Yeah… My first time walking into a critique group. I’m hoping to share some of my experiences with you in this process. Maybe some of you will share your own.
A few days ago I found a posting on the local library website. **Writers Group 10am – 1pm Call [redacted] for more information**
I called yesterday morning & got an answering machine. Left a message. Got no response.
The above ad. was all the information I had to go on so I decided to just bring myself & observe the meeting.
I showed up to the meeting this morning & was greeted by 4 men. I was obviously the youngest one there (I’m 48). This was not a surprise, I live in Florida. Friday mornings are prime-time for our seniors. One of the men takes the lead and introduces me to everyone. They tell me that the group frequently has 12-15 people but most of the snowbirds have gone home. The person I had called they already knew wouldn’t be here today. Apparently she’s one of the former English teachers in the group.
After a few short minutes of chat, one of the men, obviously the oldest, (maybe 112?) is asked to read the chapter he brought.
Everyone else is listening and taking notes. There is no written copy of the material for everyone, only the author reading. His piece is a historical one focusing on a slave owner in Virgina in the early 1800’s. It’s an early chapter but not chapter 1 so I make allowances for not knowing the preceding chapters.
I found most of the chapter interesting and well written but a bit dry. Most of the scene takes place on a cargo boat that they are taking from Virgina to the Bahamas to buy things to sell back home.
After the reading, everyone goes around giving their opinions and recommendations.
The next person to read likes to write fairy tale type stories for his great-grandchildren. He’s in his 70’s.
The piece is short. Again I like it, not perfect but good and everyone, including myself, gives their opinions.
The other two men in the room haven’t brought anything for the group to review. They look at me.
They ask me if I want to read something of my own work. They also ask if I have any questions or opinions about the group. I mention that I find it difficult to really critique a written piece without actual writing for me to read. Someone says something about that’s why they all take notes while the reading was going on. I guess he missed my point and was somewhat annoyed at me for only listening instead of making notes.
I mention something about my own disastrous use of commas. Someone else says they can never see the commas anyway. Sigh.
Since my work is on Google Docs I excuse myself to get the library wifi password for my phone.
When I get back I read them my first chapter.
A page or so into the chapter someone in the group stops me and asks me to read slower. I try.
The chapter includes two government characters looking out at a crowd of protesters. Some of the protesters start throwing rocks at the capitol building.
A sixth person joins our meeting as I get to the end of the reading
The opinions I get from person 1: Something along the lines of well written from what I could follow.
Person 2: (I’ll let you guess which one): “I couldn’t hear most of it. My fault… sorry.”
Person 3: It felt more like scene out of the 1960’s I didn’t get a feel for being a thousand years in the future.
[Maybe a valid point. I’ll take that into consideration.]
Person 4: You started by introducing a Senator, then you never went back to that character. [The main character IS the Senator as noted by the constant use of calling him Senator Davies.]
The characters were looking out the front windows of the building. What about the windows in the back of the building? [I really don’t understand his point.]
What about the rocket they launched through the window? [It was rocks.] Sigh.
You mentioned a protester with a sign about missing pizza. Why was there no more about that? I was still thinking about the pizza by the end of the chapter.
Back to person 3: Where did they get the rocks? [Really?? Seriously??]
I’m perplexed by the observation and only say that it plays a part later in the story. He doesn’t seem to like my answer. Does this person expect every question answered within each chapter?
After I got home I actually found his observation to be a good one. It tells me that he latched onto something in the first chapter to make him want to find out more. That seems good to me.
The sixth person to enter the meeting also didn’t bring anything for us to review.
The meeting breaks up after some more small talk.
My opinion of the group is probably self-evident to you by now. The group seems to be focused on some retirees dabbling in story telling and looking for a way to spend their time. They were all very nice people but I’m not sure they will fit my needs. Most of their responses to my work could have been cleared up if everyone had an actual copy to look at.
Writing this post has finally given me an idea for what to write as a blog. Maybe I’ll start one and write about further experiences with other writer groups.
Your views about this and your own experiences with these things would be appreciated.Follow @Andrew_Heister