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Ailing writing group

(14 Posts)
FourForksAche Mon 09-Jun-14 12:53:10

I'm trying to revive a writing group that seems to be having problems and I'm wondering if you have any tips for me?

I've set up a facebook page as a means of the group keeping in touch and have created a logo so we can put posters up if needed. I've also, for the last 2 sessions, brought exercises we've been doing as a group. These have proved quite popular.

My main problems are

1) I'm relatively new to the group, people had started to not come, that's why I started to make changes.

2) I feel that some resent the changes (me taking charge) but something needed to happen if the group was to carry on.

3) Not many members are using the facebook page, despite being enthusiastic when I suggested it.

4) We have some members whose writing "needs a lot of work", what's the best way here? Some people have left due to being sick of listening to them. No one is critiquing anyone, so sometimes, a piece may be met with utter silence, which I find very embarrassing.

Any help & tips would be great!

FourForksAche Mon 09-Jun-14 21:06:44

Bumping for the evening :-)

LadySybilLikesCake Mon 09-Jun-14 21:09:37

I write children's fiction. I'd love to join a writing group wink

FourForksAche Mon 09-Jun-14 22:06:20

Children's is generally my thing too, LadySybil smile

LadySybilLikesCake Mon 09-Jun-14 22:13:58

From what I gather, people generally need a push. Life gets in the way of all groups, and only the dedicated ones stay. Facebook groups can be hard as people are busy, so be patient (it doesn't mean they don't like you).

As for the members who need a lot of work, maybe set tiered targets? Say, one week some members focus on character development but the less advanced ones work do the same, but in a less complicated way? I'd get wary of critiquing them to be honest, people can get offended very easily. Other groups make people critique four times before they submit their own, this can help. It can be all take and no give, if you know what I mean. Or you could make a rule where one person can't receive a critique more than once a month. It will give them the time to work on their WIP and will give the others the chance to get feedback without disruption. If you focus on only one member per 'meeting' or something?

Can I join your group, please? smile

Solongfrankl Mon 09-Jun-14 22:37:10

a) Does your writing group know you're writing about them on MN?
b) Does Maryz know you're running a writing group? wink

If you've got really crap writers boring other members' ears off, you've got a problem. They may not ever be able to improve. Honestly? I would disband the group and start again. You and LadySybil set up your own, and set admission criteria. Only accept people after they submit sample work. Avoid the hopeless.

LadySybilLikesCake Mon 09-Jun-14 23:14:32

I critiqued someone's first chapter a while back. There were 16 new characters on the first page and the first paragraph was 20 lines long. She was most offended when I suggested an editor as it had already been edited blush It's tough when people don't accept feedback and see it as a criticism of them. It's not. It's a way to improve.

The hopeless have potential if they have the right attitude (and once they have done a lot of work!) wink

Solongfrankl Mon 09-Jun-14 23:24:34

The hopeless are indeed the ones with the wrong attitude. Otherwise their writing wouldn't be crap weak

FourForksAche Tue 10-Jun-14 10:02:51

Solong, no, my group certainly doesn't know I'm writing about them, hope I've been anonymous enough!

I have considered the idea of disbanding and inviting certain members but the group currently has free space in a public building under the proviso that anyone can come. We'd need to find a new free venue.

LadySybil the group runs via meetings and the FB page is only for letting people know what's going on. But I really like the idea of being able to run a writing group across social media, it's got potential! You'd be more than welcome to join us, pm me for location as I don't want to out myself!

I like your suggestion of targets but feel I'd be taking on too much of a role of "telling people what to do". I've already changed the group a fair bit.

When I first started, people would just read what they'd done, no one would comment. Membership dwindled to 4 and we discussed scrapping it. The lady who had started the group had left a while before and the person who had been lumped with trying to keep it going didn't know what to do and was feeling very pressured.

So I'm trying to lead it in a new direction without looking like I'm wresting control out of people's hands! Delicate. On the plus side, the last few meetings have seen turnout improve.

It's tricky.

kungfupannda Tue 10-Jun-14 13:27:26

It doesn't sound like membership is too much of an issue, if being down to 4 is as bad as it has got.

I run one writing group, and I'm a member of a longer-established one - I started one while on the waiting list for the other.

It took us several months to get off the ground, with three of us hanging in through the barren early months, and now we have a waiting list. We put a card up our local independent bookshop, and started a meet up group, a Facebook page and sent messages to local writing tutors and other groups, asking them to send people our way. We got 4 members from waiting lists for other groups, one from the bookshop, one from a local writing event, a couple from the meet up group, and a couple more from word of mouth.

Our meetings have ranged between 3 and 10 people, and actually it's the smaller meetings that are sometimes the most productive. I think about 5 or 6 is about the best number for us.

It sounds more as though your meetings need a better format, and some ground rules. We circulate 2 or 3 pieces of writing (max of 3000 words, but we'll occasionally look at longer pieces) a few days before the monthly meeting, giving people a chance to read the pieces and make some notes. We then discuss them at the meeting. The person who is being critiqued, agrees not to speak until the end, unless there is a specific question that needs answering.

The whole purpose of the meeting is for feedback, and we always have plenty to discuss, because we've had a chance to read and digest the pieces in advance. People tend to bounce off one another, and everyone tries to be as constructive as possible.

We broadly take it in turns to submit work, but sometimes people won't have anything, so someone might finish up submitting 2 meetings in a row, or not for a while. If we're short of work, someone will generally find something for us to look at.

The beginning and end of the meeting is just general chit-chat.

Might be worth trying to change the structure of your meetings.

FourForksAche Tue 10-Jun-14 13:43:33

kungfupannda, thanks, I think that's really great advice, I'm very grateful for you explaining the format of your groups. This is my first go at taking part ending up running a writing group, so I wasn't really sure how it ought to go.

I think the idea of submitting work in advance is great though some of our members are suspicious of giving out printed copy (thinking plagiarism hmm) so we're reviewing by writers just reading out, which isn't the most helpful way.

FourForksAche Tue 10-Jun-14 16:56:25

is the plagiarism worry a valid concern?

kungfupannda Tue 10-Jun-14 17:51:16

No, it's a load of rubbish. For starters, very few people's work will be so spectacularly, wonderfully marvellous as to risk plagiarism.

Secondly, work circulated by email has a digital "paper trail." If someone really did plagiarise someone else's work, it would be pretty easy to prove.

Reviewing by people reading out really doesn't work, in my experience. You don't see all the errors, and it's difficult to go back and work out why something isn't working.

FourForksAche Tue 10-Jun-14 18:36:10

grin thanks kungfu, seems we have a lot of work to do!

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