Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Writing Groups

If you're a writer, and have aspirations for having your work published... or just want to have more than yourself enjoy it, joining a writing group can be a good thing.

These groups can be paid or unpaid, beginning or advanced, but the thing that makes them work is that you get to receive on your work and share feedback on others' work. I've been a part of several writing groups in the L.A. area, and while in the beginning it can be a little intimidating to be vulnerable with strangers, it ultimately can be helpful to get the perspectives of other writers to see how they're feeling it, what works, what doesn't work. And it doesn't mean you have to change everything that's suggested. It means you get a perception of how others perceive your work. Take it or leave it. But being open to all feedback, and not taking it personally, is important.

I belonged to two groups led by my writing teacher, Kerry Madden. She's great. And sets a positive tone for all her classes and groups... meaning we're all here to learn, share, grow, and untimately leave the group with the best manuscript possible for submission to literary journals or to agents and publishers. Kerry's groups tend to have start and end dates... meaning, they don't go on forever. This is a good thing. Sometimes you want change. A new group. New people to stimulate you.

Formats are different. For Kerry's groups, she facilitates discussion. The group follows a simple format. The week before being critiqued, 2 or 3 writers share copies of their work to be critiqued (usually 8 - 10 pages maximum per week). We take them home, read, and answer three simple questions in our written responses, that we discuss the following week. Those questions center around what images we saw/perceived, what you'd call the manuscript, and questions you have for the reader... always asked in an "I wonder..." There's a name for the feedback method, but I can't recall off hand.

So how do you find a writing group in your area? You can visit a community college writing teacher for information. You can post a notice in a library or online site. You can enroll in a class, and then start a group once the class is over. Many writers run groups in between their books. I'll think of other ways to find a group.

One thing being in writing groups has taught me... how to give feedback to a work-in-progress that really helps your fellow writer. And learning how to give feedback has also taught me to look for those same things I critique in my own works-in-progress.

There are pros and cons to joining writing groups. You have to judge for yourself. But... I can tell you it definitely helps to have other eyes, preferably other writers (for literary form and style and story consistency) as well as regular readers like your cousin Nae Nae (for how readers might perceive a work), see your work before sending it out to journals, newsletters, agents... or publishing it on your own.

You want to have your best work presented when you decide to present it.


daahsar said...

Sound like something I would be interested it. Sorry it took me a bit to make my rounds to your blog... I do have a few friends who's really into your writing and they convince me to read Down for Whatever (I checked out my local bookstore but not copy so I'm ordering it from Amazon.) congratulations on your writting success!

~^^~Elsie~^^~ said...

Yes, I'm a member of a couple of writing groups. Through the Creative Writing courses I've taken, I've received some positive feedback and constructive criticism. Fred, you make some valid points about other writers helping writers and about perceptions. We all perceive differently. This helps a lot.