Thursday, September 15, 2005

Declaring a Purpose

My writer's group Oshkosh Area Writers recently celebrated its two year anniversary. It seemed like a good time to review the purpose of the club. One of my favorite writer's blogs, Holly Lisle had some advice for the foundation of a writer's group. It includes, but doesn't limit itself to, the following points:

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, or How to Choose a Writers' Group Does the group have a clearly defined goal, preferably in writing? Does the group have any interest in the type of writing you want to do? Does the membership arrive and get to work, or does everyone just stand around and talk about writing? Are there any rules for people who are criticizing each others work to follow? Are there any rules for people whose work is being criticized to follow? Does the group have set guidelines for behavior, and a way to remove troublesome members? Do the people who are there like each other? Does everybody bring work to each meeting, or do you hear from the same three people? Is anybody happy to see you?
She also posts the rules for a group that she was (is?) a member of.
Schrodinger's Petshop Members' Handbook Schrodinger's Petshop Rules of Order 1) No throwing of objects not actually owned by you. 2) No duelling indoors. 3) Absolutely no blood on the carpet, or on any latex flat-painted surface. 4) Anyone making allegations of questionable parentage about another writer must be prepared to provide proof. ... Schrodinger's Rules of Critiquing 1) Critique the writing, never the writer. Never say, "You are..." or "You should..." Instead say, "The writing is..." or "The story should..." 2) Find what is right in each piece as well as what is wrong. ... General Information... Benefits of Membership...
While I like many of the suggestions and rules, I'm a single person and cannot (will not!) make rules for the whole. I'm trying very hard to refrain from imposing my will upon them all. My group does struggle with some issues. Differences in goal and purpose seems to be the cause of many of them. Some are there simple to have an audience and seek praising comments. Others want critiques to improve the quality of their writing. The third group has the ultimate goal of publication. As you can imagine, meeting the needs of all three hurts some weeks. Some of us are poets. Others write short stories. Some have long pieces or finished novels. A few have the promise of bringing something some day. I feel that we are doing a good job filling the need of critiques, in our Saturday morning sessions. A once a month workshop has been added in order to assist with the technical aspects of being a writer. But I feel that we lack in encouraging those who have not been writing, to continue to write. Maybe we need a 12-step program. Any thoughts or experiences to share?

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