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Posts Tagged ‘writing group’

I belong to a writer’s group where we gather once a month to critique one another’s works and once a month to just write.

I know I can be rather harsh when it comes to critiquing other people’s writing (and don’t mind harsh critiques on my work – all the ghods know I need it!), so I’ve wracked my brain for ways to soften the blow and better explain what I mean.

I accidentally hit on food.

Yeah, it surprised me, but it works.  A story is a lot like a recipe.  So I started making the foods that I used to critique a story.

One person is writing a memoir about his time as a Vietnam Vet. His story is firm and meaty and a little bit juicy, but kind of dry. When I made my first bacon apple pie, it was a lot like that. It needed more juice, more spices, a touch less meat, and a firmer crust, just like his story, so when I tried to tell him kindly he needed to juice it up with more emotions and spice it up with more personal heart, and maybe bring in some raisins for that unexpected delight, kind of like that bacon apple pie. I think he sort of got where I was going, but not really.

So I baked that bacon apple pie two ways – the way his story was currently written, and the way I’d tweaked it to make the pie something divinely delicious.

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Once everyone had eaten some of each pie, they knew exactly what I meant.

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The next time we critiqued his tale, it was much improved.

And then there was the sweet little flash fic critique that was nicely written but normal and predictable. I suggested it get something to twitch it up to unexpected, like watermelon pie. Everyone knows pie, and everyone knows a nice cream pie, but watermelon?

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Delightful, sweet, exactly what people expected until they bit into it and then – watermelon!

Haven’t read the rewrite yet, but I am anticipating it!

Now, I have to figure out how to deconstruct a lovely sushi platter so all the parts are there, but nothing is connected. There’s a story that has everything it needs to be good, but it’s all in pieces that need to be pulled together into not just a pretty platter, but an exquisite dish that is beautiful as well as delicious. I think he can do it.

And there’s this dense novel that has the most gorgeous language and use of words but it’s hard to digest and not to everyone’s taste.  It’s a fruitcake that’s all fruit, and hardly any cake – no glaze, no rum, some nuts.  I have to make both the fruitcake as written and the fruitcake it could be.

I’ve said I have to give this dense darling some time before I can fully critique it.

The food correlation won’t work with every story, but I think it does help make the critique clear and gives the author some direction without me trying to put words in their mouth.

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Mind, I do belong to a writer’s group, and they are very nice people. Some are published, most aren’t anywhere near ready to publish. That kind of inspired me to get off my lazy tush and start submitting some of my own fiction.

I’ve spent way too many years writing NaNovels and short stories off of pinterest prompts and doing nothing with them. They’ve languished on floppies and flash drives.

So, even though the people in this writing group don’t really understand what I write (they write crime novels and autobiographies and modernized Bible stories), they do their best for me. They’ve helped. I hope I’ve also helped them.

Being part of this group has solidified for me what I really want in a writer’s group, though.

And here it is:

A) gets together to WRITE (write ins, word wars, 1 day writing retreats, observation journaling, word challenges, writing games, first lines, flash fiction…). Part of each meeting is actively writing together, or the actively writing together is done once a month, with the other 3 meetings consisting of critiques, classes, guest speakers, progress reports, marketing tips, and other writer-related activities.

B) has progress reports (charts, accountability, swag*).

C) does reading swaps for critiquing (not only or always group critiques – that takes too long, especially at novel lengths).

D) encourages writing any length, any medium, any genre.

E) holds writing “classes” (character creation, journaling, lexicon work, sentence and paragraph creation, world building, set design, themes, plots…).

F) has local author guest speakers.

G) pairs writing partners for in-depth support and help.

H) meets weekly (monthly is just too slow, especially if you miss a meeting).

I) actively assists with marketing because so many authors are self-publishing now.

J) gives publication parties – for any length and any medium (maybe works with a bookstore on this when it’s novel length, and includes book sales and signing?).

Thus, a meeting would be spent:

1) 15 minutes of timed writing
2) 15 – 30 minutes discussion of critiques given
3) 15 minutes of progress reports
4) 30 minute “class” or guest speaker
5) 15 minutes marketing shares
6) 15 – 30 minutes socializing

Total meeting length – 2 – 2.5 hours.

(My minimum requirements are A), C), D), E), G), H), I), and J).)

*Swag could consist of stickers, badges, pencils, pens, plot ninjas, muse figures, plot bunnies, mini notebooks, flash drives, buttons, clappers, small packets of nuts or dried fruit snacks, small packets of tea (or cocoa, or mini bottles of booze, if the group is old enough…), themed magnets, bumper stickers, key fobs, post its, index cards, lip balm, hand lotion, literary bandages, writing related ink stamps, paper clips, book marks, and so on,most come from trashy treasures stores like Dillon Imports or MG Novelty or Oriental Trading Company. Stickers, buttons, and badges can be made on a printer and use a button making machine.

I like buttons and button making, but that’s probably because I have a button making machine. If I had a color printer, I’d probably be more into sticker making. Badges – well, those could be stickers or buttons or even computer badges to put on one’s website, not necessarily fabric badges to sew on.

Am I asking too much?

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