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Starting a writer's group???

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LisaL

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 :EmoticonHelp2:

I have been searching for a writer's critique group in my area so I decided to start with the local community college.  Unfortunately they do not have anything like this available.  The next avenue I tried was the local library but they do not have one.  After returning to work I received a call from the director who wanted to know if I would like to start one and anything she could do to help she would.  I think this is a great opportunity but where do I start.....any ideas???  :writing3:

#1 - October 01, 2003, 04:14 PM

Caroline

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Hey LisaL!

First of all GOOD FOR YOU for taking the initiative on this.  I didn't go looking for a local group for 8 years... (just sat around complaining that there wasn't one.)

Then, this summer, I learned HB (from here and the yellow board) lived in the same city, so we met at Chapters. (My very first internet date  ;))  We kept in touch and met again at the SCBWI conference (my first one) and then again at a writing workshop put on by Rachna Gilmore. Since then, we have met 3 other writers and have all started our own group.

Writing can be a very lonely gig. Chances are there are more 'closet writers' just dying for someone like you to invite them out.  What about taking out an ad in the paper or posted at your library/bookstore?  Any writer worth spit is addicted to libraries and bookstores.  Are there writing workshops or conferences where you can network? Did you check with SCBWI - they may have a listing of members in and around your area.

Having said all that, I have also been in an online crit group for a few years and it is great!  

I guess the bottom line is what do YOU want from the group? Are you just looking for support and feedback, or a night out too?
#2 - October 01, 2003, 04:36 PM

els

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Good luck, Lisa! What an undertaking!

#3 - October 01, 2003, 05:31 PM

Andrea

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Lisa- I wanted to reply to you because I've done quite a bit of starting my own groups the past couple years.

There was a crit group in my area, but they met on Sundays, which I couldn't do, and plus they were kind of running out of space, so I decided to start my own group. But what happened was I ended up with a group of about 8 people who were just getting started in kids writing, and it was everything from baby poems to adult stuff. And after about 6 months, there were just a few of us left still coming to the meetings, and I was the only one writing novels. I personally felt like I didn't get much helpful feedback from people concentrating on pb's, and vic versa. That group fizzled out about a year ago, and I'm the only one out of that bunch writing at all anymore. That group, while I made some good friends, wasn't much help to me- I was the only one really serious about writing, the only one reading tons of books, researching the markets and learning about how to write for kids, ect...

But now, I have a group of novelists that I formed with two other gals I met through SCBWI that live in my area. We meet once or twice a month, when ever we can. We're all serious writers and find them so helpful and supportive.

I also have an online crit group- that's where I get my most detailed critiques (I have a whole story about my experiences with online groups if you want to hear that!) I started this group with a writer I knew already. We have a fantastic group going. I'm really pleased with how it's turned out.

I guess my best advice would be to network, and meet people, and then start a group when you have made some writer friends that you know will make a good group. Start with your local SCBWI. Even if you're not a member, you can still meet people writing the same genre as you (hopefully!) A good crit group is worth a million bucks, and a bad crit group will bring you down like a ton of bricks.

Good luck!

:) Andrea
#4 - October 02, 2003, 08:46 AM

HB

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Caroline already gave a good summary of places to meet other local writers. Either take a course or attend a conference. That way you can get an idea of how compatible you might be before agreeing to a critique group.

I'd be scared to just post something at the library. You have no idea who will show up and what level of experience they have. I'm not saying that beginners can't offer fantastic critiques. You just don't want to be spending valuable critique time explaining the submission process because one person hasn't bothered to read a single book on the subject.  :zzz  

But is there a reason why you are looking for a local group? My on-line group provides critiques and therapy  :cry:  all rolled into one. Not to mention the valuable service of 4 different regional pronounciations to test rhyming stories against.
#5 - October 02, 2003, 09:29 AM

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For more information about getting a crit group  :band going, be sure to read the EEK!  A Critique!  transcript on my website, too.  It's filled with information that might help you to make informed decisions, and end up in a crit group that really helps you further your writing career.  :paper:
#6 - October 02, 2003, 09:29 AM
Verla Kay

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amyo

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I second HB's support for an on-line group (and not just because I'm her group's expert on Midwestern accents and how they affect various rhyme schemes).  

Besides the reasons HB gave, on-line groups are also great for time management.  I'd have a hard time making a set weekly (or whatever) meeting time work out in my ridiculous schedule, but doing crits and exchanges on-line can fit in whenever I can grab some time....usually late at night with a glass of wine!   :n

It's been... what?  almost a year now?  and we've shared and produced more mss than any of us ever thought we had in us, learned tons and had some great laughs and therapy sessions!  Thanks guys!  ;D

#7 - October 02, 2003, 09:37 AM

Lorraine

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Lisa--I was in your shoes last year.  Good luck on your search, it's well worth your while to find a good supportive group.

I found both my groups through the local SCBWI chapter.  My first group is through email which has it's advantages and disadvantages.  I found myself really wanting the human interaction so I hooked up with a few other writers that wanted to meet on a monthly basis.  This has worked out great for me, although sometimes, I have to admit, it's tough to get all the critiques done on time!   :typing:

Without SCWBI I'm not sure how I would have connected with these groups.  At one time, I was part of a writer's group that included a wide range of genres from adult mystery to poetry, and while that was interesting, I felt that the other writers didn't really connect with the kids genre.

#8 - October 02, 2003, 09:58 AM

lj

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Since this thread is about critique groups, I thought I'd post this here.  (I am the Lisa mentioned at the bottom to contact.)

The Sparks online critique group has openings for new members.  Our current members write the following: pbs –both fiction and non-fiction, mgs –both fiction and non-fiction, articles and short stories for magazines, poetry and rhyme, YA –fiction, and kids Christian material.  We work on a monthly schedule to provide ample time for thorough critiques.  We’re looking for serious writers seeking publication and desiring constructive feedback.  For information, please contact Lisa at lisajedwards@yahoo.com.  
#9 - October 02, 2003, 01:42 PM

Jaina

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I thought I'd add to the questions!

I was just invited to join a critique group which will be lead by a local published author and is to meet over a specified period.  It sounded great, but I found out there's a fee attached.  I don't have all the details yet (like how much the fee will be), but can anyone speak to this aspect?

Naturally, I suppose the published author would like to be compensated for her time.  Has anyone ever paid dues or a membership fee for a crit. group?  Should I think of it as a "class," more or less?  I have met the author who will be leading it--she gave a great crit. at the conference I just went to.  Because my family's on such a tight (almost nonexistant) budget, I don't know if it's going to be possible to join, unless the fee is really, really low.  Perhaps I'd be better off saving my money and paying for a one-on-one professional crit. with someone.

I'm part of a great online group (Hi, HB, Amyo, KimS!) and so far they haven't charged me a thing!   ;)  This group has been totally terrific in providing feedback, support, and friendship.  I know my husband is tired of hearing about them!   ;D
#10 - October 02, 2003, 02:09 PM
« Last Edit: October 02, 2003, 02:12 PM by Jaina »

LisaL

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 ;D Thank you to everyone.  Your wonderful advise has been helpful.  I realize there is more I need to think about.
#11 - October 02, 2003, 03:43 PM
« Last Edit: October 02, 2003, 03:53 PM by LisaL »

Andrea

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Jaina- I have heard of some groups charging a *small* fee for things like refreshments and copies and champagne (to celebrate successes!) and if there's a charge for the space they meet in.

Maybe it's a workshop type thing led by this author for income, rather than a critique group, where everyone is giving and recieving advice rather than being led by one person.

:) Andrea
#12 - October 02, 2003, 03:51 PM

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Personally, I would never have paid money  :EmoticonDollar: to be in a critique group.  For a class - YES.  But not for a critique group.  By its very nature of "give and take," a critique group shouldn't cost anything (unless, as previously mentioned by Andrea, by mutual agreement you are paying for space to meet, or to have catered luncheons or some such thing.)  

When I started my online critique group, I was the only person in it with books under contract.  It lasted about three years, and at the end of those three years the nine of us had 27 books under contract or published!  What I "gave" to that group, I got back tenfold in the critiques of my stories -- stories I'd have "sworn" were perfect when submitted.  They came back to me, torn to shreds!  And the comments of these "unpublished writers" was invaluable to me in making my stories stronger, better, more likely to sell to my editor.  It doesn't take a published person to be able to give a wonderful critique.  It DOES take someone who "knows the genre" and is willing to share themselves with you.

Happy critting!
#13 - October 02, 2003, 04:15 PM
Verla Kay

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lj

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Very well said, Verla!   :D  
#14 - October 02, 2003, 06:59 PM

Jaina

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Thanks, Verla. That's really the way I was leaning.  You've helped me make the decision to bow out.   :-*
#15 - October 02, 2003, 09:12 PM

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I've heard of these types of groups before and I don't see a problem with it.

So many times, critique groups are made up of a bunch of newbies (not talking about you, Jaina) who know nothing about writing or publishing and they just sit around and wallow in their ignorance, floundering every time one of them subs, disbelieving when the form rejections come home.

And finally they realize they know nothing and someone says, "I wish we could have someone with more experience in our group."  And everyone nods their heads, but what professional would want to?  Paying it forward is one thing, but that would be ridiculous.  So maybe the bunch of newbies find someone who has published a poem or two or a story or three, but there's still no one in the group who can really help these people move on.

But we all know writers have to make a living and they're often not doing it from writing.  So some experienced but not living-earning writer sets herself up as a critique group leader and pulls these writers along, teaching them in the process both about writing AND about running a critique group, and making probably a measly amount in the process, but enough to pay her for her knowledge, and probably getting them to the point where they can continue on their own.

Jaina, you may not need this kind of handholding so this particular group may not be for you.  But I don't have a problem with the set-up in general.  A friend of mine was in one six or seven years ago in California--she knew nothing--now she's got her first novel under contract.  

Anne Marie




 
#16 - October 03, 2003, 03:55 AM
« Last Edit: October 03, 2003, 03:56 AM by Anne Marie »
VAMPIRINA IN THE SNOW (Disney-Hyperion, 2018)
BUSY-EYED DAY (Beach Lane Books, 2018)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

Lilli

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I apologize in advance if I'm repeating any advice.  I haven't read all the previous replies, but if I don't reply now I won't have the chance.

Are you a SCBWI member?  If so find other members in your area---do you have monthly meetings or anything like that.  One of the easiest ways to get involved in SCBWI is to start up a local area critique group.  If you draw from other members you "might" avoid getting the very beginning beginners you mentioned.  I understand what you mean by this.  The critique group I had going was a nice mix of one published book author, a couple widely published magazine authors, some with a handful of credits, and some very serious, hardworking unpublished beginners.  I'll read the other suggestion later---but for right now--I'd try to seek out other SCBWI.
#17 - October 03, 2003, 05:54 AM

HB

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And here we scoffed when you asked if we thought there would be a fee. Having some knowledge of your budget and your present critique group  ;D  I'd say don't bother with this one. You'll probably end up providing critiques that are as good as the person running it. Except she'll be getting paid, and you'll be paying for it.  :P
#18 - October 03, 2003, 09:10 AM

Jaina

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Okay, I doubt my critiques are nearly as valuable as the published author's.  But thank you, HB! ;)  She really did give me some good feedback at the conference.  

Wow, I just typed a really long message here and deleted it.  It sounded really whiny.  I think it all boils down to my expectations going into something, which are probably very "newbie" thoughts, generally.

The fact is, I have paid for a one-day workshop, a conference and a professional critique in the past year.  And I've come out of each whining that it wasn't what I expected.  So I probably need to stop paying for things like this for a while.  My family ends up eating a lot of Cheerios on months when I have a paid event, and that makes the pressure too high!
#19 - October 03, 2003, 09:29 AM

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... My family ends up eating a lot of Cheerios on months when I have a paid event, and that makes the pressure too high!

Ah, but Cheerios are so GOOD!   ;D

Verla <whose grown-up kids still can't look a Cheerios in the eye because they were fed so many of them while growing up>
#20 - October 03, 2003, 09:49 AM
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Jaina

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Frosted Cheerios are too sweet.  And plain Cheerios are too . . . plain.

So what I like to do is buy a box of each and mix 'em.  My invention, Semi-Frosted Cheerios, is gonna make me a milliion bucks.

Oh, shoot.  I just gave away my secret recipe, didn't I?  :-X
#21 - October 03, 2003, 09:55 AM

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Oh, shoot.  I just gave away my secret recipe, didn't I?  :-X

You DID.  :n MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
#22 - October 03, 2003, 10:06 AM
Verla Kay

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Lorraine

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Great idea, Jaina!  

It seems to me that the price for a conference critique is a real deal compared to a professional critique.  Of course, my one and only conference critique experience was excellent.

But all in all, a good supportive critique group is most helpful.  When 5 people come up with the same suggestion, it's time to listen!  :yup  :yup
#23 - October 03, 2003, 10:12 AM

Cateyes59

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Hi Caroline,
I had the pleasure of meeting you at the SCWBI conference in Ottawa so thought I'd say hi again. A small world in cyberspace, isn't it?
I went to the retreat in Mattawa and loved it. My family came too and it worked out great. Hope your writing group is going well. Christine told me about it. I wish I'd taken Rachna's course, it sounded like a lot of fun.
I'm in a bit of a writing slump at the moment waiting for my assignment to come back from ICL so that's why I'm lurking about on the writing board to get some inspiration. I need a good swift kick!!
Take care.
Cathy
#24 - October 03, 2003, 11:43 AM

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 :!  Not a kick, but will this do?   :n
#25 - October 03, 2003, 01:14 PM
Verla Kay

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Caroline

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Hey Cathy!

Good to hear from you again!  How are you enjoying the ICL course? Are you finding it helpful? Have you turned that great intro into a novel yet?

This is a great place to get a kick, a smile, some tips and some inspiration. Keep in touch, they are a great bunch.
#26 - October 05, 2003, 10:34 AM

Cateyes59

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 :oOuch! Thanks Verla Kay! I needed that!
#27 - October 06, 2003, 07:05 AM

Cateyes59

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Hi Caroline,
I am enjoying the ICL course but find my motivation lags in between waiting to get my assignment back. My story has evolved a bit since you read my first chapter.  I need to join a critique group I think. I have a few critique partners but we don't have a regular schedule that we stick to.
I hope you're doing well with your writing projects. I really enjoyed your tooth story and thought it had a lot of potential to be a winner!  
Take care! :D
#28 - October 06, 2003, 07:10 AM

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