Writers Helping Writers: Part Two

August Sunrise

Writers Helping Writers: Part Two

Critique Groups

Writers are driven to write, they have no choice, but because many are pressed for time they don’t accomplish as much as they’d like each day. Work, visitors and personal  challenges get in the way of progress. That internal drive is always present. Listen to it and focus on getting to “The End.”

If you work full time, have a family and numerous commitments, for success there are adjustments in schedules and responsibilities to juggle. How else could Joyce Carol Oates write fifty books while working full time as a professor at Princeton University?

Prolific accomplished writers tell us to FOCUS. Set a schedule and keep it. If you have two hours a day that are totally yours, write continuously. Don’t stop. Most of us know it isn’t family and friends that interfere the most, it is distracting social media calling when you should be in that mental cave of writing.

Do you rush to cyberspace to look for the best synonym, research the weather on an exact date you are writing about, or are you just playing an online game? These actions delay creative accomplishment. If you have questions or aren’t satisfied with your word choices, make a note and go on. Make a list of items to check during a spare minute at another time. Perform detailed research on your first edit, after you have written the first draft to completion. Sometimes research is necessary before you proceed, but digging for nonessential data throughout your project can impede progress, too.

Commitments to writing and making life changes necessary to provide time to accomplish your goal are keys to completion. Communicate your goals and time requirements to friends and others close to you. Understanding the importance of uninterrupted time for you to write will help them support your efforts.

Okay, you are a writer, but are you a good communicator? Many writers are great wordsmiths, but not so great with interpersonal skills. Do you find yourself living in a world of fictional characters inside your masterpiece, all the while avoiding real people? Writers must live in their fictional worlds but remember to interact with the real world of writing.

Dynamic skilled writers willing to share their expertise can be a boon to your success. If you say you have no time to devote to a critique group, reconsider. Writing in a vacuum, without input or encouragement from other writers can be detrimental. Finding a group of compatible writers who exchange critiques can bolster skill and productivity for all.

Not all critique groups are created equal. Guidelines are essential for success. Cutting remarks and negative comments should never be tolerated. Once a therapeutic environment of supportive people is established, the real work begins. Set an approach, ask specific questions related to your submission, submit a set number of pages, keep the time schedule, and accept constructive criticism without argument. You will learn skills while reading and providing critiques of others’ work. Constructive suggestions are the goal. Disruptive negative participants who destroy cohesive skill-building should be excluded.

Critique groups range in size, but smaller groups tend to accomplish more. Some meet weekly, others, monthly. Just two people meeting and discussing manuscripts can be a beginning. In this day of technology, groups I participated in all submitted manuscript portions via email as Word document attachments a week in advance. We typically used the Microsoft tool “Track Changes” or handed out printed copies of manuscript to be critiqued for the next meeting. This may sound tedious but the camaraderie and input from others is valuable even if you decide not to use their suggestions. Critique groups are not for everyone but without input from other readers, you may be wasting precious time.

It is important to contribute to the group and develop a writing community. I have met many cave writers with a completed first draft who have not interacted with others along the way. Their accomplishment is wonderful, but asking a group of busy writers to read and edit a whole book is inappropriate. Reviewing a few pages at a time while the work is in progress is the ideal and follows common etiquette.

Entering a critique group at the point of completing a first draft is also good timing. A few pages at a time, the manuscript can be critiqued by the members. Remember, completing a first draft is the beginning of the next major process, editing. Most manuscripts are edited many times before they are finally ready for publication.

Input from a writing group can set you on the track to success. Remember, you are your promoter. Before your book is ready for print, other writers can provide help with marketing ideas and how to perfect presentations to promote your book. Unless you are a natural or already an orator, you will need to work on public speaking. Learn from others,  try the local Toastmasters International group, www.toastmasters.org to develop public speaking skills and advance your work. Another opportunity to learn how to provide concise presentations is using the PechaKucha format, www.pechakucha.org.

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About bettykuffel

Author and retired medical doctor with broad interests in writing, flying, photography and outdoor life. She is a monthly health columnist in Montana Woman Magazine and has three nonfiction Indie published books available on Amazon. Writing projects include: multiple books of fiction including a biological thriller, medical thriller series, a romantic intrigue and a mystery set in 1960 co-authored with her sister Bev. Dr. Kuffel lives in MT with husband Tom and dog Valkyrie.
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