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Tammy Setzer Denton - Writer
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Writing Groups, Critique Groups, Improving Writing Skills
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Writing Groups, Critique Groups, Improving Writing Skills

Meeting Sir Dapron

Last night, our writer's group had a wonderful speaker. We were honored and humbled by eighty-six year old, Sir Elmer Dapron and his lovely wife, Pamela. 
Elmer may honestly be the most interesting man in the world. In spite of his many honors and awards, he is a down to earth individual who is willing to share his writing expertise and advice with novices such as our group.
He encouraged all of us to look outside our areas of writing to find markets for our expertise as well as our complete ignorance of a subject. Who better to write about fly fishing that the person who has never tried it, but wants to learn? In this world, there are far more amateurs than experts.
For those of us who do have a skill, then use it. For example, I speak Spanish, but I learned late in life. As a result, I have learning techniques that I developed on my own.
A person who has worked his or her way through the grieving process may be just the person to write an article for a funeral home or hospice center. Do you have allergies? Then write about them. Do you have an obsession for mustard or salsa? There are markets for those articles as well as markets for those of us who constantly burn dinner. (Or in my case, create a homemade, two pound loaf of Spam, so awful that the cat wouldn't even eat it.)
Elmer and Pamela opened my eyes with their creative minds and infectious laughter. I'm hoping we will continue to meet and grow our friendship as there is soooooo much I can learn from them.
ShareThanks again, Elmer and Pam.
P.S. Kudos to Dana for finding them!

My Writer's Group

A few days ago, I blogged about finding a writer’s group. Today, I want to give you a glimpse into the wonderful group that I found. It was not the first or second group that I attended, more like the sixth or seventh not counting conferences and workshops, and while each group had its merits, this one was a fit.
Approximately seven of us meet on a weekly basis. Seven is a good number in the event that someone can’t make the meeting there are still enough people to make getting together worth it. With seven, we can read an entire chapter of our work. Sometimes, a chapter is five pages, other times, it’s twenty. We try to limit it to ten, but nothing is set in stone.
While we all dabble in different genres and story lengths, we are for the most part, novelists. Keeping track of all the characters, their actions, and multiple story lines is quite a feat, yet we are all able to do it because we are vested in these, as yet unpublished, books.
Each person brings a different talent to the table. Whereas one person is great for following the storyline, another is an expert on dialogue and yet another, has a talent for exciting verbs. The insight and intelligence of this group is staggering and I feel so lucky to have found them. Sometimes, I am amazed at what is read at that small, kitchen table.
This doesn’t mean that I get or give glowing reviews each time something is read. What I get and give is HONESTY. We say what does and doesn’t work without being vicious. We offer suggestions or reading recommendations. We offer tools for learning. We give compliments when they are earned. We can cite a specific line, word or phrase that supports our thoughts in either direction.
While all of us are still in the beginning stages of our writing careers, we have enjoyed successes and setbacks. We have had manuscript requests, both partial and full, from agents and publishers. We have had contest winners. Articles have been written and published with reprint rights. We have had requests to co-write with published authors. We’ve corresponded with published authors that we can now count as our friends.
When the setbacks come; and they do. We have each other to support and encourage each of us to take that next step and to continue writing.
I hope every writer can find a group like mine. Keep looking. There’s one out there for you, too.

Finding A Writer's Group

If you truly want to be a writer, it’s important to find, try out and eventually, join a writer’s group. I think the key part of this is to ‘try out’ a group. Despite the designation of one size fits all, it really doesn’t and this goes for writer’s groups just as much as it does for a T-shirt or a pair of sweats. Each group will have its own personality, coming from a combination of the genres being worked on, to the location of the meeting, to the people who are doing the critiquing. Finding the right fit between yourself and a group is imperative to improving your writing.
Some groups are more for socializing than for writing and critiquing. If you bring a piece to your weekly or monthly group and receive nothing more than “I really liked it” or “I wouldn’t change a thing”, it’s likely that your writing skills will not improve. While these comments may be flattering, what are you learning? If you enjoy the company of the people you meet and in particular, the after meeting get-togethers at a coffee shop or restaurant perhaps, then a social group is right for you.
Try to attend a few meetings before joining. Perhaps, the group you’re attending is into memoirs only or childrens books. While both are worthy groups, it might be difficult to gel with this group if you are writing thrillers or romances. I’ve found that it’s not so much the genre as the length. Short story writers do better with other short story writers just as novelists tend to do better with other novelists independent of the genre.
A critique group critiques, but this doesn’t mean they rip your writing to shreds for the fun of it. If someone seems to enjoy inflicting pain or find their witty barbs more amusing than a genuine critique, this may not be the group for you. If there is only one like this in a group, it’s easier to ignore, however a group with two or more people like this should be avoided. Writing is much like parenting. After a long period of growing your story, the last thing you want is for someone to call your ‘baby’ ugly just because they can.
As a writer, you will get your feelings hurt. You will get discouraged. You will develop a thick skin and eventually, you will realize that a critique is not a personal attack. A critique is a constructive bit of advice that does not have to be used. That decision is up to you.
Try out several groups including online sites. It takes a brave soul to put themselves and their work out into the world for the first time. Be proud of yourself for taking that step. Learning is growing and sometimes when we grow, we skin our knees or bump our heads, but we learn from it and move on. Writing is the same.
Now, get out there and bump your head.
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