Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Starting a Writing Critique Group

I would like to start this post off by sharing a youtube video of a song I recently caught on the radio. If you have a few minutes, check it out. It might not be your thing, but you never know.



This song is called Firefles, it's by Owl City, and I like it. I like it in the way I want people to enjoy my writing. I can only imagine someone reading one of my stories or a book of mine and immediately thinking, "Whoa, I want to read that again."

We can dream, right?

But let's talk about now and the path from here to there, shall we? I've been kicking around the idea of starting up a critique group. I was thinking something along the lines of an email based group where you send a sample of writing for critique by a certain date every month and get feedback from the other members. In return, you offer constructive feedback on their pieces.

I don't have a whole lot of time where I just sit around waiting for something to happen, so I figure that I'll need to keep the group to a manageable size. I've got 3 other people lined up so far, but I was thinking that maybe 2 or 3 more people would be fine. Absolutely no more than that or we'd all spend as much or more time reading than actually writing.

So, what are some other considerations that I should keep in mind?

Submission Length - Having a max length specification would ensure that people don't get too bogged down with one author's work. So what should be the max? 2,000 words? 4000 words? Probably no more than that. 4,000 words x 6 members (excluding self) = 24,000 words + the time it takes to write sincere feedback for each. (Yeah, 7 people is definitely the max for a critique group.)

Date Specifications - If everyone is going to be emailing their work for feedback each month, there are going to have to be some specifications. Such as, when pieces will be emailed, and when feedback should be given by.

Content Guidelines - To keep people from being offended, it won't do to have sexually graphic or overly violent pieces submitted to the group for review. Besides, are you really going to get a thorough review if someone is too focused on the controversy?

Now that I think about it, people tend to like to send out emails they receive to people in their address book. I suppose some sort of rule should be set as to what is and isn't acceptable to send out. For example, I might enjoy a good post about plot design or rewriting techniques, but I really do hate those chain emails and hoaxes telling me that IBM and AOL have teamed up with Microsoft to send me money for every time I pester everyone with an email address that I know. I suppose that's one of the issues with having email-based submissions. A forum might be better, but what forum solutions are there? I've only ever ran a forum from a site I had hosting for.

Anyway, while I'm pondering over the specifics, would any of you be interested? I only ask that you volunteer if you can submit at least one piece per month and offer constructive feedback for other writers. What you stand to gain is a group of writers of various skill levels that can help you focus and shape your writing, rejoice in your successes, and comfort you in your moments of defeat.

Have any lessons you would like to share from your previous experiences? Feel free to chime in!
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