Tag Archives: Personal Essay

Saturday Writers Group: Names and Stanzas

14 Jul

Yet again, I’m way behind on getting these posts up. My Saturday group met on 7-June and this is just now being posted. I’m embarrassed!

One of our members is a talented poet, but she says the thing she struggles with most is stanza breaks in her poems, so this is something we always talk about with her work. The poem she brought had a series of illusions and we discussed if it was better to separate each illusion into its own stanza or to keep them in one stanza and let them bleed together. It the poem is about illusions, isn’t it good to let them become one and create an ultimate illusion? I feel there are some poems that work better in one stanza and others that need to be broken apart to clarify the meaning. When do you break a poem into stanzas?

Some books will have a character without a name, referred to as ‘the boy’ or ‘the mother.’ We talked about the effects of doing this. Does it give the characters a more universal appeal than ‘Brian’ or ‘Mrs. Horm’ would? Certain stories seem to need something like this where as others seem awkward when written this way. When is it okay to not name a character?

One of our members writes personal essays and this got me thinking. In real life, it’s likely that I have two friends named Cat (this happened in college). In real life, that’s fine; you create nicknames or say ‘Blonde Cat’ when talking about these people. But if I were to write a story and Cat and Cat appeared in it, should I change one of their names? Should I refer to one as Catherine and the other Cat? Is it okay to change people’s names to make a stronger distinction between them in a personal essay? When would you keep them the same?

I hope you like the shorter post! Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Saturday Writer’s Group: Revising, Critiquing, and Noobs.

9 Jun

I’ve come to really enjoy my Saturday Writing group. The critiques are really good and the writing quality is already high, which makes it fun to give some really good critiques.

Before we got started, I told everyone I was about to embark on the U.S.S Editing and asked for some advice for a safe voyage. I got some great advice!

  • Cut it into sections and re-arrange them on the floor. (For a novel length piece, write the plot points on note cards and rearrange them on the floor to see what works best.
  • Read it aloud
  • Write the plot as you remember it after reading
  • Think about how it relates to your original goal and adjust plot or goal as necessary
  • Think about the main conflict and how it relates to each scene

Thanks to my group for grounding me in this advice!

There were a few points that came up from reading other member’s critiques. One man shared a piece that was writing like a personal essay, but was not about a personal experience. Before he told us this, I thought the piece was a reflection of something that had happened to him and wrote my critique with this thought. When he told us that the plot was fictionalized, I had the desire to re-critique it. I felt that I would have different suggestions if I went into the piece knowing it was fiction. Do you critique differently when something is a memoir or personal essay? What kind of things would you avoid saying? Off the top of my head, I would avoid suggestions for additions or changes to characterization or dialogue. If those things really happened, how truthful is it to change them? I might also leave out some personal opinions about the characters that I might normally give. If they’re real people, I wouldn’t want to offend their personalities!

There was one thing slightly off about our group at this meeting. We had a new member. This group has been really good about new members before so we didn’t think this would be an issue at first. However, it soon became obvious that this member did not understand what our group was about, how we worked, and hadn’t read the pieces we would be discussing. He continually tried to push his (outlined) novel and couldn’t provide a lot of feedback because he was unfamiliar with our pieces. After he left, we considered adding more security to the group website. Our moderator requires that someone submit a sample before joining and this person had not. We were wondering how he was able to see our meeting location.

For those of you in writing groups, how do you handle new members? Do you require writing samples? What do you do with unwelcome new members or people who don’t follow the group rules? I’ll be running the next meeting and he’s promised to return with a friend! I need to be strong and stern looking, and that’s not normally my specialty.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!