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How to Start a Writing Critique Group

How to Start a Writing Critique Group
Lessons

    Did you say you were going to start writing that book this year? If you’re looking for a way to honor your word(s) and put your writing life in action, starting a writing critique group will catapult your accountability and get you in community with your peers. It will also sit you next to writers who have an intention to publish. At the very least it will help you develop your craft to the point of submission (no, I don’t mean groveling, it just feels that way).

    At best, critique groups are supportive, constructive, attuned to the work not personality, and usually peopled by well-read, life-educated, published, or almost-published writers. At worst, well, that’s another post.

    Before You Begin, Stop Reading Writers’ Memoirs

    Many writers feel writing groups are an admission of weakness or lack of talent. Some think they’re boring wastes of time. If you really want to be in action about your writing, you will need to stop listening to famous authors who write about hating groups. They just want to be able to smoke in public, and since that’s not altogether legal or healthy they decline invitations and make up stories about being tethered to their muse on a pirate ship in high seas with a bottle of scotch.

    How to Create a Community of Your Peers

    • If you are unsure about leading the group yourself, consider hand-picking a writer who is experienced with the process to work with you to get the group off the ground, and to keep the structure and guidelines in place over time.
    • If you can’t find what you want, generate it. Meetup.com is a great place to gather like-minded souls in your geographic area.
    • Independent bookstores, calendar listings in newspapers, community message boards and coffee shops are also good places to get the word out, post flyers, etc.

    Structure and Guidelines

    1. Define the Scope: Do you want a genre-focused group, or a general purpose fiction group? Short stories? Novels? Non-fiction?

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    2. Create a Starting Intent: Do you want to write and submit stories for publication? Or do you want to simply work on craft? Or both?

    3. Gather Your Peeps: When people call to join, take notes and get a sense of their readiness and intent. Look for diversity (age, background, preferred genres, etc.) to create a rich critique experience.

    4. Decide on Numbers: Keep the number of members limited. Four or five is a good starting place. If one person leaves the group, replace them with a new writer. Fill empty spots by invitation and agreement by the group. This will build trust, ownership and respect in your group.

    5. Establish Meetings: Find a time/day that honors writers’ lives (work, family). One evening every two weeks in the evening, or a weekend day set at an odd-but-doable time is easier to remember (1:23 p.m.). Once a month, or twice monthly is usually better than weekly as it gives writers a chance to write/edit in between meetings. Two hours is generally the right amount of time for a group of five. Any more time than that and energy starts to wane.

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    6. Determine Locations: Move meetings from house to house, or find a coffee shop or meeting space that can accommodate a group of raucous writers.

    7. Submitting Work: Create a deadline for submitting work to each other by email. If you meet every two weeks, try setting the week in between as the submission deadline to allow readers enough time to read and comment.

    8. Giving Critique: Critique the writing, not the writer. Find what works, what doesn’t. Speak as objectively as possible, as if the writer is absent. “This passage is confusing…perhaps another word here would work better…I want to know more…There is a POV shift in this section…too much use of progressive tense…passive voice, needs more thrust…your story really starts on page 4…” Upon completion, provide the writer with your edits and notes on hard copy. Give writer a moment to explain unanswered questions. Don’t wad the writer’s work into balls and toss them.

    9. Receiving Critique: Be quiet! Sit back and take notes. Let the questions and comments fly. Take it all in. Answer questions at the end, if necessary. Don’t defend or throw heavy objects.

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    10. Critique Structure: Calculate critique time based on length of meeting and numbers in the group, allowing for hellos and transitions. If your group is larger, you may want to divide up critiques every two weeks.

    11. Socializing: Beyond the very reasonable, don’t socialize too much during group time. It will eventually crumble the will of the group. Get to know each other in other ways. Sleep with them if you have to, but just keep the details out of the group.

    12. Confidentiality: Make an agreement with the whole group that you will not steal ideas, or talk about the work, except in general terms.

    13. Commitment:
    Discuss and determine as a group how you want to handle breaks, respites and waning commitments. Life happens. Sometimes people don’t show up, or arrive late or unprepared, or travel for extended periods. Ask yourselves how you want to support each other, how tight or loose you want to be with commitment to the group, etc. It’s a choice, not a make-wrong.

    14. Ghost Stories: I just put this here because I thought 13 guidelines would set off the superstitious among you.

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    Get ready for your writing life to change!

    If you’d like to add to these guidelines, please jump into the comment box. See you there.

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2020

    The Top Fad Diets That Are Actually Worth the Hype

    The Top Fad Diets That Are Actually Worth the Hype

    You have probably seen enough fad diets to last a lifetime. Many have become popular overnight and left just as quickly.

    Some fad diets, though, have actually passed the test of time and are making some headway in the nutritional world.

    Outlined below are four fad diets that are actually beneficial for your health and wellness. Read on to find out why you should consider adopting one (or more) of these healthy eating styles today.

    An important concept you should keep in mind is to disregard the term “diet” as it is typically used. The word diet implies the idea of restriction and removal. Instead, think of the word diet in this context as a healthy eating lifestyle.

    Let’s take a look at some of these healthy eating lifestyles that have been categorized, by no fault of their own, as fad diets.

    1. The Paleo Diet

    The paleo diet, or ancestral eating, is simply eating the way your paleolithic ancestors would have up to 10,000 years ago, or when the agriculture age began.

    The advantage now is you don’t have to do this in a loin cloth, unless you want to… The focus of this diet is proteins, vegetables, some fruits, nuts and seeds and some healthy fats.

    In the paleo diet, there aren’t any grains, starchy carbohydrates, sugars, or dairy.

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    How Your Health Can Change With Paleo

    The paleo diet is a good way to keep your blood sugar under control. It can also have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes, and can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

    With this healthy eating lifestyle, people have also achieved good weight loss results and boast improved energy levels. [1]

    It’s not just what’s in the paleo diet that’s important, it’s what’s NOT in it. There aren’t any processed and manufactured foods, junk foods, artificial ingredients or chemical additives.

    Paleo is a way of eating that gets you more in tune with your body and, therefore, can provide a lot of benefits.

    2. Whole30

    The Whole30 diet is relatively new and owes its popularity to social media and the #Whole30 Instagram hashtag that allowed people to share and broadcast their success with the diet.

    With Whole30 you are taking 30 days and focusing on nutritious whole foods such as meats, nuts and seeds, seafood, eggs, vegetables, and fruits.

    During the month you are eliminating:

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    • sugar
    • alcohol
    • legumes
    • grains
    • dairy
    • soy

    Whole30 is similar to paleo, but it goes a bit further eliminating sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.

    At the end of the 30 days, you strategically reintroduce those eliminated foods back into your diet to discover any possibility of health consequences from them or even potential food allergies.

    Finding Out How Food Impacts You

    Most people eat the same things so often and may not realize that certain foods are causing health consequences, as they’ve become accustomed to feeling lethargic and run down.

    With Whole30 you get the chance to see how these foods may have a negative impact on your body. You’ll also reset your taste buds, which may have become desensitized from processed and artificial “foods” and excess salt.

    This diet will help you regain your love of food… in a healthy way!

    3. The Mediterranean Diet

    The Mediterranean diet has been at the top of the list as a very effective diet for some time now.

    For people in countries like Italy or Greece, this has simply been a normal way of life–along with higher activity levels, sunlight exposure, proximity to water, and lower stress.

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    With the Mediterranean diet, the focus is on heart-healthy foods. It looks like this:

    • Fruits & vegetables
    • Whole grains
    • Legumes & nuts
    • Replacing butter with olive oil
    • Using herbs and spices instead of salt
    • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
    • Moderate amounts of red wine

    Help Your Heart & Overall Health With A Mediterranean Diet

    Information from the Mayo Clinic shows that this diet reduces heart disease and lowers your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Studies involving 1.5 million people demonstrated that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality, along with overall mortality. [2]

    With all these benefits, this is definitely a “fad diet” that’s worth the hype.

    4. The Alkaline Diet

    The alkaline diet is about changing the foods you eat so that you put your body into an alkaline state and out of an acidic state. When your body is too far on the acidic side it can result in a condition called acidosis. This can lead to issues in your body such as upset stomach, breathing difficulties, headaches, weakness and, fatigue. In extreme cases, it can result in shock, coma, or death.

    The goal is to get your body in a more alkaline state, which results in overall better health. The focus is on including alkaline boosting foods such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, and legumes. You’re also wanting to reduce acidic foods such as low quality beef and poultry, dairy, eggs, grains, and alcohol.

    Pros & Cons With The Alkaline Diet

    The benefits that come from this way of eating is that reduction in inferior quality foods, processed items and alcohol. You may feel improved energy levels, mental clarity and even better joint health.

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    People also report weight loss but again this may come from the reduction in calories from junk and processed foods but this is not a bad thing at all.

    One con with this diet is that the pH value of the food you eat might not have an impact on blood pH, as your body is able to balance this pretty well on a day-to-day basis.

    Follow These Fads for Better Health and Wellness

    There can be a danger in categorizing things as a fad diet because fads come and go. People are always looking for the next big thing or a quick fix.

    The four examples above buck that status quo. These diets, though mainstream, actually can give you benefits and aren’t going to go away anytime soon because they work.

    What makes these diets special is that they boast real whole foods and the eliminate processed and manufactured junk.

    The Big Takeaway:

    Whatever way you choose to eat, the focus needs to be on whole unprocessed foods. Look for the cleanest, local and most natural things you can find for the benefit of your overall health and wellness. Your body and mind will thank you.

    Featured photo credit: Dan Gold via unsplash.com

    Reference

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