Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Writing Groups and Miscellania

Stewart asked about our writing groups over on his blog, and C. S. Harris answered for the group that I'm in with her. Stewart also asked why our group stopped doing critiques, however, and I thought I might give my take on it. Others in the group might have additional views, but from my perspective there were several reasons.

1. One member of our core group was already in another group that did extensive critiques and didn't want to do them in both groups.

2. When our group first started out it was quite a bit larger than six people and only some members were actively and consistently writing. The non-writing members would tend to get the short end of the stick if we did critiques every week.

3. By the time we winnowed down to our core group, most of us felt that our limited time could be better used by discussing the larger details of writing, like characters, plot, etc., than by covering the nuts and bolts and specifics of a single piece.

4. Even though we don't consistently do critiquing, I think we'd all feel comfortable in sharing a piece of our work that we were having particular trouble with. I have several times, and have always got good feedback.


Under miscellania, I rough drafted my next column for The Illuminata yesterday and once more--and even more--I owe a debt to those of you here in the blogosphere. The piece is going to be on characters and discussions online from Sid, Stewart, C.S., Steve and Sphinx Ink were very helpful. Salud!


Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

I'm intrigued. I've never been in a group that didn't critique. Wait, I'll backtrack. The Michigan Horror Writers, which said it was a splinter group from the Michigan group of the Horror Writers of America, didn't do any critiques.

Of course, they also said that they were also into other aspects of horror, such as watching film together, having social functions, etc. And seldom, if ever, actually talked about writing.

I think I am inspired though. I think perhaps that I will propose to my group in Chesterfield that we explore discussing some aspect, and perhaps shift focus a touch.

I am interested in how your discussions run, who picks the topic, how the discussion works for you as writers.

I don't mean to be a mench about this, but I really am interested.

Charles Gramlich said...

Stewart, when we are running low on topics we'll take a meeting and spend some time brainstorming future topics. One member writes these down and later emails them to us all. A lot of times, however, topics come up naturally during the roundtable part of our meeting, where we all go around to talk for a few minutes about our writing week. If we get excited about a topic we cover it right there and put off the "selected" topic until the following week. We never seem to run out of topics, although sometimes we'll come back to one we might have talked about a year earlier. But new experiences make it new again.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Believe it or not, I've never workshopped a story, nor have I been part of a writers group. I prefer to read my work to my students and study their reactions. I get plenty of, "Your story sucks," from the inmates. I suppose I'd probably benefit from being with a group of my peers, but I'd rather spend the time writing on my own.

nolasteve said...

In addition to the Wordsmiths with Charles, I have been in several critique groups over the years. I think that the thing that makes Wordsmiths work so well is a delicate balance of interest and skills. We don’t have the same reading interest, but we respect the interest of others and most of all, we are all curious about writing. For the past few months, maybe as long as a year, we have been trying to understand readers. What hooks them. What turns them on and off. What makes them read on into the night and what makes them put a book down never to be touched again.