Last week I posted a blog about the difficulty in explaining to someone interesting in coming to our writers that I didn't think it was the right group for them. This sparked a debate with other writer friends and also members of The Writers @ Lovedean. At our last session I handed members a piece of paper to jot down what they thought would help a writing group keep on track. A sort of nice manners list really. I was surprised by the same comments and suggestions on everyone's list. The sheet below is what most of the members contributed to and feedback from other writer friends. In future I intend to hand it out to new and interested members.
The Writers @ Lovedean aims to be a mixed ability, all welcome group. Here is a little information about the group with the aim that you settle in and feel comfortable with us as soon as possible.
What can you expect?:
One week we read our work aloud and receive feedback. Depending on numbers you will tend to get between six and ten minutes to read. That's around 1000 to 2500 words, plus another five to ten minutes to receive the criticism. If there is time left after a reading week you may get the opportunity to read twice. The second week we tend to do a writing exercise, were you write on the day. We have competitions throughout the year, Write Out Days four times a year. Also, there is a bit of a tradition of the occasional lunch out to celebrate any success.
I'm always on the look out for places members can read, plus we produce a yearly non profit making souvenir anthology. Everyone can place five pieces of work into it but beware please don't submit something that you may want to submit elsewhere.
We have a cash book for people to sign as they put £4 in the tin - if you find you have left your wallet at home, please sign and put a dot next to your name so you can bring it next time.
We find that the group runs smoothly when we all remember that:
Criticism, when given is always constructive, honest and well meant. It's important to be able to GIVE and RECEIVE reasonable criticism.
Remember the usual manners at any writing group, phone on vibrate, keep to your six minutes, trying not to fidget when it's someone else's turn, not snore ...
Once you have read please allow others to have their reading time and not go off track on another conversation.
Try and be punctual, everyone is late sometimes or may need to go early another day. If that's the case please just come in and sit down, we try to leave the greetings or reasons we are late for after people have read or better still break time. If you need to leave early, just get up and go, don't worry about your cup or table.
If you are sharing a car with a member, please be considerate and offer to contribute to petrol and parking. It's been a bit of a sore point in the past as many people feel unable to ask for a contribution. We roughly follow a 25-30p a mile, most members are Mums or retired, on a fixed income or plain broke. Mums no matter how much you want to offer lifts during term time think - what happens to your passenger if school calls? Don't feel bad.
We tend to only read new work, reading something you produced before for the sake of reading can become a little trying for the rest of the group. Think about how you would feel to hear the same piece of writing time and time again.
HOWEVER if you are in the process of editing say the first three chapters of a piece of work to send away, and you are making changes of course we understand. In that case I recommend you print out copies which members can scan while you read to help you
check for silly mistakes.
New to writing?
We all remember how nerve racking it is to read aloud.
It is a depressing fact that someone will always read something better than you, which will leave you feeling despondent - stick with it.
All new writers want to apologise for their work before reading it aloud or try to explain its a first draft. It is a stage in the learning process. But try to just read from the page, most of us come with first drafts and bits we have written were we aren't sure where it is going. Remember if you do ever get to the point were you send your poem or story away - you will not be able to chat with the editor.
Have fun with your writing, experiment. There is no right or wrong way to express yourself on the page.