Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Writers Critique Groups

Writers Critique Group: Unless you are an odd duck, the reason you write is to have someone read your work.

Most of us would like to get on the New York Times bestsellers list and be an Oprah book selection. Or, at least get our joke published in Reader’s Digest. We write to be read.

That’s what magical about a critique session. In our particular group we have a panel of four published authors who graciously listen to a ten-minute readings from members. The panel then comments on the writing.

It’s not only the writers who benefit from this – the entire audience gets to learn about the craft of writing from people who’ve “made it.”

Some of the comments at our last session had to do with punctuation. Usually, there's too much of it. Several of the works were filled with commas, dashes, colons and semi-colons out the kazoo. Long sentences were also a problem. The writers were encouraged to make their writing more conversational. Make paragraphs and sentences vary in length. Don’t use fancy words that people in your story would never use. Give each character a unique voice.

If you’re not in a critique group, look for one. If that’s not possible then there are some alternatives. Read your work into a recorder and then listen to it.

One of the readers didn;t exactly read what he wrote -- he changed his sentences as he read them. What he said in his "edited" version was more conversational than what he wrote. He’d benefit from reading his work, listening to it and modifying it to make it more natural.

In some future blog I’ll describe ways to make your computer read your work. I’ve used to analyze what I’ve written and to locate problems. Like a lot of writers, I sometimes leave out words in sentences. When I read it on the screen my mind provides those missing words. When the piece is read out loud, they stand out like penguin in a prairie dog town.

Lord knows, I don't hold myself up as a perfect writer. I'm particularly grammer challenged. I've had folks comment on the web on my typos. They tend to occur with words such as it's and its and your and you're. Yes I know the difference but I'm usually in too much of a hurry to get the blog out to catch all of my blunders. Frankly, I've never let that slow me down.

However, before I submit something to an editor I check, double check, and have a few folks who know somthing about grammer read the thing before it gets into the mail. Let my mistakes remind you that you're never going to get your work into a perfect state. Do the best you can and keep trying.

Keep writing, keep reading, and I’ll see you again soon…

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