A Writing Group.

Discussion in 'Writing' started by Nostra, Feb 25, 2010.

  1. Nostra

    Nostra Amatuer Writer

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    This is only my second post here and I might come off as a bit pretentious in posting about this, or maybe be written of (see the joke, written off? 'cuz we're writers... hilarious!) as a scammer or somesuch. I hope not, and if you're interested in helping to form a writing-group you should read on!

    Now, this will in no way steal members from this site, at least that isn't the intention. The idea is to form a group of up to twenty people (though I'm thinking we'll stay at a more manageable 5-10) interested in improving their writing and polishing the material they churn out in a environment which the writers can feel secure in posting without risk of the material being regarded as "published" by publishers of various kinds. Not to say that everyone must have as a goal to be published in some way, but showing the material for the group shouldn't decrease the possibility. Think of it as a closed circle of alpha and beta readers, something all writers should have, I would even go as far as saying need to have if they want to improve on their writing.

    Why not just do all that here, or on any other writing forum?
    Well, in my own case I do want to get published, and the things I will share will be material I will submit to magazines, traditional publishers or one day publish on my own. Therefore I don't want it to be lying around on a (relatively) public forums, which might lower my chances at achieving those goals.

    All right, but why?
    The group's focus will be on reading and criticizing original material provided by its members. That means that we won't be a discussion forum, I leave discussions, guides on writing and such to forums like this one, after all the goal isn't to replace but to supplement forums and sites such as this one.

    The advantages of a writing group formed over the web is that we likely will be more honest and upfront with each other when giving criticism, which, at least according to me, is much preferred to the unconditional thumbs up generally given by close relatives and friends. It also allows us to form bonds with like-minded across the globe, which definitely is an advantage, especially if you, like me, have a rather paltry number of friends as passionate about books as yourself.

    How will it be done then?
    This hasn't been decided, but I have a few ideas on it. A private forum or blog, or maybe a mailing list. Suggestions are very welcome and if you know of other groups that have a great way of doing this tips or contact info are even more welcome.

    This sounds interesting, so what now?
    Well, the purpose of this post and others like it on other forums and sites is to get a feel of the waters, see if there's any interest in joining as well as put the concept on print, so to say. Hopefully we'll receive both responses from people willing to join and helpful tips on how realize this in the best way possible. My hope is that at around this weekend we'll have gotten a group together and started working on a foundation for us to work from.

    Okey, I'm done now. Any and all questions are welcome and I'll do my best in answering them as soon as possible! Constructive criticism is welcomed as well. ;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2010
  2. krysti

    krysti Registered User

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    I think this is a great idea. I too am relatively new to this forum, and have spent a fair bit of time reading through many posts that have quite helpful knowledge I am sure to use at some point in the future, as well as interesting stories, banter, and discussions that may actually help my writing as it develops. In addition to helping with individual writing abilities and everything, I think it has the potential to also help individuals keep writing on a fairly regular basis--at least, it would me--and not just in spurts here and there when their schedule made it easier.

    While I would love to join a group like you are suggesting, as well as this forum, I unfortunately wouldn't really be able to be very active in it until May or so, since I am currently in the middle of a university semester that requires 90% or so of my focus. Not much time for outside writing, or beneficial input towards that of others. If a group comes together, though, and my slow start is not an insurmountable problem, I am definitely game!
     
  3. Final07

    Final07 Slave to the Cruel Pen

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    Sounds promising, I'm game. I have a novel I've been working on forever and I'd love to have some constructive criticism hammer it into a publishable piece of prose. As far as the means, I think emails would probably be the most efficient way if you're anything like me (I check my email 2-3 times a day for updates).
     
  4. Nostra

    Nostra Amatuer Writer

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    And update!

    All right, we've had some good response from people around the net and things are shaping up! Here is a list of requirements/rules for the group, if you are still interested give a reply here and I'll put you on the list of potential members! Oh, and I will need your contact information (will be hard to contact you otherwise), MSN, email, twitter, which ever you prefer, send it in a PM if you don't feel comfortable about sharing it. Oh, and there might be more rules or requirements

    @Krysti: You're definitely right on the point of more regular writing, this is actually one of the reasons I decided to go through with it now. The more motivation the better, I say! As for a slow start, no, that isn't a problem, it's more important that you join it as a long term project.

    @Final07: I was leaning towards emails myself to begin with, then I realized that I have no idea how to make that work. Right now I'm thinking a forum might be best, if only because I have some experience with that sort of thing.

    Here's the rules/requirements!

    - A good grasp of English. Might be a bit redundant, but it is still important.

    - Any kind of writing, that means fiction (any genre), non-fiction (articles, essays, journals etc), or whatever catches your fancy. We might notice that some material get more attention than others though, depending on the tastes of the group, but we’ll strive to give everything decent feedback.

    - Participation, we won’t force anyone to sit for hours at end each day contributing, but regular submissions (both of own material and feedback for others) will be required, otherwise there would be little point of the group, right? Sitting down once a week for half an hour to help out or send out your good would probably be enough. Of course, you’re welcome to spend as much time as you want on this and you won’t be thrown out just because you’re absent for some time, everything doesn’t allways work out as planned and we all have to take Life into account.

    Be honest with yourself, this should be a long term project so if you don't think you can stay more than a month or two it might be better to find another group.

    - Respect, this is very important, especially when giving criticism, do your best to not come off as a jerk to the one you’re giving feedback, it’ll ensure that the atmosphere stays healthy and that we can get along with each other.

    - Don’t apologize for your work. Don’t be embarrassed by it. What you’ve written is most likely bettter than what most people could produce so there’s absolutely no reason to feel awkward over it, show it and we can help you make it even better than it already is.

    - Plagiarism, this won’t be tolerated. There is little I loath as much as stealing another’s work and claim it as one’s own. Fan fictions are no problem, but don’t try to claim that the world your story is set in as yours if it isn’t. Give credit where credit is due.

    Speaking of which, thanks to Absolute Write (www.absolutewrite.com) for many great tips on writing groups!
     
  5. shevdon

    shevdon www.shevdon.com

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    The idea of having a critique group over the web is a good one. The advantages, as you say, are that you can be relatively honest with each other and that you don't have to physically meet to exchange critique.

    You have a number of challenges to face, though, such as how it will work and how you will deal with the asymmetry inherent in such arrangements. By asymmetry I mean that one person may put forward 20,000 words for comment every week whereas another may find that producing 1,000 words in four weeks is challenging. You can see how this may breed resentment over time.

    You will also have to deal with the politics of the group. In any self-defined group there will be issues: Who sets the rules? Are they fair? Do they favour one person over another? Is one person being unduly critical of others?

    These are challenges you must face, and that's before anyone has written anything. The biggest danger is that friendship and common cause overtake criticism and you begin to tell each other what you want to hear. At that point a group becomes counter-productive.

    May I suggest, as an alternative that you consider joining one of the established groups. The one I belong to is Critters, which has members numbering in the thousands. If you are set on forming your own group then may I suggest that you at least use something like critters as the basis for your rules of engagement.

    Critters works like this:

    • Every week you receive an email containing this week's batch of writing up for critique. You can choose to critique one or more pieces from this list.
    • You are required to critique one piece from 2,000 - 20,000 words for three weeks in four to be a critter in good standing - i.e the ration between the number of critiques you have submitted and the number of weeks you've been a member is 75%
    • If you are in good standing you can submit to the queue, the list of items coming up for critique, usually in three to five weeks time.
    • When your item comes up for critique, you will receive numerous critiques from other aspiring writers, all of whom are strongly encouraged to critique in a positive and constructive way.
    • You learn from critiquing others - and there is plenty of material to work on - and from the critiques sent to you.
    • The organiser does not participate. It is run for the community, not by the community. The rules are strict but fair and they are proven over time. There is no advantage to any one writer or critter.
    • You have to earn credit in order to get critique. This encourages people to comment and participate. This is a highly active community with members who are professional writers as well as complete newbies.

    Anyway, check it out, if only to see how a long established and successful community have organised themselves.

    Good luck.
     
  6. Taramoc

    Taramoc Author and Game Designer

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    Hi Nostra,
    I've been running a workshop/writing group on this forum for the last three years (I just bumped the thread up from page 2. It's the "SFF Workshop" thread, and has the most responses in the writing forum), and I have to say it has helped me immensely.

    Many people on this forum have been part of it, at one point or another, all of them with great profit. We have used a couple of different formats over the years, and if you are interested I can rely to you my experience.

    In the last couple of months, it has started to dwindle. I think it has just come to a natural end of his lifespan :)

    Considering that we have had 114 submissions, all of them fully critiqued, I think we can say we have been very successful. Regardless, I'll probably be following your effort and may be join. I'm trying to decide if I'm ready to just write on my own :)

    Good luck with this, it's definitively worth the effort.

    Taramoc
     
  7. Nostra

    Nostra Amatuer Writer

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    Although critter does have some appealing elements it's not what I am looking for. With this group I want a more personable atmosphere where you don't just get a one-shot critique/review of something but where a discussion of the work can take place and lead to more in-depth results, for both critic and writer. I also think that there is value in staying with a smaller group, though arguably there are dangers with it too, as you point out. One advantage with a smaller group like this is that we can easily discuss and, hopefully, reach consensus on things such as rules, story parameters and whatnot.

    Taramoc, I'll check out the SFF workshop and see if I can steal some advice from it, if you got some that'd be lovely too! And you are very welcome to join us if you decide to.