I can take or leave it. I usually leave it. It's very rare that anyone reads my story who is not an editor at a publisher of some sort, or someone whom I just like having read my stuff for the sheer pleasure of it.

I knew one girl who finished writing a short story and had one hour before she had to go on a trip. She had her market picked out, I told her to send it...but she wouldn't....because she just had to have her Betas look it over. That was six months that story sat around.

Fear is a lot of what drives young writers to do things besides write. Some of it's harmless (some of it, like writer's groups, are fun and a good way to make friends, something I'm always in favor of). Some of it is paying someone 100 dollars to edit your manuscript professionaly, or some tripe like that.

Well, put. (Oh no! We are agreeing again!)

BlueTexas
01-11-2007, 11:02 PM
I'm sure you can just go look and listen and take out of it what you can. I'm sure they won't force you to read.

I went to a local writing group in my area a couple of times. I just listened to other people and chimed in with my thoughts now and then.

I think part of the reason I'm actually going this time is because I do have something to read, and need help on at the same time. Shy about it for sure, but I think I need the want the help more than I'm worried about who will think what.

I say this, but we'll see what happens when I get there tonight.

Thanks!

BlueTexas
01-11-2007, 11:05 PM
I'm the co-founder of a local writing group in its 14th year. None of us were published when it started; now we have all seen print, so despite those who nay-say about such groups, for some people they work.

First, don't fret about the college-vs.-no-college aspect. I've seen plenty of your posts here and it's obvious to me that you're not going to embarrass yourself by sharing your writing--when and only when you're ready.

I've got a handout on how our group works; if you'd like me to email a copy, just shoot me a PM with your email address and I'd be glad to.

Any decent group will allow newcomers to observe, not forcing participation. Here are some aspects of a good group:

Members share a common goal, usually paid publication.
Members have equal status. There's no kingpin who considers himself or herself the best writer--even though someone surely is.
The work is not read aloud, since a good reader elevates work.
Writing is not critiqued on the spot but distributed to be read and mulled over for a future meeting.
Members appear to like and respect one another.
The group focuses on a genre, or if it does not, critiques of work in a genre are made only by those who read and/or write in that genre. Poets, screenwriters, and fantasy authors may be unqualified to critique slash erotica, for example, unless they read it.
The members' skill levels are all adequate. Everybody can write competent, comprehensible English with few errors. A writer with poor skills can suck 90% of the group's energy into teaching him or her English basics.
Critique is delivered aloud but is also written. Critics return to the author both a written critique and a marked manuscript, since the author can't remember every remark, and not everything worth noting on a ms. is worth the whole group's time.
The group is friendly but spends most of its meeting time on writing-related activities, not socializing.
The group supports writers facing challenges and celebrates members' successes.
Warning signs of a toxic group include:

A bossy member who dominates others without challenge.
Members whose opinion of the author affects judgment of the writing.
Goals you can't accept as valid--for you. Nothing wrong with writing for self-discovery, recovery, or self-publication, but the standards for success will be wildly different from those who want to sell their writing.
Participation in or tolerance of petty squabbles, favoritism, feuds, etc.
Critiques which suggest the critic doesn't know how to critique, is completely unfamiliar with the genre, or otherwise clueless.
Critiques which subtly bash the writer rather than the work.
Authors who are defensive of their work, even hostile, rather than grateful for all input, including negative.
Members who bend any rules the group might have, such as sharing work containing graphic violence when the group has agreed it won't.
Members who don't pay their share of any tab for food or beverages, unless the others cheerfully cover for him or her, indicating this isn't the norm.
Field trips or guest speakers which benefit only a few members.
Maryn, hoping this helps

Maryn, thank you. The first group I went to sounds like your toxic group. No wonder it's been three years.

I'd no idea that people would take stuff home and write on it - that's good to know!

BlueTexas
01-11-2007, 11:07 PM
Writer's groups, like writer's forums, have the potential to be fun. I think having fun with like-minded people is well worth it.

It would be amazing if that happened. Almost none of my friends have book and writing interests like mine, and if my husband tells me to add one more flowery adverb I might just kill him. He means well, but he's an engineer and believe what he learned in college about writing ( whoever taught him had never heard of Strunk & White.)

BlueTexas
01-11-2007, 11:10 PM
They do vary a lot. Iíve been in loads. One was a back-slapping, oh that was wonderful, dear group of old ladies writing about cats, and a guy with only three stories that heíd written 30 years ago and was still re-writing. One was excellent, with a tutor, and multi-published writers and there were no holds barred on criticism Ė it could be brutal, and many a new writer was sent skittering away after just watching for one evening (that one, they didnít let folk read on their first night). Most of the rest have been been in-between Ė some good writers, good critters, some that were terrible, some groups donít do an awful lot but are great for social life (which is OK too), others are great introductions to the literary scene if youíve moved.

So it all depends on what youíre looking for, but they're worth a try, for sure. I still hate reading my writing out loud, but it's good experience, and the groups have given me a chance to get experience in front of larger audiences, with a microphone too at times.

Thanks for sharing your experience. The more I think about it the more I can't believe I'm nervous about reading my writing - I speak at seminars ( not on writing) and that never bugs me, but this? Why am I freaked out about this?

BlueTexas
01-11-2007, 11:11 PM
Like Maryn, I've been a member of a writing group for 13 years. Most of us are published. We know and trust each other, critiques are good and although they tell it as it is, they are carefully worded to be encouraging.

Writers need feedback from other writers.

That's refreshing to hear - thanks!

BlueTexas
01-11-2007, 11:13 PM
Feedback from other writers can be nice, but I wouldn't go so far as to say they need feedback from other writers.

See, I think I do. I've had a few non-fic pieces published, but something is wrong with my fiction and I can't figure out what.

BlueTexas
01-11-2007, 11:14 PM
They surface online too, complain that the short story market is dead, PublishAmerica is wonderful, the major publishers have always hated personally you and always will, and you are going to die poor and unpublished.

If you get a lot of them, then they act like they're a band of survivors huddled together against the horrible and incomprehensible world of publishing that has rallied itself against them. It's worryingly intense.

Ick. I'll send them to you if I find them!

Popeyesays
01-11-2007, 11:19 PM
I liked the description of 'toxic groups'. The greatest personal problem with presenting to a group is that if you try to staisfy everyone's input your work will come out amalgamate and without a unique voice.

Being aware of that tendency can save one a lot of confusion.

Regards,
Scott

chartreuse
01-12-2007, 04:29 AM
Any decent group will allow newcomers to observe, not forcing participation. Here are some aspects of a good group:

The work is not read aloud, since a good reader elevates work.
Writing is not critiqued on the spot but distributed to be read and mulled over for a future meeting.
The group focuses on a genre, or if it does not, critiques of work in a genre are made only by those who read and/or write in that genre. Poets, screenwriters, and fantasy authors may be unqualified to critique slash erotica, for example, unless they read it.
Maryn, hoping this helps

Maryn - while I certainly can't quarrel with some of your points regarding a "good group," I think the ones I quoted above are simply matters of preference.

My group is the exact opposite regarding these - we read aloud, critique on the spot and all of our members critique everything, no matter how unfamiliar they may be with the genre.

Reading aloud benefits the writer - we catch a large number of typos, clunky phrases, etc., just by this process alone. Critiquing on the spot allows all of us very busy folks to participate in a group without having it interfere inordinately with our writing time, and while not everyone is capable of effectively participating this way, our members are members because the can. And bad writing is bad writing, regardless of genre.

I think the most important thing is to find a group operating with a format that you are personally comfortable with.

As far as trying out a group without participating, our rule is that a potential new member goes through a three-meeting trial. They don't have to bring something every time, but at least once they should. We not only want to get a feel for their critique skill and personality, but for their writing. And the only way to do that is if they participate by sharing one of their own pieces.

johnzakour
01-12-2007, 05:48 AM
See, I think I do. I've had a few non-fic pieces published, but something is wrong with my fiction and I can't figure out what.

In that case it sounds like a writer's group may be able to help. Or you could post material the AW. I'm sure you would get some good critiques.

BlueTexas
01-12-2007, 11:57 AM
Just wanted to let y'all know that I went to the group tonight, and there were only four of us but it was really good. They were total geeks like me and they meet once a week, which I really like. Plus, they had some useful stuff to say and some decent pieces themselves.

Thanks for all your help!

Maryn
01-12-2007, 06:49 PM
Excellent! I'm glad to hear they seemed to be kindred spirits.

Maryn

FergieC
01-12-2007, 07:52 PM
My group is the exact opposite regarding these - we read aloud, critique on the spot and all of our members critique everything, no matter how unfamiliar they may be with the genre.

Where I am now, we actually have a couple of splinter groups. The main one is very large - often 20 people. Work is read (it is distributed before, but folk are bad at getting round to reading it). It's diverse and that can be great, but can be bad too - I know nothing about poetry, for example, and some of the poetry writers don't know much about prose writing.

So a few prose-only writers broke off and formed a separate group which meets less frequently, and where work is read beforehand and considered, then just discussed over a glass of wine, not read out at all. It's also a great group for sharing complete novels for comment.

Another splinter group meets once a month purely for poetry readings - again over wine and in a different setting. And yet another does quite esoteric poetry, music, art atc.

But it was the writing group which initially brought all the diverse groups together, so without it, we wouldn't have any of them.

Jadezuki
01-12-2007, 07:56 PM
-

johnzakour
01-12-2007, 08:07 PM
Just wanted to let y'all know that I went to the group tonight, and there were only four of us but it was really good. They were total geeks like me and they meet once a week, which I really like. Plus, they had some useful stuff to say and some decent pieces themselves.

Thanks for all your help!

Happy ending are always nice. (Even if they are a little cliche.) ;)

Kate Thornton
01-12-2007, 09:05 PM
Just wanted to let y'all know that I went to the group tonight, and there were only four of us but it was really good. They were total geeks like me and they meet once a week, which I really like. Plus, they had some useful stuff to say and some decent pieces themselves.

Thanks for all your help!

Yippee! Keep on going and have a good time! Sometimes it all works out.

NicoleJLeBoeuf
01-12-2007, 09:24 PM
Reading aloud benefits the writer - we catch a large number of typos, clunky phrases, etc., just by this process alone. Critiquing on the spot allows all of us very busy folks to participate in a group without having it interfere inordinately with our writing time, and while not everyone is capable of effectively participating this way, our members are members because the can.The group I attend does a little of both. Full-length story manuscripts are read at home and then discussed in class, but "homework assignments" (pieces written in response to suggested writing prompts) are often read aloud in class--sometimes by a student other than the piece's author, if the author is shy or resting his voice or otherwise unable (a couple students are blind) or simply prefers to hear someone else's reading of it. Those are critiqued on the spot. (Unless the student winds up with a full-length story in response to the homework prompt, which often happens.) Both processes have their value, I think.

My group used to be two groups, and just by coincidence all the wanna-be pros with genre intentions ended up in one group, mine, and all the journaling/memoir-types ended up in the other. So my group had a full manuscript critique just about every meeting, while the other did a lot more in-class exercises and homework discussions. Since the two groups merged, we have story critique every third group, industry/craft discussions every third group, and the in-class and homework prompts as time allows (most every time). It's still useful, but the flavor has really changed.

Another result of the merger is the eye-opening experience of hearing non-genre readers react to fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. Some of them rationalize away the fantastic as though the story were subject to the same rules as reality--which is really, really weird to me. "I don't understand why the main character is hallucinating a ghost. I think you could better develop their background issues that lead to their mental disturbance." It can be useful just to learn how to tell the difference between a critique that points up a weakness in the writing, and a critique which demonstrates that the reader is the wrong audience for the story.