Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Writer’s Groups: How to Make Them Work for You by B.J. Taylor

Last week on our Writer’s Journey Wednesday, I (Dawn) shared my experiences with critique groups. B.J. Taylor has not only participated in writer’s groups, she’s also written the book, The Complete Guide to Writer’s Groups that Work. Enjoy and learn from her tips. B.J. will return next Wednesday to talk about writing for Guideposts.

Writer’s Groups: How to Make Them Work for You

The best-kept secret to becoming a successful author is finding a professional writer’s group that really works. Why? Because you’ll learn to accept constructive critiques—an excellent way to prepare yourself to work with editors/agents—and your writing will improve.

Keep these five things in mind:

1. Size Does Matter Eight members is optimum, providing enough personal attention to supply you with diverse opinions, without being overwhelming. Remember to apply the Rule of Three to all comments on your work: if one person suggests a change, it is one opinion; if two people make the same point, you could take a closer look; but if three people feel the same way, you may want to consider it. In the end, it is your manuscript and your right to keep your words the same, but the Rule of Three will help when you’re wondering whether you should make a revision.

2. Location, Location, Location Find a group that is near where you live and make attendance a high priority. Really listen to the comments and suggestions of others. Your work will rise above the competition and contain the sparkle and shine editors and agents look for.

3. Put Your Best Foot Forward Have you ever read your first draft over again and found typos, stilted grammar, or choppy dialog? Prepare your work in plenty of time before a meeting so that you bring your third or fourth draft. Oh, sure, you’ll still see areas that need improvement when you get comments from others, but you’ll feel better when you’ve brought your best.

4. Take Every Advantage Be prepared when your writer’s group meets. Bring your work and read it out loud. Did they laugh at the right moment, become confused at any point, get misty-eyed or emotional at the ending? Learn from this group of test readers and your work will soar to higher levels.

5. Give it a Chance Ever buy a new pair of shoes that pinched your feet the first time you wore them? In the beginning, a writer’s group may seem scary and challenging. Will they like my work? Will they try to change my voice? If you surround yourself with writers who are pursuing publication like you are, you can embrace their comments and learn from each other. It takes time to feel comfortable if you join an established group, and if you start a new group, give it six months to become a cohesive, working unit. One of my groups, The Sixteen Thumbs, has met every third Saturday for 15 years. All eight members are published. We make our meetings a priority in our writing careers. Won’t you make it a priority in yours?

P.S. Wondering WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY about writer’s groups? The nuts and bolts of face-to-face and online writer’s groups are available in an easy to read step-by-step guide that includes sections on troubleshooting and how to critique.

B.J. Taylor is an award-winning author and a special correspondent/writer for Guideposts and Angels on Earth. Her publication credits include contributions to John Gray’s Mars and Venus in Love, twenty stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and many other magazines and newspapers including Writer’s Digest, Romantic Homes, Victorian Homes, and Lexus. She was chosen as one of 15 writers invited to attend Guideposts Writer’s Workshop in Rye, New York in October, 2004, and is a faculty member at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference where she speaks on writing inspirational stories. B.J. belongs to three writers’ groups: two face-to-face and one online. She is working on her second novel in a three-book series, which is all about dogs and the people who love them (B.J. calls it dog-lit). She lives in Southern California with her husband, dog Rex, cats Red, Diamond and Bear, and a Beta fish named Fish Face.

B.J. Taylor – Author
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