Last Writer's Wednesday, we discussed how my critique group started. l left you with some questions to ponder as you planned your own writing group.
Whatever format you choose for your writing group, make sure the premise is known by people attending so they don't have to endure something unexpected. If people think their work is perfection incarnate, they won't take kindly to a critique of any sort. On the other end of the spectrum, some writers would rather pluck their eyeballs out with an ice cream scoop than listen to unrevised work. If you want to improve your writing and/or ultimately publish, then choose a critique group. If you want to have someone with whom to share your work, then you need a different venue.
Again, present your group honestly. I once attended a meeting held under the guise of a critique group. Unfortunately it was really a mutual admiration society of mostly horrible poetry. (Yes, I know. I'm terribly judgmental. So, shoot me.) A woman attempted to escape the room only to discover the doors were locked. She struggled silently with the doorknob before violently shaking it with her tiny body. Finally, she looked up at the sky in a plea for help, allowing her entire body to slump in defeat. It was agonizingly hilarious because I, too, wanted to escape. For a moment, I feared we were in the plot of a horror story.
Since many hobby writers simply want a place for their creations to be heard, we'll address this sort of writing group first. There's nothing wrong with this desire. It's natural for writers to want to finish the final step in the wring process by having their work reach eyes and/or ears beyond their own.
If this is your motivation for a writing group, consider an Open Mic Night. These events are often held in public places. Even when surrounded by strangers, the atmosphere is rife with camaraderie. Many coffee shops, bistros, and artsy cafes host them. Even in my small town there's a fabulous sandwich/coffee/wine place that loves the arts. They hold events where writers, musicians, and belly dancers(!) perform regularly.
If an Open Mic Night is not already in your area or it isn't set up in a way that meshes with your vision, approach a favorite cafe or bookstore with your idea.
What's the worst that could happen?
They could say no and you'd be exactly where you are now. So, pick yourself up like a teenage boy just turned down for Friday night's dance and ask another prospect. Eventually, someone will say yes. Cross my heart. Post flyers. Invite friends. Be clear about what people can expect and share. Stay true to your vision when presenting the structure. It will most likely grow into something greater than even you could imagine.
If you'd like a more private venue but still want to share (with no threat of critique of the actual work) consider the age old tradition of the salon. Invite friends with similar inclinations over for snacks and the sharing of ideas. Send invitations with beginning and end times. It's a party! Decide if you want to do these once a month or quarterly and do it. Maybe someone else will offer to host the next one so you can focus on your next masterpiece.
Hmmm. I'm so excited about this salon idea that I think it would be fun to have with my critique group. We could take our favorite pieces we've entered in contests or published and have a night of celebration. That sounds fun!
Next Writer's Wednesday, we'll discuss the various ways to create a critique group.