Getting Your Glinda On: How To Start A Writing Group

May172007

I have a thing for writing groups. I like writing and I like people talking about writing and because of that I’ve ended up with some writing groups online. The first one grew out of the JenniferCrusieFans list on Yahoo, started by Deb Lanata years ago. Deb gave the list a terrific start by choosing five great people to be moderators, five of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with. The JCF list was a success from the beginning due to those mods, but some of us started to talk about writing and to critique scenes and that got all tangled up in the chat there–JCF is a topic-free zone so there have been fainting goats and the best way to move to NYC and the chocolate Jesus discussion and how to get burned popcorn smell out of microwaves–so we started a second closed list for critiquing manuscripts, and set the limit at 175 with a waiting list. But I hated the waiting list–everybody should be able to talk about writing if they want to–plus after a few years, the writing chat on JCW was starting to strangle the critiques. So we started CherryForums where people could talk about writing and reading all they wanted. And then Bob and I started this year’s He Wrote She Wrote blog to do longer lectures (that would be the Crusie-Mayer Writing Workshop in the blidget there in the lower right of this blog). I felt I’d done my bit for fiction writing on the net.

But meanwhile I’d banned chat on JCW and it was ruining the list. The mods and some of the members felt strongly that chat belonged back on there, I felt strongly that the emphasis should be on critiques, and while we were all getting along fine, it was becoming clear that some changes had to be made. While I was trying to work out a compromise, it dawned on me that maybe it wasn’t my list any more. I’d been gone for long stretches of time and in fact hadn’t really been part of the community for months. And in the meantime, the mods had kept it running beautifully, even with the crippling no-chat rule. Maybe it was just time for me to give the list to the mods and start over, using what I’d learned to build a smaller group–I really do believe 175 is too many–and let the mods and the others on the JCW list determine what it should be. So I transferred the list to them which made us all very happy and set about designing my perfect writing group.

First of all: No chat. If people have a choice between chatting and critiquing, they’ll chat, and chat mixed in with critiques means that the writing discussion gets diluted.

Second: No publishing. Talking and thinking about publishing poisons writing. A writing group should be about creativity and theory and story, not about what’s selling or what editors will think. Story first, always.

Third: Small group. I was thinking fifty.

Fourth: Clear rules about not only conduct but also responsibilities. No posting a scene and saying, “I didn’t have much time so I just threw this together.” If it goes up, we assume it’s your best work so it sure as hell better be your best work. No dropping out of the schedule at the last minute. Critiquing every scene possible. Minimum of one critique a month to stay on the list so that people know your name and your voice. No “slacking lurkers” aka slurkers.

I drew up my rules and then called the mods together. By now with two lists and the forums, there were sixteen of them. I said, “I want to design a new writing group and here are my plans, what do you think?” And because they’re the mods, they had great ideas and we pushed and pulled until we had a very workable plan. Then I set up a private blog to do the beta test with any of them who wanted to play (fifteen signed on) starting with the mods because they do a mind-boggling amount of work for no pay at all. Thus they get perks. The plan was that for the second wave of beta, they’d each invite one person which would bring the group to thirty. And then we’d open it to the general public and take the first twenty who signed up. It was a beautiful plan, and probably fifty percent of it worked. The group has been going strong for about six weeks now, and I have learned a lot about how to start a writing group which I will share now with you, should you ever want to do the same.

1. Do it as a private blog, not a list. The Glindas (don’t ask) are on a private blog at WordPress.com. The blog format lets you set up categories so that you can keep the critiques separate from the chat–I have come to realize that chat is as necessary as air to community–and keep track of who’s critiqued and who hasn’t. The scene goes in the post part and the critiques into the comments.

2. Don’t critique every week and do not allow late critiques. The constant need to stay on top of the critiques wears people out and they start skipping them, then try to catch up with several at once that does nobody any good (I was guilty of that, too). On one non-critique week, we do a writing exercise (I recommend the book What If as a source of exercises) and the other non-critique week, we look at a famous short story and take it apart (our first one was Dorothy Parker’s “The Waltz.”) That gives you a blog with four areas: Critiques, Exercises, Story Analysis, and Chat, all neatly organized in the blog category list. Of course, your areas may differ. We added another one for expert lectures by a Glinda and another one for people who were having a problem in their books and wanted to ask for help in solving it, content not craft.

3. Everybody contributes. There are no lurkers. If you can’t do one critique a month, you have to drop off.

4. No publishing talk, ever. This was the only place in the planning where people tried to revolt, but that one I was dictatorial about, and after awhile somebody said, “You know, it’s nice in here without publishing.”

5. Limit the list to 25. This was the biggest surprise. At sixteen (fifteen mods and me), the list was good, but we invited the second wave right away–it took the mods about two days to adjust to the blog format so there was no point in waiting–and nine of the members invited somebody else to come in which brought us to twenty-five and suddenly the whole place gelled. I’ve never seen anything like it before, but one of the mods did some research and found out that twenty-five, is in fact, the optimum number for a group like this. We kept the option open that there might be a third wave, but it was so apparent so quickly that the group dynamic would be destroyed by adding anyone else that we just wrote that into the rules. Only twenty-five.

6. Get rules everybody agrees on, post them on a page in the blog (pages are permanant, unlike posts which slide down the page as new posts are added) and stick by them. Here are ours:

Welcome to one of the many roads to Oz, a private writers group designed to sharpen skills and inspire greatness through the critique of members’ scenes, analysis of classic short stories, and goofing around with writing exercises.

Scenes will be posted on Monday. Each scene should be titled with the author’s name and the name of the book the scene is from (Jenny: Scene 1, You Again). The author is not permitted to join in the discussion of her scene in any way even if taunted until the following Sunday unless all the Glindas critique her before then. The comments will be left open for one week following for discussion of the scene but not for late critiques; critiques must be done by midnight on the Saturday following the posting.

Since this is a classroom/discussion/seminar/community, we need to know each other, which means no slurkers (slacking lurkers). Therefore, you must critique one scene each month to remain on the list. (No, playing in the Chat posts doesn’t count. That’s just vocal slurking.) If you miss one month, you’ll get a reminder, two months and you’ll be removed. The count starts over again in January. You do not have to post a scene to remain a member. If you’re on the rotation but have forgotten when, click on the “Schedule” page to see when it’s your turn to post.

The weeks without critiques will be either a writing exercise or the analysis of a classic short story. No one is required to do the exercises or discuss the story, and exercises and story discussion will not be critiqued in any way.

.
Please keep critiques and comments on topic; that is, you can post comments about issues the scene has brought up or the critiques have inspired and follow that discussion, but you can’t start chatting about a new topic. Any questions or issues you want to comment on that are not in reference to the ongoing critique should be addressed in the Chat category which is also where you’ll find announcements and admin notices.

Please treat the other people in the workshop with respect. That means no flaming (debate the issue and discuss the writing, never the writer) and no spamming (do not try to sell or promote anything to anybody on the workshop or through the workshop by private e-mail). For the same reason, we ask you not to copy or forward anyone’s comments or critiques from here without their consent. This is a very small, very private workshop, and that privacy should be respected.

Remember there are many roads to Oz. We’re not looking for the one right answer, we’re looking for a discussion of craft and possibilities.

Along with that, we have this page for the critique questions which won’t be new to anybody on JCW:

Seven Questions for Scene Critiques

Begin each scene critique by answering these seven questions, then follow up with whatever additional comments you want to make. Please don’t copy the entire scene into in the comment box. Answer your seven questions and then cut and paste any section you want to refer to.

1. Who is the protagonist?

2. What is the protagonist’s goal?

3. Who is the antagonist?

4. What is the antagonist’s goal?

5. What do you expect will happen next in the story, given what you read in this scene?

6. What in this scene must be kept at all costs?

7. What in this scene needs work?

Seven Questions for Synopses Critiques

Begin each synopsis critique by answering these seven questions, then follow up with whatever additional comments you want to make. Please don’t copy the entire synopsis into in the comment box. Answer your seven questions and then cut and paste any section you want to refer to.

1. Who is the protagonist?

2. What is the protagonist’s goal?

3. Who is the antagonist?

4. What are the three major turning points?

5. How would you describe each act in a sentence or a title; i.e. how does each section between the turning points change and escalate?

6. How does the beginning promise what the ending delivers?

7. What makes this synopsis different from every other synopsis the editor is reading?

The other two pages are the critique schedule and the list of the Glindas with the dates they’ve critiqued following their names.

I highly recommend this plan, even after only six weeks of testing it. I would also recommend that you start with a core group of people who know each other well–in this case it happened because the mods get perks–and then asking them to invite people they know who may not have been part of the group in the past. We have some new people in the Glindas and it’s very good for the dynamic because nothing is just assumed as it would be if it were a tight, little in-group.

The only real problem I have with the Glindas is that the group can only be twenty-five people. I hate Cool Girls’ Clubs, which is why I asked the Glindas not to talk about the group. “Do not say ‘Nyah nyah nyah,’” I said. “Do not flaunt your Glinda-ness.” It’s an insoluble problem because twenty-five really is the limit on a group like this, so being fair and bringing more people in would destroy it. And, as I keep telling myself, I’m providing the forums and the workshop, both of which I check every day, so it’s not as if I’m slamming the door on people. Still, good old Lutheran guilt stalks my every move, which is why I’m posting on how to start your own group.

Really, if you’re a writer, get your own Glindas. Nobody should hit any of the roads to Oz alone.

Filed in X (Everything Else)

39 Comments to 'Getting Your Glinda On: How To Start A Writing Group'

On May 17, 2007 at 3:11 pm Gayle Hoover Thorne said...

Geez this looks so fascinating. I wish I could be a fly on the wall, so to speak, to learn a thing or two, but I guess that would be slurking, so rather than sport such a label, I’ll just sulk. Good luck on this enterprise.

Warmly,
Gayle, Black Cherry Kisser

Thumb up 0

On May 17, 2007 at 3:15 pm Marcia in OK said...

Jenny – how generous you continue to be. You are a wonderful writer. You are also a very generous teacher. And, I bet, a perpetual student.

25 seems just right. That is also a good number for live/in-person discussion groups and teaching.

We may never actually get to Oz, but the jourey can sure be fascinating.

Thumb up 0

On May 17, 2007 at 3:36 pm orangehands said...

this does sound really good, though i’m wondering about the questions (sorry, was never a JCW member).

Thumb up 0

On May 17, 2007 at 4:04 pm Jenny said...

What are you wondering, OH?

Thumb up 0

On May 17, 2007 at 4:52 pm Rosie said...

FWIW, I think it’s great you’ve found something that is working for you. No guilt involved. You sound very happy and enthusiastic about what you have going in this critique group. So don’t worry…be happy.

And so speaks the non-writing guilt plagued Catholic in the back.

Thumb up 0

On May 17, 2007 at 5:05 pm roben said...

This is excellent. I’ve often wondered how JCW worked. I love the lists of questions and also the list of rules. This is very exciting.

Thank you so much for sharing, you’re very generous. I’ve learned so much this year with the workshop, once it’s over I think I’ll be ready to tackle something like this. And twenty-five people sounds about perfect. I’ve printed up the info. Now my mind is running off at tangents, playing with names for the writing group *grin*(instead of slaving over the WIP, did that this morning, so no guilt … really!)

Thumb up 0

On May 17, 2007 at 5:47 pm GatorPerson said...

Must all of the members be currently writing and have stuff to be critiqued? Some of us, well me at least, are still tiptoeing through the tulips toward the frigid ocean with most of the story stuck shyly in our heads. AND, in need of fierce rewriting because of HWSW, which ain’t done yet.

Thumb up 0

On May 17, 2007 at 6:10 pm Jenny said...

As it happens, at least two and I think more of the Glindas are not writers, but they are passionate readers. And readers can often give you better feedback than writers. I’d recommend bringing in people who are smart readers to leaven the group. For one thing, with twenty-five people critiquing every other week, you can only do twenty-six scenes in an entire year, so getting some of your feedback from readers or people who are on hiatus from writing just opens more slots for the members who are writers.

Thumb up 0

On May 17, 2007 at 7:02 pm Jennifer Talty said...

Excellent post Jenny! No one wants to walk the yellow brick road alone. I mean, look at Dorothy – she picked up a few people on the way to OZ.

I’m very lucky to have a great group to work with. It’s smaller than what you describe, but it really works out nicely. Each of us brings something different to the table. We have set rules and we all follow them. No excuses, which makes for smooth sailing. Fo course, wall came together after having geen in disasterous situations, so we really put our heads together to come up with a plan that would work, meet our needs and make sure everyone was satisfied.

We are all writers, but I do agree with what Jenny said about passionate readers. I have two readers that I’d be lost without. They don’t get hung up on the craft some of the other things my writer friends do, they just tell me what their overall experience was from reading my story. I usually have a set of questions for them after they are done and I can then guage their reactions to what I was going for.

So, for me, having both is key to a succesful book. But I’m also a stuboorn mule and totally believe, It’s my Story and I’m sticking to it!

Thumb up 0

On May 17, 2007 at 11:26 pm gay said...

I’m in a very effective writer’s group that functions a bit differently (yet another road to Oz), with a different set of rigidly adhered to rules. We’re able to get our work critiqued each week… but only if we also provide critiques to 5 other writers in return.

We have openings for a few more members right now, since one of our requirements is that you must have a work-in-progress. For anyone interested, the website is http://www.freewebs.com/alabamaworley/
(We’re all die-hard Crusie-Mayer fans, and devotees of the HWSW blog and Argh Ink).

Although our group’s name is Persist & Publish, don’t let the publish part fool you… We do not spend inordinate amounts of time discussing editors and agents. It’s about writing and writing well so that we create something worthy of being published. The general feeling is that if we do our job, then the rest will follow (given the persistence part).

Thumb up 0

On May 17, 2007 at 11:33 pm roben said...

Can’t stop thinking about this. I want to start a group in the fall. If we had questions could we ask one of the mods?

Thumb up 0

On May 17, 2007 at 11:45 pm Jenny said...

Sure. The mods are all very savvy, or they’ll know the mod who knows. Molly Haselhorst is the computer genius.

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 12:25 am micki said...

(-: This sounds like a very good plan, and a wonderful way to write.

I wonder if there’s a “visitors only” function — where people can go and see what’s being discussed, and maybe play along at home (kind of like watching a TV show about writing and following along in one’s own textbook), but the visitors aren’t allowed to post. That would allow people to learn, but still keep the group small enough to function well.

I can see at least one disadvantage — the active members would have no idea who is visiting, so it might inhibit comments.

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 1:20 am Jenny said...

The privacy is essential. When you know the blog is private, and you know all twenty-five people on it, and they all have to post, you really do have a community. When there are lurkers watching, no matter how benevolent, there’s no tight community. I can’t tell you how crucial that limit of 25 is.

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 1:33 am Mary the CB said...

Also… people who have similar interests or else who have wide-ranging interests? (Whether reader or writers.) Either they’re on your wavelength or they’re not averse to tuning into a different frequency.

I say this because I’ve encountered Yahoo! writing groups that were… well… nothing that related to what I was writing. They looked askance at my writing. It’s hard to get a helpful critique out of someone who is criticizing from an askance POV.

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 2:12 am Sheri said...

I have never written and worked with a group before. I’ve never been much of a joiner–that is, until I became a Cherry and then there were so MANY things to do and places to go I just couldn’t help myself!

I am still hesitant to be in a writing group, however, and it’s not because I don’t think I can write. It’s the fact that I don’t get all the lingo–I haven’t really gotten my head around all the questions I need to ask myeslf as I am writing. Turning points, antangonists, arcs–it just boggles my mind!

I just write. There’s no formula, no outline–just some sketchy notes at best and even then I find myself veering away from them now and again. I’m just not disciplined enough, I guess.

But I think I would like to try a group thing. Thanks for the ideas. I have a few people that I can work with and I am sure that they probably know a couple of more people who might want to join. Do these rules work only with an online group or can it be a face-to-face sort of thing? What’s too large if you are meeting at someone’s house?

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 5:56 am micki said...

OK, I can definitely see the privacy thing. It’s kind of like Reality TV — just how real is it? If you’ve got an audience, some people will be playing to it, and some people will be hiding from it.

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 6:09 am Ruth W said...

I’m curious how you do this on a blog instead of a board or email loop. If someone wants to start a new topic or ask a question, do they just make a post? And the answers are then made in the comments?

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 7:02 am Lee said...

It is nice to read about how other people organize their own community. I’ve started a couple small sewing groups over the years. We’ve met at people’s houses, or the Library, or the local fabric store. As you found, the chat is important, but the ability to exchange ideas about craft and the results of one’s labors are the key. Once it devolves into “I didn’t have time to finish… how about a cup of tea?” it makes me grumpy, and pretty quickly thereafter breaks up or turns into refreshments and kibittzing and very intermittent meetings, with no craft at all. I have to start another group then.

So far these have been face to face groups. I wonder if an online group might address some of these issues.

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 8:40 am JulieB said...

Wow Jenny,

This sounds really great. And, I liked seeing the questions you posted for the critiquers. The few I’ve offered I’d wondered if I was doing it “right;” the critiquing that is.

My first dismay that your group was closed was quickly kicked in the pants by the realization that I’m still a bit off from being ready to post anything anyway, so instead I’m grateful to see this, because now I have the information to file away for the future.

I do have a question — and I think this would be unlikely, but did you discuss the possibility that during the first week, all or most of the members might offer a critique, and then in a following week only a few people might offer one for the next writer? Do you have any provision to make sure that everyong gets a minimun of say, five responses. (I would figure that they would average closer to 10 or 12, but I wonder about particularly busy times like December, when everyone might be trying to post early to get it done.)

And I can definately see the advantage of doing this online as well.

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 10:24 am Diane (TT) said...

I’m SO impressed by your urge to teach and lead – I hope you’re not really feeling guilty. In so many ways, and, perhaps especially in posts like this, you’re doing more than if you were leading a group of 100. By showing others how it’s done, you’re empowering them to be leaders, too, and to gather like-minded folk, and spread the process far and wide.

Trying to do everything oneself is partially generous and giving, but also the sign of controlling tendencies. It keeps others in subordinate roles, from which their growth is limited. So, congratulations on the best kind of leadership!

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 10:58 am Michelle said...

Can’t thank you enough, Jenny! Although, I must say I cringed when you first said 50 members, and breathed a little sigh of relief when you whittled that down to 25. I definitely agree that a smaller group is much better, and I’ve even been considering something smaller, say 10-20. But I can see the advantages to having new people and how having more fills in the gaps when some members get busy. This is a fantastic guideline, and I’ve got lots of ideas swimming through my head now. Thanks, again!

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 11:19 am Jenny said...

Thank you all very much for the “Don’t feel guilty” posts. I’m feeling much better (g).

I think face-to-face critique groups have a different dynamic. They can be better than online groups because the discussion is so much quicker, the give-and-take is much more focused. But there are also a lot of distractions in real groups and it’s almost impossible to keep things organized.

The organization on a blog, OTOH, is very clear. You are going to have to have a leader or at least a written list of who is responsible for what. One person, two at most, should be responsible for putting up the latest post for the chat thread–it’s just a placeholder post to provide an anchor for whatever anybody is chatting about but you can use it for announcements or writing information, too–but after that, the other posts are just logical–people putting up scenes or lectures put up those posts, whoever is in charge of doing the exercises or short stories puts those up. You do have to restrict who can put up a post or you’ll have them all over the place, but with twenty-five people, it’s not hard to get a consensus. On WordPress, you’d just make one or two people administrators and then everybody else an editor, which means they can pretty much go everywhere and do everything, so you really have to trust them that they’ll not overstep. But if you don’t trust them, they probably shouldn’t be in the group anyway.

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 11:42 am Eileen said...

One thing I noticed this past year is that I was involved in a lot of writing activities, but not doing as much writing. As I am still juggling the day job with writing and general life I narrowed myself down to participating in the things that gave me the most bang for my time. A well run critique group makes a huge difference. Not just when they are providing feedback for your own writing, but also when you are reviewing others.

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 1:20 pm McB said...

I should think an online critique group would, by necessity, be more focused; most people choose words more carefully when they show up in print. And of course the author would have more leisure to study everyone’s comments.

As to the privacy issue, while I would find the behind-the-scenes stuff fascinating, as I do the HWSW Workshop, as long as it results in more books for me to read I’m not going to feel left out of anything.

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 9:06 pm Corrina said...

As one of the mods of the original Cherry writing group, I just wanted to say the only reason that group was closed to new people is that we were critiquing scenes on the list and needed a certain level of privacy/trust to do it.

The Cherry Forums were put together with a Writing Forum so writing talk could be open to everyone, because Jenny wanted anyone who wanted to learn to be able to learn. She’s never been about excluding anyone.

Thumb up 0

On May 18, 2007 at 10:22 pm Jeanna said...

Thanks for posting the 7 Questions for Scene Critiques, Jenny. I don’t belong to JCW, so they are new to me, and the timing couldn’t be better: I’ve just started critiquing a few chapters for a friend.

I do have a question, about question #5. Should you have an expectation of what’s going to happen next from what you read in the current scene?

Just when I think I’m getting it all figured out, you give me something new to think about, LOL.

Thumb up 0

On May 19, 2007 at 12:11 am orangehands said...

sorry, disappeared for the day. (plus, i think when i say something everyone automatically gets what i say, even if all i said was “bug-a-boo”. yes, but WTH are you talking about?)

anyway, my question about the list of questions for the critique is kind of general- but why those questions? then i started thinking about the latest HWSW posts about scenes and scene beats and got it, so never mind.

Thumb up 0

On May 19, 2007 at 12:13 am Jenny said...

Sunday, June 3, I’ll be posting a lesson on Expectation on the HWSW blog (see the blidget to the right for the current lesson) but here’s the short version.

Readers read to find out what happens next. As they read, they will form theories as to what that might be. If there’s nothing in the scene that promises something interesting to follow, then the reader will not read on. If the scene promises the same old thing that the reader already knows the outcome for, she will not read on. But if the scene sets up things to come that intrigue the reader, then she’ll keep going to see what happens next, if it’s what she thinks or if there will be twists and turns.

So when you’re critiquing a scene, if you tell the writer what you’re expecting to follow it, she’ll know what expectations she’s set up and can fix the scene if they’re expectations she doesn’t want.

For example, Agnes and the Hitman begins with Agnes being threatened in her kitchen and her best pal Joey trying to get to her to help her. One of the things he says is that he’s getting somebody to protect her. If at the end of the first scene, the reader thinks Joey is the hero, I’ve set up the wrong expectation. If the reader thinks the guy he’s getting to protect her is the hero, then I’ve set up the right one. The next scene is from Shane’s POV. At the beginning, Shane answers a phone call from his uncle Joey to come protect his “little Agnes.” Shane thinks he’s going to protect some little kid. If the reader expects that Shane is the hero, the expectation is set up right. If the reader reads on to find out what happens when Shane finds out Agnes is fully grown, expecting that to be the start of a cranky romance in which most of his assumptions will be tested, then the expectation is set up correctly. Every good scene has expectation built into it (although not quite so blatantly as that little Agnes bit, we were stooping pretty low on that one).

Or to use Don’t Look Down, in the first scene, Lucy is on the bridge with three men: Gloom, Nash, and Wilder. I had to set it up so that at the end of the scene, the reader expects that Wilder will be the hero, not Nash or Gloom (Bryce is on the bridge, too, but no reader is that clueless), and that Nash will be the antagonist.

So the reason that question is there is so that the writer knows if the expectations are set up the way she wants them.

June 3, He Wrote She Wrote, in much greater detail.

Thumb up 0

On May 19, 2007 at 2:10 am Jeanna said...

Perfect! I want to give my friend the most helpful critique I can, and this is just what I needed. Thanks, Jenny.

Thumb up 0

On May 19, 2007 at 6:14 am Jennifer Talty said...

I think that is some of the best advice on critiquing I’ve seen in a long time.

I look forward to the lesson on Expectation.

Thumb up 0

On May 19, 2007 at 9:44 am Rox said...

The expectation question is really interesting, because you can not only fix wrong expectations (expecting the wrong character to be the hero, for example), but you can fix expectations that are too spot on. In other words, if someone says, “oh, I expect…” and then they rattle off the entire plot, including the twist you had planned, you know that you are either writing something that has been written a thousand times before with nothing new to it or you’re giving away too much too soon.

Thumb up 0

On May 19, 2007 at 10:41 am gay said...

Thanks a TON for the expectation comment.

As to the critique number, the way my group solved it (see my earlier post) is that as many people as want to can post a scene in a given week, but you can ONLY post if you are willing to critique that week, too. And you must offer at least 5 critiques. That way, every week I get at least 5 critiques–and I have the opportunity for feedback on 50 scenes/year. (We’re on hiatus at Thanksgiving and Christmas). We also have Thursday Prompts and group stories (our next one is May 24, and I’ll receive the baton at 9 PM California time on May 23 and have to post by 12 midnight (3 am Eastern) the second installment. The next writer will have three hours to add for the author that follows… and so forth.

Privacy is critical. Most of us submit stories periodically for contests, etc, that must be unpublished and I’ve submitted my novel for “novels in progress” competitions that also required that it be unpublished, including electronically. If it were a “public” board, then I would have been disqualified. While our web site is published, participation on the board requires a password, and is limited to members and guests (and even guests must join Writer’s Village University for a nominal $69/year, but that gets you unlimited classes, too).

And don’t feel you have to “know what you are talking about.” My group, at least, is extremely supportive. I was a complete newbie when I joined, but they have been patient with me and taught me a lot. I feel like I’ve learned more from them than in all the reading I’ve done and in my education combined.

Thumb up 0

On May 19, 2007 at 9:14 pm Nina A said...

Jenny,
Don’t feel guilty-also,this may be a stupid question,but should you also limit the group by genre? I was thinking of starting a group,but only 2 of us write the same genre. Do you think that’s important?

Thumb up 0

On May 19, 2007 at 9:22 pm Jenny said...

You know, I really don’t.

Fiction is fiction. I’ve shown people things and had them say, “You can’t do that in a romance.” And I did and it worked out fine. I think mixing genres and forbidding marketing/genre talk is really, really healthy, because then you focus on things like conflict and expectation, not “Is this a romance?” Who cares? The question is, “Is it a good story?”

Thumb up 0

On May 20, 2007 at 1:18 pm orangehands said...

thanks Jenny. this makes even more sense now. :)

Thumb up 0

On May 21, 2007 at 3:29 pm Nina A said...

Thank you very much!

Thumb up 0

On June 25, 2007 at 8:33 am Betsy said...

(No comments since May? I am so behind!)

Jenny, I just wanted to thank you for this fantastic advice; six of my writing friends and I had been casting about for the best way to do an online critique group. We’re scattered from San Francisco to Charlotte and many points in between.

So far, this model is working perfectly for us and we’re hoping to slowwwwwly add members until we hit 20 or 25.

(Just so y’all know, we’re calling it The Typing Class; picking a name was one of the Big Fun things.)

We’re doing it on blogger and everyone has author/editor permissions, but I’ve discovered that there’s very little interest in chat (so far), possibly because we already know each other from another, much chattier forum. (And we also have an e-mail distribution list so I can nag remind people about things.

I also wanted to underline how useful it is (for me and, I gather, from the others) to read thoughtful critiques that aren’t directed at our work. I’m learning a lot about reader logic (other people’s reader logic) and expectations, which is very valuable to me.
So, thanks again. You’re the queen!
Betsy

Thumb up 0

On August 9, 2007 at 10:21 pm Dodge said...

Oh! I love the “no talk about publishing” rule. I’ve been at a number of online critique groups as both a member and an admin and that kind of talk has always bothered me. I’ve no interest in ever getting published (and to most of the members of those online groups I therefore was not a serious writer.) But I am a serious writer… I just don’t care for the hastle or want to devote time to getting published. But I want to be the best writer I can. After all– not all painters want to end up with a show at some art museum– sell their work– etc. Does that mean that all they want to do is doodle stick men? NO! Does that mean they aren’t “serious” painters? NO!!!

Sorry! Can you tell it’s a sore point for me?

I need to find a Glinda group…

Thumb up 0