Happy Monday, everyone! Don't forget - this round's writing prompt is due tonight! For details, click here.
A writer emailed me and asked, "I've decided to start a writers group with some of my friends. I want this to be a group to talk about writing and give other kids my age feedback on the things they write. I'm working on my first novel and I know several other kids who want to be in the group are too. I was just wondering if you had any advice on getting started or anything."
Writing groups and friends can be wonderful things. Particularly when the right boundaries are put in place.
If you're going to be critiquing each other's work, I definitely recommend a group discussion about what everyone wants. One writer, let's call her Jan, may not want everyone ripping apart her manuscript. If that's the way she feels, she should say so. She should say, "I am looking for feedback about my main character and/or suggestions for improving him." If the writer doesn't offer this, you need to ask about their expectations. "Jan," you can say, "what kind of feedback are you looking for? Do you want line edits, or would you prefer more general comments about your plot and characters?"
Don't be shocked when...
people say they want you to "really say what you think, don't hold back" ... and then they go all defensive on you and are clearly upset. Sometimes people think they're ready for a tough critique, only to discover they're not. Try to have patience with that. And try your hardest to not be that person. Or if you find yourself feeling that way, just be honest. "Sorry, I'm having a really tough time with this," you can say. I bet they'll understand.
There's gotta be trust
People in a writing group have to trust each other. Our writing is very personal. I have to know that someone critiquing my work has my best interest at heart. So if you're just starting your group, maybe hold a couple get-togethers before you start passing around chapters.
Equal stage time
Don't let one writer take up all the critique time ... and don't let anyone receive a critique who isn't willing to take the time to give critiques. Of course, word-to-word it might not be a perfect balance, but it should even out somehow to keep group members from becoming bitter. My writing partner is Roseanna White. Her latest release, Jewel of Persia, is like 160k. The longest book of mine I've ever asked her to critique was 75k. But Roseanna has to wait, like, a month or two for me to get back to her while she turns critiques around in mere days. It works out.
Allow people to have lives
Mentioning Roseanna's Jewel of Persia brought this to mind. When she was asking for critiques for Jewel of Persia, I was approaching the release date of So Over It (July 1st) and the "release" date of my son (due and born on July 15th.) Roseanna sent her chapters to me like she usually does ... but she had no expectations of me actually getting them read. Be nice to your writing friends and allow them to have lives outside of critiquing your work.
I have more thoughts about this to share tomorrow, so if you have questions about this topic, post them below and I'll answer as best as I can. Also, I'd love to hear whether or not you're in a writing group and, if so, what kind of advice you have to offer.