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Thursday, April 29, 2010


In the Company of Friends

In the past, I've written how little time I've had to join a writers' critique group. Recently I read an account in the North Carolina Writers' Network newsletter about another woman's experience with joining a writing group with two other women.
It seemed to confirm my hesitancy to join or develop a group. (Why else would I make excuses for having too little time to honor my writing?)
I had figured that I didn't need a group to support my writing, even though it's been a few years since I worked with a reader or anyone else willing to read or support my fiction writing. Putting your writing into the company of friends is wonderful; putting your writing in the hands of strangers is like jumping off a cliff with your eyes closed, hands tied and...well, I can think of several other uncomfortable comparisons.
In the newsletter story, the writer tells how she met two women at a writing conference. She was asked to join with the two others to create a writers group. However, the narrator explains how once the meetings started, neither woman in her group were supportive of her writing or as her situation as a mother. Instead of finding the positive in her writing, each lead with the dismissive comments and negatives.
Apparently, after that, they never moved into the positives.
After a particularly difficult meeting, happily, the narrator never met with the ladies again.
However, reading this account didn't make me less of a fan of writing groups. It made me more of a fan of the groups, selectively chosen.
Perhaps I wasn't convinced about the writing groups because I'd never found writers--at or above my own level--to join. The folks involved need to critique in a supportive, meaningful and positive way--my writer's ego is fragile enough as it is.
So, I've decided that I'm going to approach some of my writing friends to join me and build a group.
Do you belong to a writers group? If so, how did you find your friends? If not, why not?

A creativity coach, Elizabeth King Humphrey contributes to AOL's ParentDish and blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Blogger Margo Dill said...

Hi Elizabeth:
I belong to a writers' group and have since I started writing "seriously" in 2000. I have moved around a bit, so I am on my third group since then. But I have actually been really lucky in all my groups. I have always found writers that respect each other and offer both positive and constructive feedback. I know my writing has improved because of this. It seems like because we have such positive groups that anyone who comes and is negative or all-about-themselves doesn't last very long. Not because we have to kick them out but because they drop out. It's also best to establish rules and guidelines for your group and make sure all new members know them. :)


7:27 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth King Humphrey said...

Thanks for the information, Margo. I'd be interested if others have rules for their group that have been particularly useful.
What's an important one to remember, do you think?

9:24 AM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

Two important rules:

One: say positive things you liked about the manuscript before constructive criticism.

Two: be respective of your group's time. For example, if you have a lot of people who have things to critique, don't bring a 20-page section of your novel--do 5 pages. You might have to set a limit if people can't limit themselves. :)

6:04 PM  
Blogger Cher'ley said...

My critique group is online and it's great. Not a lot of smooshing, but some very good pointers and suggestions. I've belonged to a few online groups and this one is the best. I don't have time for a lot of talk or even idle compliments. This group does say what they like or if something is funny or whatever, just not a lot of gushing.

They do point out things that need work and that's the main reason I'm in a critique group.

I've grown a much thicker skin over the years. LOL

9:01 PM  

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