Archive | 12:19 PM

Library Writers Group: An Introduction

5 May

Because I’m not in enough writers’ groups, I’ve joined one more. And I’ll be going back to my Wednesday group soon, so you’ll all get a lot more of my writers’ group knowledge in the coming months.

This group is sponsored by my library and run by a librarian who also runs one of my book clubs. She told me about it a few months ago so my anticipation was pretty high. I know, I’m easily excitable. Nicole joined me for dinner and we headed over to see what all the fuss was about.

There were ten of us present, including the two librarians running the group. Besides Nicole and myself, there was a woman who writs poetry, another pair of crit partners who focus on YA and New Adult (how perfect!), a young woman who came in late and I’m not sure what she writes, a gentleman who writs historical biographies and a woman who has published 4 non-fiction books and one fiction book. I really like that we’re going to have some variety in those participating.

A lot of what we discussed was what we wanted to get out of the group. Our leader’s idea was to have two parts to each meeting: discussion and critique. She has some ideas for the discussion part for the next few months and we wrote down suggestions for other topics. Next month we’re going to talk about ‘giving and receiving constructive criticism’ which I think I struggle with. I’m very judgmental when I read something and I have to review it a second time to find things I liked about a piece. They are two different states of mind for me and I have to do them separately. I’m getting excited for this conversation. An idea for another topic was ‘Who is a book’s target audience?’ This reminds me of Stephen King’s advice about an ideal reader and I’m curious to see what others will say.

The second part will be the critique section which will run much like it does in my other critique groups. Word limit is 3,000 words and pieces will be distributed a week ahead of time. One idea I liked is that with your piece, you include a few questions for the other members. This will help get feedback more targeted to what you want. If you’re worried about how your antagonist is developed, you can get that instead of advice on a better way to describe your side character’s shoes.

Our discussion for this meeting was on an article that we read by Chuck Palahnuik where he challenges writers to stop using ‘thought verbs.’ You can read the article here and I really recommend it. His ideas will really drive home ‘show don’t tell’ and give some good ways to practice it.

In essence, he’s saying that using words like though, knew, remembered, liked and wanted are cheating. It’s telling the reader how a character feels or is thinking about. It’s not describing why the character has these feelings. They can sometimes feel like ‘thesis statements’ when you start a paragraph with ‘John knew Sarah was mad’ and then go on to explain why he knew. Why are you giving away to the reader what you’re about to describe? Strike the thesis statement. A few other nuggets that I loved were to have a character alone as little as possible to maximize action and to allow the reader to do the ‘thinking’ and ‘knowing.’

We did a few exercises and I’ll share two of mine here. I hope this illustrates what the goal was.

  1. There is nothing I hate more than waiting. Shelly bounced her foot nervously. Being chronically early to a doctor who was incurably late was a bad diagnosis. She sighed, checking her phone to see if she was still seven minutes behind or if it was yet eight.
  2. I thought she was the nicest person I’d ever met. She oozed smiles like a teenage boy oozes apathy. Her reassuring touches could calm the hulk and in a sentence I’m sure she could pacify Hitler. Every baby shower and birthday party in a ten-mile radius had her touch on it. I never heard her speak ill of anyone and the only thing she ever complained about was the weather.

Does that help? I hope so. I’m really excited for us to meet in May! It will be a great talk. I’m still deciding if I should bring something. Maybe a poem, I’ve been trying to write poetry.

Until next time, write on.

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