Sunday, May 17, 2009

On Writing Groups

By Alex Raley

During our last writers group meeting, I realized that I am the oldest person in the group, by both years of age and by years in the group. You might ask why I am still in a writers group. Have I not learned to write? Oh well, I suppose passing a writing test is not beyond my abilities. But, the group is not about learning to write. Most of us write fairly well, thank you.

The writers group helps me make my writing more interesting. Group critiques are honest and to the point, the point being to truly communicate and hold the interest of a reader. There is a bountiful supply of diverse thinking in the group, so there is always someone who clicks immediately with what I write, but if just one person seems to miss what I intend to say that is a good reason to take another look at the writing.

The diversity of age in the group sometimes points you in a different direction, or supports what you have written. The group read a poem I had written about the regimentation we build into the lives of children. In naming such events in the poem, I asked what child needed a project on PowerPoint. One reader said that was too adult, but, before I could explain that my second- and fifth-grade grandsons had just completed PowerPoint assignments, the younger folks jumped in to say that children are indeed dealing with PowerPoint in school. And, of course, I love to hear the wise, calm voice of an elder in the group when the younger folks are railing for more action, more detail.

We recently had a new person visit us. He said that he had sent a manuscript to an editor, or agent, who responded that the story did not have a narrative curve, or some such name for the peak in a story, which usually occurs just before the writer pulls all threads of the narrative to a conclusion. I would say to that visitor that we may not be able to give you a well-written definition of the narrative curve, but, through the thoughtful and caring responses to your writing from our group members, you will develop your own narrative peaks and writing style.

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