Monday, February 28, 2011

Writer's Roundtable at Paragraphs

We have started a new group at Paragraphs for anyone interested in improving their writing skills. Any type of writing is welcome and there is no previous experience necessary. If you use words to communicate then you are wanted for this group -- songwriters, poets, historians, fiction writers, memoirists, manga -- whatever genre you are interested in, you are welcome. I am also setting up a Discussion tab for this group on the store FB page. Feel free to ask questions, offer suggestions to your fellow authors, post tidbits of information, whatever - the page is there for your use.

The group will have a variety of formats. Some months we will have individuals read a sample of their work and if they choose to, ask the rest of the group for suggestions or a critique of their work.

So that this is kept positive and no one is afraid to come to a meeting or intimidated by the thought of having their work critiqued, let me emphasize that sharing and requesting criticism is always voluntary. You are welcome to attend and listen and then share as you become more comfortable with the group. To be a good listener and to be able to provide helpful suggestions will add to the success of the group but will also improve the quality of ones own writing. To facilitate this I am going to share some basic guidelines. (Thanks to Pat Avery)

Critique Guidelines for Writer Round Table Discussions at Paragraphs

Basic Information:

1. Comments about a fellow writer's work should be constructive criticism of the material. Always show respect. A member of the group should never criticize the writer personally or ridicule his or her work.

2. Start with positive comments and then offer suggestions. Writers are creative personalities who write from the heart and intellect. Whether a person is writing a memoir, a novel, nonfiction or poetry it is uniquely personal.

3. Think in terms of cleaning up, strengthening, tightening and trimming the work. Help the writer whittle away unnecessary words and thoughts. Whatever the genre, a tightly written document generates more interest. Suggest improvements that add color and clarity to the work.

Areas for Critique:

Does it make sense? Did you like it? Did it keep your interest?

Is the plot consistent? Is it believable, understandable and well-organized?

Are the characters well developed? Were they consistent and true to their character throughout the manuscript? Could you form a mental image of each character?

Did the setting support the plot and characterizations? Were you able to form a mental image of place and time?

Did the writer develop a conflict? Did the conflict create tension? Did the plot keep your attention? Should the action be faster or slower? Were there too many subplots to stay focused? Did the plot come to a resolution?

Did the dialogue match the characters personalities? Was it believable and true to time and place? Did it move the plot forward or create a diversion? Did it build the conflict? Did the author use dialogue to show rather than tell the story.

Was the story easy to follow? Were sentences or paragraphs too long or short? Did the story flow smoothly? Was point of view established and maintained? Did the writer use too many -ly adverbs or were common words overused -- like very, many or just? Were grammar rules such as gender and tense consistent?
Of course, depending on the type of writing the above guidelines may vary but the basics are here and hopefully we will add to and revise these as we go along.

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