I’ve belonged to several writing groups over the years–some focused on critiquing and some focused on writing. But there’s another type of writing group:
The Packet-Focused Writing Group: I graduated from a low residency MFA program a few years ago where we sent packets of annotations and creative work to our advisors every three weeks. Though the schedule was often grueling, sometimes I miss having to send those packets off and getting feedback on my work.
My blog partner and I recently decided to send each other writing packets–to motivate us, keep us moving in the direction of our goals, and to make us accountable to somebody other than the face in the mirror. You could try this with another writer you respect or even with a group of writers.
Our rules: We’re highly flexible, but our general plan is to email a packet to each other by Sunday night of each week. The packets can contain anything we want feedback on–a poem, a group of poems, a chapter, an outline, story ideas, a query letter, a resume, etc. We also send a short cover letter (email) with any questions we have or what we want the other to focus on. Read more
In my last post, I wrote about the benefits of joining a critique-style writing group. Another popular type of writing group is one that is focused on the writing.
Writing-Focused Group: I’ve been involved in a few writing-focused groups, where we typically write to a 20- to 30-minute timer and then read our words aloud afterwards. Sometimes, I use prompts. Sometimes, I just write whatever needs to get out of my head. A Seattle-area group is run by authors Jack Remick and Robert Ray who are advocates of the Natalie Goldberg style of free-writing. There’s something about writing with a group of people that’s magical–to sit side by side doing the work helps me stay in the flow of my words. Read more
Joining a writing group was one of the ways in which I honed my skill as an artist and craftsman. Over the years, I’ve joined three different types of writing groups. Throughout the week, I’ll describe the benefits I received from each one.
Critique-Focused Group: I’ve been a participant in a writing critique group on Bainbridge Island, Washington on and off for over 20 years.
The rules: everyone brings a poem or prose piece (up to 5 or 6 pages, or more if there’s less people). We bring enough copies for everyone in the group. We read the piece out loud and then remain quiet while the group silently reads through our pages again and marks them up. After 5 to 10 minutes (an excruciating period of time to listen to your pages being scratched up by various pens and pencils) the group begins to make comments–noting what they like and why they like it, along with any suggestions or questions they might have.
If questions are asked, the reader cannot answer–the group tries to puzzle out the author’s meaning together. When the discussion ends (anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes), the author may speak if they chose to. Sometimes, I may clarify something that’s been misunderstood or puzzling to the group. Most often, I just say, “Thank you.” It’s a great way to see what cold readers say about your work. Read more