Monday, June 25, 2012

Writing & Critiquing

In the last Brian Henry workshop (The Next Step), we critiqued each other’s work. For longer pieces up to 3,000 words, the members of that group (usually five other people) critiqued it first. Then the rest of the group offered their suggestions. And we followed the same format as you did last week, except we emailed the pieces the week before, which would allow us to read it and spend more time to critique it.

We also critiqued smaller pieces up to 1,000 words that we brought that night, but in the smaller groups of five to six people. (One piece per group.)  It was basically just a quick verbal input.

I believe that most times too many cooks (writers) spoil the broth/writing. Too many different ideas so I think that it’s a good idea to critique in smaller groups of possibly three people when the group becomes larger. Although if you only have five people I think that Brian‘s way would work too.

The reason why we didn’t incorporate this into the Headwaters Writers Guild is that we didn’t want to discourage beginning writers. It’s not easy to accept criticism of your “baby” (writing). Brian sent out an email suggesting that writers have to develop confidence. Now in HWG, most of us are seasoned writers.

Attending Brian’s workshop has been an eye opener. I can’t stress enough that as writers we should go with our instincts. Finding your Voice (how to put personality in your writing) by Les Edgerton is a great reference book.

I am presently attending another writing group (Georgetown Wordsmiths –members who took the Brian Henry workshop created this group) to see how critiquing in both groups works. On my return to HWG, I’d hoped to incorporate it into the group, but you’ve already done this. I think that it’s time for us to take The Next Step. I have enjoyed meeting other writers from the Georgetown Wordsmiths and getting their perspective on writing. It’s been an eye opener and refreshing at the same time. There is a lot of writing talent in the Georgetown Wordsmiths group. I enjoy it immensely and will continue to attend both groups. 
As a writer, I believe that it’s beneficial to read our work to a large group. When our books are published, the experience will become a valuable asset. Without this reading practice, I wouldn’t have been able to read my work to other people nor would I have been confidant enough to give four eulogies.  A former member credited our writing group with her ability to give sermons. And Jayne Self mentioned that without the reading practice she couldn’t have imagined reading her award- winning book Murder in Hum Harbour at her book launch.

Congratulations to Jayne:

Self, an Orangeville resident, won the mystery category for her novel Murder in Hum Harbour: A Seaglass Mystery.  She also earned runner up for the Grace Irwin Award, which recognizes the best book published in 2011.

Orangeville Banner  - June 20, 2012

I’ve used my hiatus from the HWG group well. I have written over 88,000 words on my non-fiction book which I believe will be broken into two books. I seized every moment. Instead of thinking I only have half an hour, I’d think how many words can I write in half an hour?  I’d always believed I could only write in the morning. I’ve discovered that I can write any time. My writing buddy and I emailed each other with our word count most days. This helped to keep me focused and committed.  

“You can only fail at writing if you quit.” Ed Wildman, writer, author, mentor, and friend.

Nancy Rorke
Founding Member

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Meeting Minutes June 24, 2012

We had another small turn-out this week, just five people. However it was a very productive meeting as Danielle's exercise prompted good dialogue. Following is the exercise:

This exercise is based on a segment from a lecture series on creative writing. A student taped his teacher's lectures for the semester (with permission) and posted them online. The teacher is a well-known published fantasy fiction author. You can find the whole series at: if you want to check it out.

Key points:

* Writing groups should help to make your writing more effective by giving helpful, constructive feedback on your work.

* Reading another person's work and giving feedback on it:

   - Take note of what you liked and disliked about the piece
   - Be specific about what you liked and disliked (example: "the dialogue between Bob and Joe at the diner on page 4 was funny," NOT "It was good.").
   - Be descriptive in how the piece made you feel, NOT proscriptive (ex: "I was bored here", NOT "You should make this part more exciting."). The author may have been trying to achieve a specific effect with a passage and besides, it isn't your job to fix it.
   - Make sure to include positive feedback... be sensitive to the fact that a writer has invested him/herself heavily in the work. Be polite.
   - Ignore the small stuff (spelling mistakes, typos, awkward wording) unless you've been specifically asked to comment on that because the work is in the final stages of editing. Instead focus on major issues... plot, character, content, and pacing for example.

* Receiving feedback from another person:

   - No talking! Don't try and defend your work or convince them of how great it is. They are telling you how they do feel about it and it isn't your job to tell them how they should feel about it!

   - Write down the feedback you receive and put it away until you are ready to revise your work. Once you've had a chance to think about it, consider what you want to change and what you don't based on the feedback you've been given.

The Exercise: Giving Helpful Feedback

Choose a partner. Spend 15-20 minutes reading your partner's work and another 20 minutes (10 minutes each) giving each other feedback based on the principles outlined above. Consider exchanging the revised version of your work with your partner at some future date so you can both evaluate how much the experience helped you to improve your writing.

After doing this exercise the group discussed the experience. The following points were made.

- It was helpful to receive honest critique of their work.

- It felt better for a one-on-one rather than reading in front of 10 other people.

- With a group we tend to say very little in the interest of time and/or less put on the spot in front of a larger group of people.

- Reading rather than just listening makes it easier to come up with constructive criticism.

- Is this process something we would like to explore in future meetings? Perhaps people who are looking for constructive feedback might consider bringing copies for other members to read along while they read their work aloud.

For the prompt Danielle played a song as follows:

Taking the Reader With You

"Imaginary" - performed by Evanescence

I linger in the doorway, of alarm clock screaming monsters calling my name.
Let me stay!
Where the wind will whisper to me, where the raindrops as they're falling tell a story.

Chorus:  In my field of paper flowers and candy clouds of lullaby
         I lie inside myself for hours, and watch my purple sky fly over me.

Don't say I'm out of touch with this rampant chaos: your reality.
I know well what lies beyond my sleeping refuge: the nightmare I built my own world to escape.


Swallowed up in the sound of my screaming, cannot cease for the fear of silent nights.
Oh how I long for the deep sleep dreaming, the goddess of imaginary light.


The lyrics to "Imaginary" describe someone escaping to a refuse they've created. The words of the song evoke an atmosphere of desperation to get away (rampant chaos, alarm clock screaming monsters) and reluctance to leave (linger in the doorway) the child-like haven (tell a story, candy clouds of lullaby) the main character has made for him or herself. As writers we try and take our readers to all kinds of places and for many different reasons. Non-fiction writers might take their readers to an event or a place of special significance. Fiction writers may create any kind of place to take their readers to. Regardless, we often want our readers to experience something there... a revelation or an emotion for example. The words we choose to use can have a huge impact on whether we accomplish that or not.

Pick a place to take us to today... a place you remember, a place you create, or maybe a place you'd like to forget. Decide what you want us to experience while we're there and then use words to take us with you. As you write, consider what you want our five senses to experience, how you want us to feel while we're there and what is going on around us.

Please share your work on this blog, whether you attended the meeting or not.

We only have one meeting per month during the summer. Our next meeting is Sunday, July 15th. Marilyn will be leading.

Have a safe and happy summer!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

June 10, 2012 Meeting

First I would like to extend condolences on behalf of the group to Marilyn whose mother passed away recently.

Because I was late in reminding people of today's meeting we had a very small turn-out. There were five of us, enough for a meeting and a little social chatter. Below are the prompts I provided:

Back To The Future - You get in a time machine. You have the choice to go back to the past or forward to the future. Which do you choose? What do you see and learn?


Pick a prompt from these song titles:

This is Why I Shaved My Legs?

The Good Stuff

Blank Sheet of Paper

Last Dollar

All I Wanted Was A ______

Don't Waste My Time

No One Needs to Know

An Old Pair of Shoes

I Cross My Heart

No Fear

Five Minutes

I urge everyone to attempt a prompt from the above and post it here on the blog.

Next meeting is Sunday, June 24th.  Danielle will be leading.