Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Writing Groups - Final Thoughts

A few final thoughts on the subject of writing groups, and I'd like to thank Beth from Writer-in-Progress for her insights. If you haven't yet, you should check out her blog and her website, both are full of interesting tidbits.

As you can see from her comments (see last post) the decision to join a group isn't quite as straight forward as you may at first think. Unfortunately, the wrong group can probably do more harm than good for your writing.

Having said that, I'm in two groups right now.

The first group, I'll call "Mimi's Boys," came about after taking a UC Berkeley writing course with Skirts author, Mimi Albert. While the course itself was fun and useful, what struck me the most was the quality of the critique I heard from my fellow students. Having been in other classes, I know that usually students are either too hesitant to be honest in their critique or too angry/mean/arrogant to be of use. This class had just the right balance, honest, well-intentioned critique. As the course ended, I stood up, told the class how much I appreciated their critique and suggested forming the group. About 7 people joined at first and we lost five through attrition but gained two new ones, and have been going strong for almost ten years (with a couple of years off for personal reason's amongst members.)

The nice thing about Mimi's boys is that we all know each other very well. We all have different writing styles, reading patterns and genres. We also are all committed to becoming successful writers and assisting our partners. Each member has an area that I'd consider their specialty, whether it's someone who picks apart dialogue well, grammer and wording, etc. I know, for example, which sections of my writing Gregg might have trouble with, but Les will love and vice versa. Gabe happens to be a very technical guy which truly helps the science in my story. I consider myself a plot oriented kinda guys and work best in helping to move stories along.

We meet once a month, but currently every two weeks as we're helping Les get his materials ready for his agent before the Maui Writing Conference. That adaptability is also a great feature of Mimi's Boys. We truly are there to help each other. If there's one drawback to the group, it's that we lost all of our women over the years, usually to motherhood concerns. As such, we're sorely lacking a female perspective, which we desperately need. With the majority of readers being women, we can never discount that perspective. Gregg tells me that we have a new woman getting ready to join us soon. Let's hope so.

My second group was formed after attending Robert Dugoni's course in Chicago. Again, I approached the two guys who's stories fascinated me the most and seemed the most serious in writing. Since they live across the country, this is an internet only group, and its working beautifully.

Next post, I'll give you ideas on how to make an internet writing group a successful venture.

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