Creating a Civil Writing Group

By Catherine Hedge

Following the advice of Charlene Newcomb, I get myself to a writer’s group every week.  We started with an incredibly strong leader who kept us in control, but that’s not always the case!  Spiteful, negative reviewers can doom a writing group.  So can members who can only say, “That’s lovely! Read More! More!” no matter what someone reads.

In our group, we read our manuscripts aloud, usually 3-10 pages.  Others have found success printing multiple copies or e-mailing their pieces in advance.

To keep our dialogue civil and informative, we have created a document outlining the norms of our group.  Please feel free to use whatever might be helpful for you and your colleagues.

Welcome to our writing group!!

FounderMr. Leonard Bishop, author of  Dare to Be a Great Writer

Mission:  We are professional writers.  We believe that by sharing our writing and insight, we will strengthen our own writing and assist others in deepening their abilities.  We welcome others who believe in this goal.

Purpose:  We are here to comment on the totality of a work.  Our purpose is to help each other learn the techniques to write interestingly, with dramatics, continuity, invention, and originality.

 Hints for Success:

When reading your work, please consider:

You are the most important critic.  Take the comments of others into consideration, but remember that it is your book.  You alone see the entirety of your novel, but others may have valuable input.  Please do not defend your piece or interrupt during comments.

  • If at all possible, bring something currently written.
  • Others will want to read, so please limit your selection.

When commenting on the work of others:

  • Please remember that we are here to help others.  Consider how to phrase your comments to share what could be done…not what should not have been done.
  • Please limit editorial comments such as word choice, sentence structure, and grammar to general statements.
  • Please do not interrupt others as they comment, unless the individual is taking too much time (leaders will determine.)
  • Feel free to comment, even if you have not brought a manuscript.

Forbidden phrases:

  • “It’s in the next chapter” (If we need it, we probably need it now!)
  • “Let me tell you what is going to happen…”(Let us find out.  We don’t want to spoil the surprise!)
  • “Publishers want…Editors want…”  These are very limiting statements.  By holding back or changing to fit current publishing dictates that will always change, we will not experiment and discover the story we have.

Thank you for being here with us!  Your presence makes us stronger.

About Catherine Hedge

I am a writer and teacher mentor.
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9 Responses to Creating a Civil Writing Group

  1. Francie says:

    Excellent article! I know from my own experience that in order to open myself up to others input, to be creative within a group, I must feel safe. Being vulnerable is a tricky. And yet, I believe a sense of vulnerability is needed to uncover the truth in ones’ writing. You offer a way to allow writers a safe place to be creative and feel supported while making attempts to improve their craft.

  2. Nice post! I’d add, “Remember, you’re critiquing the writing, not the writer.”

  3. Char says:

    You forgot to mention the $1 jar… 🙂

  4. Pingback: Getting Serious! | Pen In Hand

  5. Pingback: Writers Need Each Other | Leonard Bishop

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