Writer’s clubs

The value of writer’s groups

Earlier, I posted about The value of critiquing the work of others. Two weeks ago, it was my turn in the barrel. The South Pittsburgh Writer’s Group critiqued the first two chapters of my WIP, Sins of Omission. I got some attaboys–“Thanks for the correct punctuation,” and “An interesting story that I will buy when it comes out”–but also nearly a dozen suggestions.

Three members returned my Word draft with typed comments, questions, and suggestions in the margins. It was very helpful and showed me several things that they could see, bringing fresh eyes to the work, but that I could not.

I wasn’t able to make changes immediately–I had two direct mail projects to complete–but the delay allowed me to process the suggestions in my mind, separating the wheat from the chaff. Given two weeks in which to reflect on the advice, I made substantial edits over the past few days to structure, word choice, and characterization, plus a slew of minor edits. The results are a much improved opening and a more clearly defined secondary character.

Many writers come to such sessions looking for praise rather than direction. I’ll have more to say on that in a subsequent post.

The value of critiquing the work of others

My writer’s club holds one meeting a month devoted to critiquing the work of fellow members. The process is good for the writer, of course, but it’s also valuable for those who participate.

During this week’s meeting, a writer submitted four chapters, one of which was a long internal dialogue. Along with several others, I flagged this as a data dump that interrupted the flow of the story. Some of it, I said, could be shown rather than told. (You remember that piece of advice.)

In the process, however, I realized that my book makes too little use of the technique. There are times when Alan Rudberg needs to think to himself and puzzle things out. He too often depends on the reader to intuit what’s happening.

Some of this is good. It involves the reader in the story and keeps him guessing. But too much of it loses him, making him conscious of the writing rather than the story.

In short, by discovering another writer’s overuse of a technique, I uncovered an opportunity to improve my own story. If you’re not in a writer’s club, I recommend joining one. If you can’t find one in your neighborhood, there are dozens of virtual writer’s clubs online.

Happy writing!

%d bloggers like this: