Dawn's Snarky Muse discusses: How to Tell if Your Writing Group Sucks
by Moywn, guest blogger, the Muse Of Your Worst Nightmares
In honor of the incredible writer [and ex of mine] William "Big Bill" Shakespeare's birthday, I'm doing a guest column on how to know when to get out of a writer's group.
I'd also like to take this time to point out Dawn's typo of 'peak' instead of 'peek' in an earlier entry. Tsk, tsk. She and I talk more about this when I get home.
Writers--whether we like to admit it or not--are social beings, and as much as we'd love to hole ourselves up in a beautiful Rocky Mountain lodge all winter and write the Great American Novel, being isolated can --for most people--cause them to go crazy. You know what they say about all work and no play [why does this have a familiar ring?]
This is a picture of my last writing group, painted so beautifully by de Simon Vouet around the 1600s [I think...I was kind of drunk at the time.] You can see me in the lower left hand corner telling Apollo that his lyre was out of tune and asking him for Big Bill's messenger. Yeah, we didn't have Tweets or Facebook or e-mail. We had to kick it old school. I'd give this writing group of mine a B minus....as you can see, things got a little out of hand some times. So.....
How to tell if your writing group sucks:
1-- You're reading this. If you're wondering if it sucks, then it does. If you have to ask, you have your answer. Just like if you have to wonder if that is a good haircut for you. If you wonder, it's not.[hint, hint, Dawn].
2-- You don't have any accountability. I'm not talking about getting all old school on folks [that's my job] but if every other person is "oh, I didn't bring anything this week" then to hell with them. It's not fair for other people. B is really good at keeping her writing group in line and balancing the fun/ friendship/ work. She should be imitated. I'm quite impressed.
3-- It's a social hour. I'm not saying writers can't socialize for writing groups [as you can tell from my old photo, some good times were had by all] but when the social hour replaces the writing hour, then you need to obviously either a) lengthen your writing group time so you can have social hour and critique hour or b-) just call it a social hour and not even call it a writing group.
4- You have one person whose work is such an Incredible Work of Brilliance that No One Can Compare To and If You Have Critiques Then You Just Don't Get It. One person can ruin the group. Then you start talking about him [not being sexist, it's just that, in my experience, it's always a guy, though I'm sure there are ladies who get their panties in a wad over it, too] and his obsession with himself takes over the group. Get out. But not before giving him this (( Moywn shows middle finger)).
5-- You talk ABOUT writing and not the stuff you've written.
6-- You have a bunch of morons in there.
Now, don't get me wrong. I think we are all aware that writing talent does not equal a degree. There are great writers who have little more than a high school diploma, and there are PhDs who can't write their way out of a paper bag. The whole point is that the writers have some sense that what they are doing. Sure, everyone is interested in learning and everyone needs feedback, but you also want to have a good 'give and take' with who you are with---I mean, if not, it would be like me sitting in on a clinic to teach Michael Jordan how to dunk the ball better. See what I mean? There are some people that, to be quite frank, I don't care what they think of my writing....
7-- People don't show up to the group again after criticism.
Criticism sucks. Deal with it. Get a life. Harper Lee said that one of the most important things a writer could do was develop a thick skin. One reason why she rocks.
8--People don't attend regularly.
I understand. Life happens. Certainly if you have the swine flu or are in a coma, no one expects you to show up. But if it's like 'I got to wash my hair' I'd be like 'just shave your head and come on.'
9-- No one completes the goals.
Flexibility is good, but if my goal is to finish x number of chapters or to send x poems out and I want to group to help me toward that, then I need to have made reasonable progress toward that goal to mean that the group is doing its job.
And finally, the most important:
---10-- If MORE THAN TWO members of the group have manuscripts that include ANY of these type of endings:
a) Wow, it was a ll just a dream
b) Characters end up being--surprise--- Adam and Eve
c) Characters are ---surprise--- dead / alive/ purgatory
d) The characters are ---surprise---dogs, cats, vermin.
e) Oh, wait, the story was just all a big acid trip
f) Oh damn, the character just got hit by a Mack truck
g) "Sorry sweetheart,but to tell the truth, I'm.---surprise---..... gay/ straight/ dead/ a vampire/ a zombie/ democrat/ republican"
Then run. Run and never look back.