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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 October 30, 2018

    How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

    How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

    What is success to you? How to be successful in life?

    To some, when they think of success, they imagine wealth; others want power; some just want to make a positive impact on the world.

    All of these are perfectly valid, indeed success is a concept that means different things to different people. Though no matter what success is to you, it almost certainly isn’t something will come easily.

    There are countless guides and books to being successful, however, as success is personal and unique to each individual. The advice contained in these books can often not be relevant. Therefore following the advice of a single individual can often be unhelpful.

    With this in mind, considering the advice of a great many people, people whose ideas of success were different both to each other, and quite possibly, to you can be a good alternative.

    What follows is a list of thirteen of the best pieces of advice from some of the most successful people who have ever lived. If you want to learn how to be successful, these 13 tips are essential:

    1.Think big.

      From Michelangelo Buonarroti, Great Renaissance Artist:

      “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

      There are few artists as influential as Michaelangelo. Today centuries after his death, his work still inspires and connects to people. His work is world famous, just think of his statue of David, or the Mural in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

      Imagine then, if he decided not to work as an artist.

      Being a successful artist has always been extremely difficult, imagine if he decided to give up this ambition in favour of something easier?

      Oftentimes, people often decided to put their dreams aside for something more “realistic”. To give up their dream for something easier. This quote teaches us the danger of such a point of view.
      Instead be ambitious.

      2.Find what you love to do and do it.

        From Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul:

        “You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job and not be paid for it.”

        This is a good quote to remember and think about when you’re at work.

        Imagine being as successful as possible in your current job. Ultimately you’ll probably find yourself working extremely hard and this it will take up much of your time.

        If it’s a job you hate, then being successful at it might only mean filling your life with something you hate to do. What’s the sense in this?

        Instead, why not focus on doing something you love? When you’ve found what you’re passionate about, you get the motivation to keep you moving. Success at this means the fulfilment of your dreams.

        Not sure what your passion is yet? You should learn about this Motivation Engine first.

        Even if you’re not successful, you still filled your time with something you love to do. Many successful musicians spent years of their lives doing unpaid performances, the only reason they kept playing was because they loved to perform.

        3. Learn how to balance life.

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          From Phil Knight, CEO of Nike Inc.:

          “There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a constant battle between peace and chaos. Neither can be mastered, but both can be influenced. How you go about that is the key to success.”

          All too often, people think that to be successful, they need to make the object of their success their life.

          If a person thinks their job will lead them to success, then they may spend countless hours per day, and well into the evening working hard.

          However this comes at the cost of rest, your health and having an enjoyable life. Ultimately they may burn out and cease to be successful at their job anyway.

          If success comes from having a strong social life and a good group of friends, their job may suffer; meaning that they may lose their job, and then be unable to afford going out with friends.

          In these ways, success, as Phil Knight says above, is helped by balance. Think of it as a balance between rest and work, or work and play.

          To achieve that balance, this Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life can help you.

          4. Do not be afraid of failure.

            From Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors:

            “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

            There is a story, it’s unconfirmed whether it actually happened, yet the message within is none the less true:

            Thomas Edison inventing the lightbulb was the result of several hundred failed attempts. In an interview, he was asked “How do you feel after all of your failed attempts?”

            His response was great, “I didn’t fail, I learned hundreds of ways not to invent the lightbulb”

            He saw each “failure” as a lesson. From that lesson he learned what won’t work, and also might work instead.

            Each failed attempt, each rejection, were key steps on his path to success. It is easy to feel like you should give up after a failure. But perhaps in that failure is a lesson.

            Pay attention to your failures, study them. Perhaps then you’ll learn how to succeed.

            5. Have an unwavering resolution to succeed.

              From Colonel Sanders, Founder of KFC:

              “I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know.”

              This, in many ways relates to the above quote about learning from your failures.

              It’s the easiest thing in the world to give up from a failure. The only way to push on is if you have the true burning desire to succeed, to not be moved or dissuaded from your goals.

              If you are not truly dedicated towards success, then each failure will hurt more, each set back will slow you down.

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              Success is hard; without the unwavering desire to succeed, this difficulty may seem insurmountable. With the desire, it is merely an obstacle to go through.

              6. Be a person of action.

                From Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Genius:

                “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

                Though it was said hundreds of years ago, it works just as much today as it ever had. It applies to literally any successful person.

                Think about it, picture someone like William Shakespeare:

                When we think of the time he lived in, we think of the time in a way shaped by him. When we think of Renissance era Italy, we think of Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

                Or think about the present day:

                Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Our current way of life would simply be incomparably different if they didn’t accomplish what they did.

                You’re probably reading this article on a device by a company that they either founded or companies influenced by them.

                All these figures were proactive, they saw ways to do things differently and did them. If they let the world shape them, then they’d simply fit into the background. Instead they shaped the world.

                Applying this to you?

                Don’t be afraid of going outside the norm. If you can think of a better way to do something, do it that way. If you fail, try again.

                7. Avoid conflicts.

                  From Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of America: “

                  The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

                  The best leaders and some of the most influential people (and Theodore Roosevelt is one of the best leaders and one of the most influential people to have lived) were not those who caused commotions, who fought with people or disregarded people; but were people who were friendly to those around them.

                  People liked them. They wanted them to do well.

                  This is key to good leadership.

                  It’s logical. If someone likes you, they want to help you; if you give them a suggestion, they’ll gladly follow through with it.

                  But if someone doesn’t like you, they may either refuse to help or actively get in your way.

                  What’s more, it’s always a good idea to cultivate good relationships. You can never tell who will prove to become someone who’ll be able to help you in a big way, or even be a good and supportive friend.

                  As such, help people and they may help you; and be good to people, and they my be good to you.

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                  8. Don’t be afraid of introducing new ideas.

                    From Mark Twain, Famed Author:

                    “A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”

                    It is an unfortunate truth that those with the boldest ideas are often disregarded.

                    Most of us are taught from an early age to think and do things similarly to everyone else. This can be great to fill an existing role. But to truly do things differently (and all successful people did things differently), you need to think differently.

                    If you have a new idea, don’t throw it away because it’s new and different; instead, celebrate it. Your strange new idea might one day be the one that leads you to success.

                    9. Believe in your capacity to succeed.

                      From Walter Disney, Founder of Walt Disney Company:

                      “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

                      Success has to be something you can imagine yourself achieving.

                      It is possible that you will come across those who doubt you and your ability to succeed. You must not become one of these people because the moment you cease believing and dreaming is the moment these dreams fall away.

                      Keep dreaming!

                      10. Always maintain a positive mental attitude.

                        From Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of America:

                        “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

                        Like the above quote says, you need to trust in your ability to succeed. This is the only way to cultivate the right mindset.

                        Replace negative thoughts with the positive ones. You need to approach problems, not as obstacles stopping you, but merely tasks that need to be completed for you to keep going.

                        If you stay positive and think like this, setbacks won’t affect you so much, people’s doubts won’t impact you and even the biggest obstacles will seem like minor problems.

                        However with the wrong mindset of doubt, you’ll be much easier to stop.

                        11. Don’t let discouragement stop you from pressing on.

                          From Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of America:

                          “Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.”

                          It is an unfortunate fact of human nature — all of us in some way, doubt ourselves. This can be made far worse if others doubt us too.

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                          When surrounded by doubts, giving up can actually seem like a good idea.

                          Don’t pay attention to the doubts. If you are discouraged, ignore it.

                          If this discouragement moves into your mind and you begin to doubt yourself. It is important to ignore this too.

                          Take a look at these 5 Ways to Stop Self Doubt in its Tracks.

                          12. Be willing to work hard.

                            From JC Penny, Founder of JC Penney Inc.:

                            “Unless you are willing to drench yourself in your work beyond the capacity of the average man, you are just not cut out for positions at the top.”

                            You might have heard the quote that “success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” or you may have heard about the 10,000 hours idea.

                            Whichever way you frame it, they say one thing:

                            True success comes from work.

                            You’ll never become successful if you don’t work towards your goal in life and keep working towards it.

                            Check out this article and you’ll understand Why Hard Work Beats Talent.

                            13. Be brave enough to follow your intuition.

                              From Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple Inc.:

                              “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

                              In ancient Greece, there was a group of Oracles who lived in Delphi. Everyone who needed advice or to know their future visited them, from the poorest of society to kings. Above the doorway of the temple were the words “know thyself”.

                              If you strongly believe and desire something, the chances are that you already have an idea how to get there. If not, you may naturally know what things will help you and what things will slow you down.

                              It’s like how your body can detect danger even when things seem safe.

                              Ultimately then, you need to trust your own instincts.

                              Final thoughts

                              What you might have noticed is that many of the above lessons are similar — most are about developing the right state of mind. This clearly suggests that the key to achieving success, in whatever you wish, comes down to the way you approach it mentally.

                              Moreover, no matter what stage of life you’re at now, you can still make a difference and pursue success. You can make resetting your life possible when you do this:

                              How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

                              More Recommended Lifehack Experts in Success

                              • Mandie Holgate — Successful life coach in the UK, helping businesses and individuals achieve greatness
                              • David Carpenter — Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership
                              • Ray Zinn — An inventor, entrepreneur, bestselling author and the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley

                              Featured photo credit: Ryan Wong via unsplash.com

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