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Several questions...

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leprrkan



Joined: 29 Jul 2007
Posts: 5089
Location: In the home stretch...
Several questions...  Reply with quote  

Have any of you guys ever participated in a writer's group/workshop before? If so, is it normal to pay a fee to join such a group? What seems to be standard if it is the norm? Aside from the obvious peer critique, are there other benefits of such a group?

Also, when referring to the "craft" of writing, I am assuming that authors mean the building blocks: how to construct a sentence, how to construct a paragraph, how to write coherently and cohesively, proper grammar, etc. Is there more to it, though, than the bare bones? If so, what other things should be focused on?

Thanks for the 411 Very Happy
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Post Tue Oct 23, 2007 8:10 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
LostInWalmart



Joined: 26 Jun 2006
Posts: 1900
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I'm taking a workshop now, but it's more of a fiction class. There's an instructor talking about craft, and we do writing exercises that focus on specific things like characterization, point of view, psychic distance, and stuff like that. It's not to the level of spelling and grammar, but it's pretty basic writing stuff. Yes, I paid for the class and we do peer review some pieces and turn others in for critiques. (www.writer.org lists the workshops and prices)

I don't know about a writing group where you pay and review each other's work, maybe someone else can speak to that. I can say that the exercises in my class have helped me focus on character issues I never considered before - things that may not end up in the writing, but will inform how my characters behave. So far so fun.

Not sure if that helps or not.

B

Post Wed Oct 24, 2007 1:51 pm   View user's profile Send private message
Taco Bob



Joined: 12 Apr 2004
Posts: 1201
Location: Palm Falls, Florida
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I was in the Internet Writers Workshop for a while and would highly recommned anyone with a ms or most of a ms to check into a workshop of some kind. I believe even the AG did when he started writing.
I learned a lot. At the time I was on IWW there was a wide range of people and material. Some were talented but clewless as to the mechanics of writing. Others had everything down except for the spark of talent. Often those people could do others a lot of good with their crits.
Some people were too kind - offering praise and kind words for even crappy work. Others were knowledgeable and even mean - looking for a naive noob to dump on. One or two on there at the time were downright crazy.
I met some interesting people, and probably learned the most from the bad crits I got (I still cringe whenever I type "was". Wink ). Two of the people I met on IWW helped with my first books and I still keep in touch with both of these fine people.
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Post Wed Oct 24, 2007 2:22 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Ferrit Leggings



Joined: 29 Mar 2004
Posts: 2658
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There are a lot of peer review sites and sites that offer critique for photography.
Such as:
photocritiq.com
photonet.com
flickr.com
pbase.com
usefilm.com
deviantart.com
and many more.

Each site tries to offer a workshop atmosphere with reviews and ratings and all sorts of other things that are intended to make a person better. Most fall short because the people on these sites generally are looking for someone, anyone, to affirm their talent. It does work for some because they do have talent and need that extra recognition to get them to make the next step in their career.

What you have to watch out for are the people that give compliments merely with the hope of a compliment back, or fall into the idea that popularity on a site will result in jobs, money, contracts, and deals. Mostly the photographers I know use these sites for promotion of their work and are not looking for a critique. It is a free or cheap way to get noticed but it is like trying to get noticed in Times Square after The Lion King on Ice lets out. It is the needle in the haystack mystery. Some get lucky and most do not.

With writing it is different but some of the same stuff will go on. I am speaking of the tribes of people flocking to one or two people's work hoping for a glint of anything. Every site has those people that are more popular than they should be and there is good reason for it. It is prostituting their work or simply that they are very good at what they do.

When I write I try to think of one or two people that I write for and what they would think of what I am writing. King and other authors call it their intended reader or the reader they are writing for. That person is not the person that thinks everything you do is golden. That person will tell you what is crap and what is good. I am not speaking of a general audience either where you would be writing for a teen or adult group or even a sci fi crowd but one single person that you trust.

Groups like that are good and can offer help but help from a single person that you can expect the truth from is more valuable than a group of strangers. The internet is a great place to meet people and whore talent but it is also a place where many people say what they know people want to hear and others that say things that they never would say face to face. Personal give and take in a critique is better than over the world wide web. Also remember that you are not getting paid and sometimes on the web it is considered publication once you show it.

Finally, a lot of writing groups and workshops are filled with people who are looking for an excuse to fail. They want someone to tell them to tweak something or fix this or rework that or take more time to work on style and so on. It is a way for them to fall back on their day to day lives. It is the same with all areas of the arts. Give someone a reason to fail and they will, even a small one. Give them one person who is honest that they can trust and they have all that they need. It is harder to find that one person than to find a workshop.

BTW: I take photographs for myself, because I trust myself, and for a teacher that taught me just about all I know about photography. I write for a woman I knew. Both I can see in my head saying either yes or that is absolute crap. The intended viewer or reader is the key, everything else is gravy.
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Post Wed Oct 24, 2007 9:32 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
leprrkan



Joined: 29 Jul 2007
Posts: 5089
Location: In the home stretch...
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Thank you for your input, guys. I was asking because I recently found out about a state-wide group around here (pennwriters.org) and I looked them up to see about joining. They are, as I understand it, a writer's workshopping group, open to both ammeters and professionals. They charge a fee to become a member of their organization; and while I'm not opposed to paying to do so, any time someone on the 'net asks me to pay for something, I get wary. That's why I wondered if that was standard practice for writers workshops (as opposed to classes, which I know you have to pay for). The only other group I've found locally is a poetry group that also welcomes prose writers. I'd rather participate in a r/l group as opposed to one on-line, but will take what I can find Very Happy
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Post Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:23 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
CoffeeCatMuse



Joined: 10 Jan 2007
Posts: 22
Location: Dayton, OH
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I am currently looking for writing grants (to fund the self-publishing of my novel) for unpublished authors.

I probably have a good chance of getting one designed for women, since I am technically a "minority."

But it's like looking for a needle in a haystack at night, and I'd love to meet someone with a flashlight and a metal detector, you know?

If anyone knows, thank you in advance. Very Happy
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Post Mon Apr 07, 2008 6:19 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Yahoo Messenger
Sephonae



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 5218
Location: New York
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LIW, what's "psychic distance?"
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Post Mon Apr 07, 2008 6:59 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
LostInWalmart



Joined: 26 Jun 2006
Posts: 1900
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psychic distance is (allegedly) a technique that sets the emotional distance between the reader and a character. For example, a scene could describe a man stepping out of a building into the cold (a fairly remote description, emotionally), or it could describe the cold air burning his lungs and snow finding its way past his collar and down his back (emotionally close). Or somewhere in-between.

The instructor likened it to a scene in a movie. The camera can remain distant, showing only a fraction of the character, or it could swoop in close up, to a more intimate range.

Or it could be a bunch of crap.

B

FYI - This was stolen from the URMA website (www.urma.org), whoever they are. It's an exercise bout Psychic Distance, as you can see by the title.

Psychic Distance: an exercise

Number these examples 1 through 4, in order of increasing psychic distance.

A. Winter came early that year, and by late November the town lay under a low sky, heavy and gray as cast-iron. One evening, a tall, knobby man stepped out of the First National Bank, leaning hard against the blowing snow. (4)

B. Snow. Filling his eyes. Stinging his cheeks. Cold he could taste like a grit in his teeth. (1)

C. One evening in late November, Ralph Maynard stepped out of the First National Bank, pulled the collar of his overcoat tighter around him, and set off in a blinding swirl of snow. (3)

D. As he left the warm, solemn glow of the bank and stepped outside, Ralph felt the snow swarm around him, biting his face. (2)

Who will volunteer the answers? How many of you agree? This point-of-view stuff isn't just a matter of opinion, varying from reader to reader.

We are very sensitive to clues about psychic distance. This is part of our aptitude as social animals. Where are the clues, in these examples? The character himself probably would not be thinking, at this moment in the story, about the actual name of the bank, or the month, or about his own height and knobbiness. These are details supplied by an observer. The more closely the narrative corresponds to the experience of the character, the less the psychic distance.

To see what effect grammatical person has on these examples, substitute first person for third in the phrases that name or describe the character.

Post Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:10 am   View user's profile Send private message
Sephonae



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 5218
Location: New York
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Thanks, B. Interesting! I didn't know there was a name for that (so many things are "named" these days, aren't they? Or maybe it always was and I'm just ignant? Yeah, I'm probably just ignant.) I do find I have done a lot of that sort of chatty, conversational writing when I want to give the reader the big picture, but my sentences get shorter, clipped, fragmented into bursts of intensity as I focus on a character's emotional angst. Zooming in and out, as it were.
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<=== Dressing in dismal chic and maintaining her detached aura of aristocratic chill since 1985.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"You can't wipe your ass with empty promises." - thread title, by walk

Post Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:27 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
CoffeeCatMuse



Joined: 10 Jan 2007
Posts: 22
Location: Dayton, OH
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Hey, how do you all handle a character's phone number? All my life, I've seen people in movies and TV shows use the fictitious "555" exchange....so do we, as writers, use it in our fiction novels? Is that too cliche and cheesy?

If I made one up, using New York City's 212 area code...it might be a real one, and someone would complain/sue.

So.....555?
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Post Sun Jul 27, 2008 8:28 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Yahoo Messenger
leprrkan



Joined: 29 Jul 2007
Posts: 5089
Location: In the home stretch...
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Instead of 555, why not 545 or something that you know isn't an actual exchange where you live? For example, in Erie our area code is 814 and I know the majority of our exchanges here in town so I could use say, 541, which isn't real.
Or, use an actual number that doesn't connect to a live person. We have a thing here, 814-452-6311, it's a real, working phone number but it connects to a recording that tells you the local time and temp Very Happy
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"Jesus... is NOT a zombie... I shouldn't have to tell you that."

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Post Sun Jul 27, 2008 10:56 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
J.B.Chamberlin



Joined: 20 Jul 2008
Posts: 52
Re: Several questions...  Reply with quote  

leprrkan wrote:
Have any of you guys ever participated in a writer's group/workshop before? If so, is it normal to pay a fee to join such a group? What seems to be standard if it is the norm? Aside from the obvious peer critique, are there other benefits of such a group?

Also, when referring to the "craft" of writing, I am assuming that authors mean the building blocks: how to construct a sentence, how to construct a paragraph, how to write coherently and cohesively, proper grammar, etc. Is there more to it, though, than the bare bones? If so, what other things should be focused on?

Thanks for the 411 Very Happy


I took a class once and sure it's normal to pay a fee. It was at a Writing Center near DC. It was a good experience although out of 20 people in the group, only a few of us seemed to have a clue as to what would make an interesting story. There were some middle aged house wives that were obviously a little bored with things and thought they'd give writing a shot. Unforunately, not a one of them had any ideas and so they told stories of well... changing diapers and watching Price is Right. I didn't necessarily agree with some of the methods we were "taught" but it was a good experience. Sitting in a room of 20 wanna be writers who critique your stuff is always a good thing. =) Until then, I had never shared my writing with anyone but close friends (and my wife at the time). You get a much different response from strangers.

--JBC

Post Mon Jul 28, 2008 6:17 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
LostInWalmart



Joined: 26 Jun 2006
Posts: 1900
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JB - at the Writer's Center? Demographic sounds about right.

B

Post Mon Jul 28, 2008 9:04 am   View user's profile Send private message
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