Writing is one of the loneliest jobs in the world.
Often, you spend hours with only your screen for company. Online critique groups and writing groups can help by expanding
your network and providing valuable feedback. My membership of the Muse-it-up Club (and subsequent connection to writers all
over the world), has certainly helped me banish the feeling that I'm writing inside a vacuum.
However, nothing beats the immediacy, the warm
human contact and just plain fun of an honest-to-goodness, real-world critique group. We established such a group in my hometown.
This is how we did it.
Four of us were participants in a local writing
class. We'd spent many hours together and believed we knew each other well enough for trust and honesty. We were ready to
take our writing more seriously. While only one was currently seeking publication, all of us were determined to persevere
and improve our writing skills. We got together to decide on our goals and the practicalities of implementing them.
We met weekly at my home on Wednesday evenings
from .We each brought
text of around 1000 words to share orally for critique. The text could be a troublesome part of a longer work or several paragraphs
requiring feedback. Once a month each member brought an additional printed text of 1000 words. This was handed out for the
other members to critique in hard copy, due the following week. Each member received three oral critiques weekly, and three
written critiques monthly.
We established contingency plans. If a member
was going to be absent, another would fill the gap. If someone else wished to join the group, it would be a matter for the
group to decide. We assessed how the group was going at regular intervals: Was it meeting our needs and how could we improve
outcomes for each member?
Weekly meetings went something like this:
a. Warm-up: eg brainstorming topics on a chosen
b. Grammar Guru: eg speech tags.
c. Ten minute writing: eg "Bugs".
d. Oral critiques.
e. Editing: eg deleting unnecessary words.
characters: hot seat.
g. Sharing: examples of best practice.
g. Business: handout for written critique, role-allocation,
Our group shared some roles. We took turns in
choosing and bringing: writing prompts for ten-minute writing, warm-ups, other writing activities. Other roles were not shared.
One of our members was happy to be Grammar Guru every week as he was particularly concerned with editing. The group grammar
activity flowed from problems he found in others' writing. I willingly took on the role of recorder and sent out an email
newsletter each week, reminding members (and myself!) what was done in our meeting and what was required for next week. Each
of us provided support, encouragement and honest feedback to the other group members.
Our group, Write Offs, worked out for all of
us. Meetings were relaxed, informal and fun. Sharing the process of skill-development was motivating - we all found ourselves
working harder and smarter. It was rewarding to not only get immediate feedback but also be able to ask for clarification
or examples there and then. Hearing genuine laughter at your witty, well-crafted sentence has amazing punch compared to a
smiley face or LOL!
The virtual reality of online critique groups
can be a lifeline for writers. However, if you have a hankering for old-fashioned, real-life critters, get some writing friends
together and go for it. Another weapon in your writer's survival kit could be just the shot-in-the-arm you need.
Quote of the Month
Language is more fashion than science, and matters of usage, spelling and pronunciation tend
to wander around like hemlines. -Bill Bryson, author
A collection of stories and recipes that bring
back fond memories and experiences of the baking experiences you had as a young child. The deadline date for story submissions
is December 31, 2007.
Christmas Pet Book
Many people feel that their pets are a part of
their families. Do you have a special holiday story to share with us involving your pet? We would love to have you submit
it to us. The deadline date for story submission is March
Double Dragon Publishing
bills itself as "The world's biggest independent publisher of science fiction and fantasy e-books." Double Dragon is currently
accepting science fiction, fantasy and romance manuscripts. Starting September 1, 2007, Double Dragon
will be accepting "literary erotica" for a new imprint, Carnal Desires. Carnal Desires "will offer works of literary erotica
targeting mature, sophisticated, uninhibited readers who frankly enjoy character-driven erotic romance novels featuring explicit
sensual scenes. We will offer each work of erotic fiction as an ebook, and, if the author so wishes, as a paperback. When
we open for submissions on September
1, 2007, we will be looking for erotic novels that feature both high
literary quality and supremely original story lines. Not only must vivid portrayals of sexual encounters be integral to a
riveting plot featuring fascinating, well-developed characters, erotic scenes must form an essential aspect of the plot. So
must romance. We will not consider work we deem pornographic: writing confined to a pointless succession of graphic portrayals
of steamy sex intended solely to initiate arousal. Our offerings will engage the minds and the hearts of our readers!"
Detailed submission guidelines
are available at link above.