Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Writing Groups Part 4: Organization

Just three pieces of my presentation left to post here. The last three sections are a little shorter than what came before. Here's Part 4.  Thanks to everyone for reading.

What about group leadership and rules? Support groups have elected officers. Most Discussion & Critique groups don’t. However, some jobs still have to get done. These are:

a. Timekeeper. Organizing humans is like herding cats. Someone has to call meetings to order, and let people know when time is up.
         
b. Moderator. In Discussion groups, there’s usually a topic. Leeway may exist but someone has to bring people back on topic when they drift. It’s best if people police themselves but they won’t always. Moderators may also deal with cross-talk, where individual conversations start while someone else is reviewing.
Moderators may remind members of certain rules. My group asks writers not to comment significantly until all reviews are done.

c. Taking Minutes? Some groups have a member take minutes. I don’t think it’s necessary.
         
Group Rules: Best Rule = Be Flexible. Rules should be a group decision. We voted on ours democratically, and can change them the same way. Any member can make a proposal for change.

Procedures: These vary widely from group to group. For my critique group, submissions are sent to the group via an email listserve. Reviewers print a copy of the piece, make notes on it ahead of time, then discus their thoughts at the meeting. Reviewers give copies of marked up pieces to the author. This creates another job: “Keeper of the List.” This person adds new submissions to the review list as they come in. I handle this job in my group.

As far as length of submissions go, shorter is better. We generally look for five to ten pages of material at a time. We look at single chapters of novels, and sometimes longer short stories of up to twenty pages. I’ve shared parts of two novels with the group but they’ve never seen every bit of those novels. I needed the most help early in the process.

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12 comments:

Brian Miller said...

ok, so maybe my previous comment works this in as well...ha...having expectations establishes the group dynamic...

SzélsőFa said...

If only the offline discussion/critique group was as organized as the one described here... Sometimes we take one path and go further and further away from the subject ...

Charles Gramlich said...

Brian, yes indeed.

Szelsofa, it's probably easier to keep folks on task in person.

Cloudia said...

It is good to have very basic, agreed upon rules....



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Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, the Timekeeper is one of the most important elements of any group, I think, especially since everyone likes to talk and no one wants to listen these days. I believe every speaker is entitled to his or her sound bytes.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, you flounder without them.

Prashant, our group has been together long enough to generally function well, but in the early days timekeeper was much more demanding. I've been in a group where the timekeeper couldn't keep us on task and the meetings just turned into social events that bored me.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

Those would work for sure.

Oscar said...

People tend to wander away in any group and bring up another subject. Some has to keep them on track.

Riot Kitty said...

So have you ever had someone hand you the whole manuscript draft and say, "I need this critiqued my tomorrow!" ?

the walking man said...

I hope you and Lana have a good and happy Christmas Charles I am not going to comment on the post until i read that which came before.

SzélsőFa said...

Oh, no... While I see your point and find it valid, I experienced the opposite. On the online critique group, there is no actual chat between tehe members, there's only the talk between writer and betareader. And there's no use in meandering.

On the offline writers' group on the other hand, where people actuall meet in person, there is always so much talking about non~related subjects... :(

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernard, thankee.

Oscar, it's amazing how off topic folks can get.

Riot Kitty, we've had people ask for inappropriate amounts of criticism. We try to accommodate folks who have deadlines but enough is enough.

Mark, thanks, man. Same to you and yours.

Szelsofa, yes, offline this can be a serious problem. That's why you have to have someone who will pull the group back on topic.