New writers group discussion

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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by NaClmine on Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:36 pm

Ladies, perhaps you should form a private "writers' group". It would have a simple set of rules and provide each member with valued feedback and mutual responsibilities. The most important rule is secrecy. You should all agree that everyone's submissions will be kept private, thereby providing protection against publishing problems and possible theft of ideas. Once a core group establishes the working rules, then all future new members should be by unanimous vote of existing active members. Here are the rules my writers' group uses:

1. Membership: By invitation only and new members must be voted in by a unanimous vote of existing members in good standing.

2. Submission Activity: Each member agrees to submit one chapter between 10 and 25 pages for critique by all other members. The Chapter will be submitted on MS Word, double spaced and typed in a standard 12 pt font like Arial or Times New Roman. Obviously, spell check and grammar check should be completed before submitting.

3. Submission rules: Each member's chapter must be submitted to the group before the last day of any month, for review during the following month. If a member can not meet the end of the month deadline, then he/she forfeits the opportunity until the next month's deadline. Repeated failure to submit (two consecutive months) is grounds for dismissal from the group by unanimous vote of the remaining members, although the group can vote to allow longer absences if requested.

4. Review expectations: Each member is responsible to produce a thorough "review" of all the other members' chapters before the end of the month after submission. Such review will include, but not be limited to, SPaG, plot development, characterization, sub-plot, research, believability, etc. Since the group is limited to a maximum of eight members, that means each member will be completing no more than seven reviews over a four week period.

5. Security: All members agree to keep chapter submissions absolutely secret. In addition, any ideas derived from another member's writing must not be pursued without the written consent of the writing member.

That's it. Simple set of rules geared to promoting writing and providing feedback to each other. In my group, one member is a romance novelist with a dozen books on the market. Another member is a non-fiction, advice columnist with one book on the market and a regular column. As you know, I write sci-fi and action-adventure fiction. The point is, we offer each other interesting feedback from widely varying backgrounds. At first, I thought the diversity would be a problem but I quickly learned that both the romance novelist and the advice writer love sci-fi. Likewise, I find their "genres" interesting and I've learned that writing is writing, regardless of the subject matter.
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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by Garmar on Wed Apr 29, 2009 11:25 pm

Are you talking about an online group? If so, and if anyone is interested, I will create a group and assign one person (or more if needed) as moderator of the group.

With all permissions limited to only the members of that group, bots don't index those pages into the search engines and they can't even be seen by registered members if they aren't assigned to that group. This protects first rights.

If anyone is interested let me know.

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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by Garmar on Wed Apr 29, 2009 11:50 pm

I've put some thought into this previously for having a small group of members and giving them the title "Reviewer". We just don't have a large enough mass of members yet.

My idea for what NaClmine said would be to have a forum named however the group wants with sub-forums for each member. With a general discussion thread if you like. With only a few members it would work nicely to have a sub-forum for each member.

The members could choose their user name color for the group. Or you can choose to have no colored user names if you would like to keep it quiet and have the group be super secret. Wink What I'm getting at is you guys decide what you want without me sticking my nose in it.

This is my intention for the "Other Forums" at the bottom of the home page. There is a template forum for a group down there right now, ready for use.

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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by willow on Thu Apr 30, 2009 6:36 am

I would like to have something like that Gar. I want to post my ms for review but I'm afraid of the publishing issues. I'm all for doing it privately.

I'm not sure I understand the whole bot and color thing but I haven't had any coffee yet this morning either. lol

You have my vote.

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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by Garmar on Thu Apr 30, 2009 8:27 am

Every now and then you will see "bots" down there in the Who's Online area. Then under member online in the last 24 hours you will see "google" or "Yahoo". Those are automated programs those search engines use to index website pages you find when you use their search function.

Only pages that a guest can access can be crawled and thereby be entered into the search engines. FYI, by typing Creative Writing Review Group into the Google search engine we can be found now. We're not very far up in the ranks, but there are outbound links on other websites pointing to us. These can be links used in signatures (I have two websites where I do this) on other sites that are indexed high in the rankings. Another I have is through forumotion's website promotion. Every outbound link and indexed page helps move you up in the search engine rankings. This takes a long time btw. Unless you want to spend a great deal of money.

Anyway, I've gotten off the subject a little. The point is that since members can't even access a private forum without being a member of that forums usergroup...neither can that forum be entered into the search engines.
Here's some supporting information about what I'm talking about. I haven't had any coffee yet either and only half understand what I'm saying myself. web crawling bots

About the colored usernames. Notice that mine is dark blue. That's because I'm in the "administrators" usergroup. Likewise, I have two forums that only I can see and access right now. One right above "How To Review" in Writing Issues called Basket, and another at the very bottom under the Trash Bin in Other Forums that is a template forum for what we're talking about. Betcha can't see them.

So, depending on what the group wants, you guys can choose to have your usernames colored or left like they are if you want. Also note that I changed the "administrators' usergroup to hidden to make a point. If you look at the bottom of the page next to Legend, you will only see moderators now.

So your group won't even appear to exist except to those in the group if everyone chooses to keep it hidden. Membership into the group would truly be by invitation only - if the members keep it quiet.

Just a word of caution. This won't keep unscrupulous people from stealing something if they are a member of the group. I'm positive no one here would do that, but just bear that in mind when deciding on who to accept as members.

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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by NaClmine on Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:10 am

Garmar wrote: Just a word of caution. This won't keep unscrupulous people from stealing something if they are a member of the group. I'm positive no one here would do that, but just bear that in mind when deciding on who to accept as members.

Actually, membership in a writers' group DOES protect you against plagiarism because there are six other independent writers who can attest to the fact that you posted a chapter of your book first, before the other party. Also, in my writers' group we have each others real names, addresses and we meet once each month, usually at a coffee shop to discuss our work. That means, the real identity of a plagiarist is known and legal service possible in the event of such theft. The other thing that protects such a group is exclusivity . . . nobody gets in without being sanctioned by another member and it requires a 100% vote, even then, our group is intentionally capped at 8 members. We've been at 8 for two years.

If this forum sponsors such groups, I would suggest that each new "member" of a writers' group must be fully identified to the site management. There should be some kind of application requiring a real name and address so that the law can be enforced in the unlikely event of plagiarism. I bought a computer program (Corel Draw) online recently. The registration of the warranty required some personal information . . . name and address . . . there is no exchange of DOB, SSAN and other critical identity theft info. I would envision a web-based writers' group to need the same level of identification so that the rules have some teeth. In fact, I would not approve anyone for a web-based writers' group until I verified the name and address. A web-based writers' group would also have the benefit of the site management in case of dispute or misbehavior of a member.

One last thought: there are two primary risks -- plagiarism, which can easily be prevented by peer recognition of the timing of work presented, and, more importantly, theft of concepts or ideas. I say more importantly because a good writer could take Harry Potter, change some names, sequences of events and perhaps introduce a few additional sub plots and get away with stealing a story. Unfortunately, you cannot copyright an idea. So, this is the biggest risk in a writers' group. It is also one of the reasons why my writers' group is diverse. Of the eight, I am the only one who writes sci-fi/action-adventure. We have a romance novelist, a motivational speaker, an advice columnist, a fantasy writer, historical fiction author, a multi-interested librarian, a doctor's wife who mostly writes childrens' books, and of course, me, the token sci-fi guy. This seemingly odd collection of writing perspectives creates very interesting critiques with little risk of idea theft.
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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by ebyss on Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:18 am

I think that is a great idea, but the inviting members thing would need to be carefully considered.

As Garmar said, I think everyone here are great writers and reviewers, and noone here (now) would ever do anything as unscrupulous as stealing. But, unfortunately, that doesn't mean someone down the road isn't going to be an ass (sorry for the word, but when people steal someone's hard work, that is what they are). I would proceed with caution when inviting new members.

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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by ebyss on Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:20 am

LOL!! NaC posted while i was still writing. There he covered it.

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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by NaClmine on Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:23 am

ebyss wrote: I would proceed with caution when inviting new members.

That's the idea. It is expected that the introduction by an existing group member will involve some degree of vetting before the group votes. Also, in the unlikely event that a jerk slips into a group, the same unanimous vote can expell the person.
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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by willow on Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:27 am

We have completely stolen Lady's thread. lol I hope you don't mind Lady G.

I feel like we are on to something great here. I believe this would be helpful for everyone involved. Especially if we can get a diverse range of writers. ie, published, non published, long time and beginners.

If people still didn't want to post online, we could still have a core group that does it through email trades. If everyone had real names, addresses and such it shouldn't be too hard to protect ourselves. We could discuss what we've read (of each others ) in the private forums and not actually post the work.

Heck I would give my phone number! lol I can't tell you how many times I've wished I had a writer on speed dial so I could call and say--This doesn't sound right, what do I do? lmao

I'm very impatient...... smiling
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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by willow on Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:29 am

It sounds like we need to find out if anyone would be interested in this besides me. lol I don't need to be my own group. I suck at being my own editor! Razz
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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by Garmar on Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:36 am

Do you guys want to move this conversation to the suggestions and feedback forum? I've had a lot of information thrown at me here and I have some thinking to do about all of this.

First. Should we have a core group that is automatically accepted?

Second. That group will need to choose a moderator to guide the group and contact me when or if assistance is needed.

Third. Some sort of system for identifying members needs to be implemented. I haven't done this before, so... ideas?

I have more questions. These are the issues that I see that need to be dealt with first.


Last edited by Garmar on Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:59 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by willow on Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:39 am

Yes let's move this. Go ahead and start the tread and I'll meet you there. I feel bad that we've so completely jacked her thread. lol
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New writing group discussion

Post by Garmar on Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:46 am

I would suggest that each new "member" of a writers' group must be fully identified to the site management.
Do you mean me alone, or the group also? I think the entire group should know all the others if this is to work.

How many members as a cap for this group?

What if one of the members is only there to review the work of others? Will all members be required to post their own work as well? And if not, can that member review at their own level? What I mean is does that member have to review everything that is posted even if they aren't posting their own?

These are just a few questions that come to mind that will need to be discussed. Also, guidelines will need to be drawn up and agreed upon by the group. I don't mind doing it myself, but I don't want to make rules for the group based on my thoughts alone. It needs to be approved by all.

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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by willow on Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:38 am

I think it should be a small group to start. Four or five max.

If someone wants to join just to review, I don't have a problem with that. As long as that person comes with a great reference from someone we all trust.

I also think that everyone involved should review. That is the only way to be fair. If one of the four spends all day going over other peoples work and no one reads their's... Well that would irritate the crap out of me.

I do think that everyone in the group should know the real names and addresses of those involved. Personally, I would feel better about letting complete strangers read my work if I didn't feel that they were strangers. lol

What do you think about this? To join the group a person must submit a writing sample. That way those in the group have a good idea how much weight to put into the review comments. That doesn't mean they have to be excellent writers to join. If someone that has severe structural issues tells you that you have to totally rewrite something because of structure, you'd know to move on to the next comment. lol

I would like to see more than a chapter a month. I'm probably one of the few here who has nothing but time. I get tired of working on just my stuff and enjoy the break. It also helps me edit my own. I think submittal should be on a per person basis. If there are two in the group that have more time and can go over more, they can. Those who don't can take their time.

I still like the idea of trading through emails instead of actual posting online. Even if it is private. It could be discussed on the private forum who sent what to whom and we could have group discussions on each persons work. If we did it that way it would allow for faster review for those of us that have the time. When you have sent back one chapter reviewed, another could be sent to read. And so on.

There are 3 of you on here that I'd like to send my entire ms. lol I just haven't got up the nerve to ask if they wanted to read it! I was afraid if might be too forward. Wink
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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by willow on Thu Apr 30, 2009 11:18 am

Here's a thought...we could utilize the chat box and have a real time discussion about this! lol Unless you guy's are wanting the convo saved for everyone to read.
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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by Lady Goodman on Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:46 pm

I really like the idea for this. I'd love to have somewhere I could post and get honest feedback from a variety of people - without the fear of concept or story stealing.

The only thing I would suggest, is to promote all forms of constructive criticism, and not just a look over. I think if you have a small group of people, that would work better. I know in larger groups, if you read someone's work that you don't like - you ignore it rather than address reasons why you didn't like it to help the author make a more well rounded piece. Just my suggestion.

Also, I fully support the idea of person validification.
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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by ebyss on Thu Apr 30, 2009 1:03 pm

I think this sounds fun. Let me know if this goes.

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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by willow on Thu Apr 30, 2009 1:18 pm

I'm all up for this! I'm ready to start right this minute!!


Did I mention I have no patience? lmao That and I've drank way too much coffee today. Laughing
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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by NaClmine on Thu Apr 30, 2009 1:21 pm

Issues:

1) bypassing the forum: a writers' group is NOT a place to post small parts of a chapter for feedback. It is a place to post an entire chapter for thorough critique by ALL other members. This allows review of all the writing in context.

2) the monthly schedule generates a writing-schedule/deadline for all the members. If you are expected to submit a full chapter once each month, then by the end of a year you have more than half a complete novel.

3) proper use of the Review Section in this site: there is nothing wrong with posting small parts of a story publicly for review or help. That is the valuable role I feel this site offers and no publisher will be concerned about your having posted a couple paragraphs here and there for advice.

4) the writers' group will only be as good or as weak as its collective membership. Each member has a responsbility to better him/her self as a writer. One good way to accomplish this is by conducting thorough reviews and reading other peoples' reviews. So, the group serves many related purposes - education, production, access to different perspectives, camaraderie and confidence.

5) cohesive membership: three or four people might form an initial "core" group. After they agreed to a set of "rules", all future members are by-invitation only. Future members must earn the vote of all existing members before being allowed access to the group's activities. Where do you find potential new members? Read. Read reviews and posts by other people. When you discover someone who seems to be consistently positive, skilled, motivated and enthusiastic, you point that person out to fellow members. They can also watch this person BEFORE anyone approaches him/her about joining the group. That's how you protect your group and assure its productivity.

6) The role I would envision for this website is to provide a place to "meet" since there are no coffee shops convenient to the internet - Gar, are you willing to serve coffee? LOL. The management of this site can enforce the group decisions, i.e. cut off any writers' group member from access if someone should become a problem...profanity, failure to meet responsibilities, personal attacks, harrassment, etc.

7) productivity: a writers' group exists to generate good writing that leads to publication. Hence, the requirement for monthly chapter submissions. In my group, this is NOT negotiable. The theme is "write" or get out. We're not interested in reviewer-only members. Part of this reasoning is that we don't want "drone" members who are just there to gain new "ideas" or inspiration. We're interested in people who share the objective of getting published and are excited about the writing schedule.
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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by willow on Thu Apr 30, 2009 1:47 pm

Ok I turned the chatbox on and logged in. I'll leave it open if anyone wants to join me in a real time discussion. lol
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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by Garmar on Thu Apr 30, 2009 2:14 pm

2. Submission Activity: Each member agrees to submit one chapter between 10 and 25 pages for critique by all other members. The Chapter will be submitted on MS Word, double spaced and typed in a standard 12 pt font like Arial or Times New Roman. Obviously, spell check and grammar check should be completed before submitting.

3. Submission rules: Each member's chapter must be submitted to the group before the last day of any month, for review during the following month. If a member can not meet the end of the month deadline, then he/she forfeits the opportunity until the next month's deadline. Repeated failure to submit (two consecutive months) is grounds for dismissal from the group by unanimous vote of the remaining members, although the group can vote to allow longer absences if requested.
2) the monthly schedule generates a writing-schedule/deadline for all the members. If you are expected to submit a full chapter once each month, then by the end of a year you have more than half a complete novel.
The ramifications behind what Dean wrote here slipped by me earlier.


  • Learning to work on a deadline.


  • Make the procrastinators like me actually get down to writing like I'm supposed to be doing.


  • During the month, while you're writing and perfecting your chapter, small excerpts you're having difficulty with can be submitted into the general forum for assistance.


  • Only having one chapter from each member per month will create an atmosphere where members can concentrate fully on a smaller section instead of being overwhelmed by a whole manuscript.


  • And if you're needing a whole ms reviewed you can always ask someone you trust to look over the whole thing at once.
I feel that we should seriously consider his suggestions and follow what he has outlined in his above posts as a base reference while we see how things work out.

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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by NaClmine on Thu Apr 30, 2009 3:15 pm

If the underlying theme of a creative writing website is to develop such skills, then there needs to be serious "work" in that direction. It's nice to play word games and socialize -- those interactions build camaraderie -- but only scheduled writing and reviewing will lead to better skills and possible publication. One chapter a month is both do-able for busy people and productive considering that it will produce a finished novel every two years. Use PM to visit among yourselves. Discuss your interests and your ability/willingness to make the one-a-month commitment -- remember -- if you have four members in your group, you will also need to critique the other three members' chapters each month. Then arrange with Gary to start your group.
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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by Lady Goodman on Thu Apr 30, 2009 3:24 pm

Woah, I like this. It's structured and thorough. I'd definately like to see this implimented. Is there anything I can do to aid the process, or to initiate the process?
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Re: New writers group discussion

Post by Garmar on Thu Apr 30, 2009 3:35 pm

As this idea progresses everyone will be taking an active part. For now everyone who is interested should sign in here and be prepared to seriously commit to the process. I want to do it for sure.

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