Monday, September 21, 2015

Craft Chats and Prompts for Critique Groups

In the last few blogs I've been talking about starting and running your own Writer's Group, whether at a local library, your home or Panera's. Doesn't matter where. The point is, focus is needed to be productive.

During every 2 or 3-hour class, you should encourage Craft Chats -- sharing tips and tricks for better writing. I usually bring 1 or 2 pages of such tips, on any writing topic, such as self-publishing, useless and vague words to avoid entirely, character development, scenes, plots etc etc. There's hundreds of sources for these. 

One caveat: Writers and companies and colleges own the rights to their work. It's okay to print a page say from a Writer's Relief blog, or SubmitNow blog or any blog or articles or college writing sites like Purdue's OWL etc. But you can't make 10 copies and hand them out UNLESS they state its okay to do so. You can print one copy for yourself to read from, or even read aloud round-robin, and to highlight important points etc. But you can't hand out 10 copies. that's illegal. If you wrote the article yourself, you desreve remuneration for its commercial use. And so do they.

However, under Fair Use copyright law, you CAN copy and reprint for an educational purpose, but only if you can prove it in a defense if someone calls you on the carpet for abusing them. So be careful. If you really want to hand out copies freely, write the source permission, even tho I can tell you it's difficult to find out WHO to write to, exactly, for said permission. Start with the publisher.

And always, always, a;always, cite and make the source and the link well known, whatever you use.

Another thing you can do is remember that this is a writing class. So give them writing prompts! Not every single week necessarily, but at least one a month. Have them do an acrostic poem, or write four paragraphs on their first kiss, or how they felt when Grandmom died etc etc. There's books full of prompts. Besides from my own head, I bought my friend and poet Peter Murphy's book of prompts titled Challenges for the Delusional ($14) available at

I've also been attending Peter's annual January Writers and Poets Getaway Conference at Seaview resort in Absecon NJ to hone my skills and hobnob with 100 writers and 100 poets. Here the registration link for January 2016:

Bottom line: To be a good Critique Group keader, you need focus, diversity, flexibility, timing, dedication, education and sharing. And you need to write, write, write and learn, learn, learn. 


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