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Weirding people out since 2006.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Critique Groups: Part Three

The Universe is still breathing down my neck to join or start a critique group, and frankly, I don't wanna. Even if I did, my location that is closer to nowhere than that place called "the sticks" renders it meaningless. So, what's a gal to do?

Why, fire it right back at the Universe of course. One of the benefits of my personal belief system is that I can demand of the Universe just as much, if not more, than it demands of me. Convenient? Sure, but here are my demands none-the-less:

  • Offline group. In person, I'm a social outcast, online I'm a misunderstood genius. Whether this has to do with the persona I intentionally present or the way that folks perceive me through my writing or a combination of both, I'm not sure. Nor do I really care. The fact is, I'm more comfortable online than off.
  • A small group of writers. I'm thinking about 5 or 6 tops. Not just writers, but people who are serious about their craft. If someone dashed off a poem in sixth grade and sold it to their local newspaper, I don't care. And while it'd be nice to have one or two folks with a list of publication credits, that is not a top priority. What I'd like is a group of folks who are aware that to be a writer means to sit one's butt in the chair and write.
  • Fiction of course should be their specialty, and while it doesn't necessarily have to be horror, those who write with a darker tone in any genre would best be suited for the group I have in mind. No, this does not mean that all of the endings of their tales have to be sad, depressing, dark, gothic, what have you, but that they should have tales that have endings that make sense. Or, at least the desire to have the ending make sense.
  • Each member should have a basic sense of grammatical structure and what makes a good story differentiate from a bad story. Note: a basic sense of grammatical structure doesn't mean you have to know the difference between past perfect and past imperfect or even the definition of "gerund." It does, however mean that any member needs to know how to string sentences together in a coherent fashion. You'll also notice I didn't say that the stories would have to be "great" just "good." Afterall, if there isn't room for improvement, what's the point of a critique group?
  • Members would also have enough intelligence, skill, and heart to know the difference between the following: a slam (or personal attack), a critique and a gloss over.
  • Members must be willing to stick it out through the long haul. Yes, I'm aware that real life often interferes, but this is not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is the willingness to accept that other writers will be depending on you and that this critique group needs to take a priority somewhere between your actual writing, and say, taking the cat to the vet for a check up. Does this mean "Whiskers" doesn't need to be taken care of? No, but being a member of this group would mean you take it seriously.
  • A willingness to trust and be trusted. Stories often lay open the deepest, darkest part of ourselves and if a member pussyfoots with either their tale or their critique, they should be called on it. In return, a member should be unafraid of laying "their baby," their tale on the line.
  • Each member should celebrate each other's victories no matter how big or small. In reverse, each member should support each other's writing ailments no matter how big or small.
  • Whether or not real friendships blossom out of this is anyone's guess. However, if each member treats the other members with respect and dignity, I wouldn't be surprised if such a thing were to happen as a natural course of events.

Anyone who has further suggestions as to what would make an ideal writer's group (or even a title for the group), let me know via these comments or e-mail. Also, please be aware that I already know of several online critique groups and for the most part have found them either too large and impersonal or too small and unprofessional. I feel that it is possible to have the best of both worlds.

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