Wednesday, December 06, 2006


by Hannah

The focus of the blog this week is our writers’ group structure. As you can see from Lisa and Amy's posts, we have strict rules, and for good reason. It is impossible to make progress without them.

Except. How can any one person, never mind four, keep to such strict rules? Do we really follow our rules 100% of the time? Well…

- We meet every two weeks. Okay, except due to illness, holidays or vacation. But we do create a replacement meeting as close to the original date as humanly possible. We do not push it off to the next meeting, ever. We have always met twice a month.

- Two people present 15 – 20 pages. Although we have read the last 50 pages of three manuscripts now, at a shot. And we reread each completed MS, start to finish, which is a total joy. Never less? Well, after finished manuscripts, we have read query letters, but we rarely have to wait more than another round before we get the first 20 pages of a new project.

- Pages are sent at least a week in advance and edited in advance. This one holds fast. Even and especially with entire manuscripts. It is useful having a group of voracious readers.

- The person being critiqued remains silent until the others are done. We may confess to occasional sign language, but we are good about this.

- We begin with compliments. Always; it is never an issue.

- No unnecessary chit-chat unrelated to the writing life. This is work we love, and we are virtual office mates in an otherwise solitary experience. Who else would listen to discussions of punctuation, possible plot shifts, and the wisdom of Agents and Editors and Authors met along the way, without going cross-eyed? Do we ever mention other parts of our lives? Maybe. Okay, now and then. But we always get back to the writing.

We were far stricter about our rules at the start, which is how it needed to be. As we have gotten to know each other, to trust each other, we have loosened them. But not much. Bottom line: rules provide structure, wise exceptions make them stronger, and trust and commitment within the group make both possible.

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