This Metaphorical Bar ep. 8: Writing Groups

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Production notes: Karen had some recording issues this time and her volume fades in and out.

Who We Are

I’m Robyn Fleming, a parent and writer in Tucson, Arizona. One of my eyes is nearsighted, and the other is farsighted!

I’m Carla M. Lee, an author, artist, and attorney living in the Midwest USA, and once I worked as legal counsel for a bigfoot hunter.

I’m Karen Healey, an author and teacher living in Otautahi New Zealand, and I have never been part of a physical writing group.

What We’re Drinking

Karen: toffee rum coffee that has neither toffee nor rum in it but sort of tastes like it

Carla: diet Dr Pepper

Robyn: water

Episode Summary

Topic: Writing Groups

  • Types of writing groups
    • Cheerleading: fundamental function is to get the first draft finished — focus on making the writer feel good — give the author energy to get through the work
    • Critique: fundamental function is to make the story better — focus on making the story good versus making the writer feel good — not a proofreading group, focuses more on whether the structure works, are all the characters necessary and balanced, are people represented honestly
    • Work goes through various stages, and different authors need different types of feedback at different points — critique might work best in the first draft for some authors and not at all for others
  • How to have a good one
    • Think about whether these people will give useful responses no matter whether they would normally read that specific genre or type of work
    • Find people who want you and your writing to succeed
    • Think about whether you want these people to be involved long-term with your writing, as it changes and you learn more, etc.
    • Make sure that you know what you want to get in a specific space — e.g., decide whether you want praise only or also want critique and make that clear — ask for what you want and need — along the same lines, check with the writer as to what they want when they send a piece of writing — find ways to signal when moving from one type to another
    • Set expectations for different types of groups – first determine what, exactly, you want at a particular time and then ask for it clearly — trust is important
    • Timing can be important because critique can kill a story if it comes at the wrong time
    • Be cognizant that different people have different writing and critique styles
    • Have to be able to trust that when they tell you no, that story is not yours to tell or no don’t tell it that way, they mean it from a good place that is meant to help you and the story
    • Critique can be hard but should not be painful
  • Critique and cheerleading are both important parts of the writing process for a lot of people even though both sides are sometimes dismissed — people, in general, don’t get better at anything without both encouragement and criticism

Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Bartender

TC Harris: Where is the ideal place to read and/or write? [Two very different questions, so we picked the writing side.]

Karen: On the couch with my feet hanging over the edge of the couch and the laptop balanced on my belly. (BELLYTOP.) When I need to break the routine, go to a cafe, have some coffee, and type away.

Robyn: There is no ideal place right now, but an ideal situation: need to be uninterrupted, not even the threat that I will be interrupted.

Carla: Can write anywhere, but the place I like to write best is on a balcony overlooking the ocean.

Find Us Online

Carla: @carlamlee on TwitterTumblrInstagram
Karen: @kehealey on Twitter, @karenhealey on Tumblr, and karenandrobyn.com
Robyn: @robyn_writing on Twitter

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