Forum / Where are the critique groups?

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    Tiffany R. White
    Dec 03, 07:58pm

    I am a writer that seriously could use a good eye from the many talented writers here. What are the names of the critiquing groups?

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    Susan Gibb
    Dec 04, 05:54am

    Hi Tiffany,

    There are a few places. The Workshop is one (and then via request, The Hidden Workshop--named as such only to protect the piece and not for exclusivity), Works in Progress is another. All stories can receive critique if in the Author's Notes to the right of the regular posting you ask for it. Have fun!


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    AJ Dresser
    Jan 23, 02:26pm

    You can also go to Zoetrope. Lots of writers here workshop their stories there, get them published, then put them up here secondary.

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    Susan Tepper
    Jan 23, 03:07pm

    I don't believe in writers workshopping their stories. I did it years ago, and found it pretty useless. First off, you can get terrible advice. A lot of writers get bad critiques then go on to do rewrites on stories that are good to begin with. Good stories have been killed by workshops. And by agents who are now acting as editors. Some agents have been known to ruin good manuscripts by tweaking the writing to meet some current market trend. Ghastly! If they're so talented then why aren't they writing the books themselves? Basically, it's all subjective. Even the BIG contests are subjective. I read about a BIGGIE contest that boils down the winner to the book every judge hates the least! Wow! That was an eye-opener! So I say: write your brains out and trust your own instincts. Sooner or later you will be rewarded by publication, or not. But at least you will know for sure that it was your words that made it. Or not. And the truth will always set you free.

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    Susan Tepper
    Jan 24, 09:55am

    ps-- (to my diatribe)

    what makes Fictionaut such an excellent writer community is this: if people respond to your work, they will tell you. if they don't, they will pass the story or poem by. nobody starts to lay any heavy "rewrite advice" onto the author. it gives authors a ton of freedom to feel they can put out their work in a safe place. and that, i believe, is crucial to the creative process.

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    Susan Tepper
    Jan 24, 11:23am

    pps-- I wasn't aware that there were any "workshop critique" type groups on Fictionaut, and didn't mean to offend anyone involved in those groups (if I did, I sincerely apologize). As a writing teacher, I have found that emphasizing what is positive in a story moves the writer along much more quickly than pointing out a story's shortcomings. I've had people in my classes who couldn't put together 2 decent sentences of fiction, who stuck with it because they loved the form, and went on to win major writing competitions. I'm not making this up. And it had nothing to do with my particular teaching skill or lack thereof. It was because they were given the green light. Never the red light. Ok, I've said enough and will shut up about this.

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    Susan Gibb
    Jan 24, 11:35am

    No, Susan, I think all your points are valid. Some college workshopping sessions are brutal. Some local (and online) writing groups are misinformed or will lambaste you for not following the so-called rules of writing.

    Here at fictionaut, it pretty much works the way you state, but sometimes folks are just too unsure of posting and then have their egos deflated publicly (by lack of comments much less faves versus 'views') and prefer to first hit a small willing group. Here, the good is pointed out much more often than the bad, and suggestions--if asked for--are gently but honestly given.

    And always, always, a writer must know whether a suggestion or opinion is valid or just not something they want to act upon. It's never written in stone that suggestions are going to make a story better (and yes, I've had people make suggestions in local groups that were totally off the wall!) and it's always up to the author him/herself to write the best story.

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    Carol Reid
    Jan 24, 12:21pm

    I change my opinion on this topic several times a day! And I'm totally guilty of imposing my half-baked opinions on other people's work. Thanks, Susan T.for reminding me that green lights are better than red.
    Most of the time I think that workshopping can be a valuable tool for a piece of work that's malingering or stuck. I belong to a small, very simpatico local group and we've had some galvanizing discussions which have helped us all to understand, just a little bit better the nature of story and how to make it work.

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    Michael J. Solender
    Jan 27, 06:59pm

    writing can be so solitary. i for one appreciate it when someone takes the time to provide a perspective or input on my work. i always take it with a grain of salt. that said i have received some very constructive and discreet personalized feedback here via private message that i've found helpful it certainly helps me if i've had the opportunity to read the work of those offering the critique so i may place appropriate weight on the input. i think most people who write as a vocation or avocation sincerely wish to become "better" at the craft. of course that is subjective, and i admit on occasion my ego has been bruised, but invariably when i step back and process the input i find i have learned something. one other bit of info and then i'll quit ranting. many editors of on line lit mags, including those featured here at fictionaut, will provide youy with perspective and critique if you engage them in dialogue about your piece. you may find that worthwhile.

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    AJ Dresser
    Jan 28, 09:47pm

    I agree with Susan T that many workshops are not helpful. I've bailed on many because of the lack of decent advice and selfish people who are only looking for help on their piece.

    I do think Zoetrope is good, though. There are some private offices there (by invite only) where people serious about workshopping will offer up helpful words.

    I've seen writers murder their own words at the advice of others; good point there. I'll read some good stories and send a Request for Submission, then see that what they ended up with is awful. Varied voices, choppy transitions. I've often asked writers to give me their original for publication then work with them to tweak it.

    That's the writer's fault, though. Taking everyone's advice can screw up lots of things in life, not just a story. If you know your own voice and the voice of the characters, then sifting through advice should be easy.

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    T. J. Forrester
    Feb 11, 06:58pm

    I've workshopped every manuscript through, including a novel and a collection accepted by Simon & Schuster. It takes a while to get to know people, but I've nurtured relationships with quality writers, many highly educated, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in this world.

    You get what you give in a workshop, and I learned that the giving, me reviewing other works, was just as important to my development. I learned to read with a critical eye, and also to apply that same kind of scrutiny to my manuscripts. And let's not assume that reading with a critical eye means only noting flaws. One of the secrets to writing a successful review is ferreting out and praising what the author did well.

    Trying to reshape the story to reflect the comments of each reviewer, is part of growing up as a writer. Sooner or later, the writer understands these actions are counterproductive. He learns how to pick what he needs from a review and to throw away the rest. I no longer need to workshop in the same way I once did, but I still post the occasional story because it allows me to connect with writers I've come to know and respect over the years.

    If a writer is looking for an online workshop, especially for lit fiction, I highly recommend

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    Finnegan Flawnt
    Feb 12, 08:56am

    very valuable views here, i enjoyed reading this as i take a stab at editing my own novel. i believe workshops here and elsewhere are for relationships (helping me to go from solitary to community) and for encouragement (soothing self doubt). my first, last and most valuable editor is a cranky old man inside me. i think he's called "harold" and he had an affair with a woman called "maude" once, but she died and left him bereft and sceptic of love. which makes him hard to talk to and hard of hearing. when he sees the sign "workshop" he barfs (i am not speaking for him, i think that's disgusting). i on the other hand have benefited greatly from feedback on fnaut.

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    Matt Dennison
    Feb 12, 12:34pm

    what I look for MOSTLY in reader feedback is the pointing out of awkward phrases, repetition of words too close to each other, alienating alliteration, unintended rhymes, etc.

    Given just one or two of these greatly increases my hunger for finding weaknesses in the mss until I turn into a ravenous error-eater, feeding on mistakes.

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    Jon Davies
    Feb 18, 09:26pm

    I find workshopping extremely useful. You have to learn who to trust--not follow every person's whim or bias. (Some people I've workshopped with I've usually just discounted parts of their advice knowing their particular weird aesthetic; one writer, I know, for example, hates any sentence longer than about ten words. If I followed everything she spelled out, I'd be writing choppy stuff.) But once you've done that, other readers can be a very good tool in showing where something doesn't seem quite right--a POV that is off in a spot, an experience that doesn't ring true because I haven't myself lived it (but the other writer has), a phrase that seems to be "too much," a sentence that no one understands except me, etc. I might pick up on these things myself with time, but a workshop helps me see these things more quickly than I would putting a story aside for a year or two while I got distance. A workshop sometimes helps me see a story in ways I haven't seen it before or know a character better, which in turn helps me clarify the story or character further or extend a theme I was only subconsciously aware of before. As for workshopping on Fictionaut itself, I haven't found it that useful (comments tend to be very focused rather than conceptual), but I've met some great writers who I've exchanged critiques with via regular e-mail.

    Knowing what not to do is very useful as well, especially for a beginning writer; I'm not particularly keen on only giving positive advice in a workshop setting--I don't ask for critiques to build up my ego but to improve the writing on the page. My first creative writing teacher was "mean"--usually a good quarter of the class would drop that first day--but I was a 100 percent better writer after I left her class. And I returned to take her class another three times.

    That's not to say that I liked her approach in total. But you knew where she stood, and you knew when she liked something because she wasn't just spouting niceties. And most of what she said was true. Such instruction is what I needed at the time.

    These days, nearly twenty years later, with a little better knowledge about what I'm doing, I'd probably say the better critiques I aren't prescriptive but descriptive. "Here's how I'm reading this story and this character. Here's what doesn't seem to fit that reading. Here's where I'm confused." The reason is that sometimes the prescriptive critiquers are telling me to change things about the story that I know full well are there--for a REASON. But that goes back to knowing who to trust and having your own vision.

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