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Happy Birthday to AWOW!


 

It's been about twelve months since AWOW started online writers' critique meetings. During that time, we've learned a lot about running a critique group, heard some amazing stories, and really improved our writing! For me, it's been an amazing opportunity to reconnect with a writing community and has enabled me to stop prevaricating over the ending of my magnum opus and finish the first draft of another, probably much better, novel. In this blog post, I look back at where we've been and where we're hoping to go over the next year.


Where we're at now

Over the past months, our membership has changed as people have joined and left. However, we've settled down to a strong Monday night group (it runs from 5:30 pm) of eight to twelve participants. Each reader gets 20 minutes total: 15 minutes to read and 5 minutes to receive feedback. Because we are online and because we can, some folks have begun uploading their reads to the forum ahead of time. The group is small, dedicated, and almost everyone who shows up expects to read that night. This has some strong advantages:

  • Continuity: Because it's the same group each week, the stories are easier to follow. Critiquers become engaged in the story and can give better critiques regarding the plot and reader expectations. For instance, everyone knows how necromancy has been explained in the first chapters of Charlie's book, so she doesn't have to explain it anew each week.

  • Trust: Trust is really important in critique. An author who is reading their work is in a really vulnerable position, especially a new author because there will always be things to improve. Because we know each other, we are better able to judge the level of critique needed and how it will land. In turn, the author is able to trust that the critique is meant to be helpful, not a personal attack. This is completely different from the large, anonymous Facebook groups that have sprung up in the past few years, where there is little accountability and a lot of toxicity. Even just sitting in on the meeting and hearing the critique of the work of other authors is helpful for building trust and understanding the process of improvement.

  • Voice and Text: Uploading text to the forum allows others to read along, which helps comprehension when the Zoom stream freezes or the sound is noisy. We've also found that things look different on the page, and it helps critiquers get a different view of the story. People can leave comments when they have second thoughts about the piece the next day or can't make the Zoom meeting for some reason.

Of course, there are some disadvantages as well.

  • We're too big: At 20 minutes per reader, a read list of six people is two hours and change. This is the limit of most people's attention spans. If there are any more readers, the meetings can run much too long and late.

  • We're also too small: Separating the groups out into rooms of three people means the critique isn't very diverse. Allocating rooms randomly also affects the advantages of continuity, but if we keep the same rooms each week, the diversity goes down!


Where we'd like to go next

We're looking at options for making the meetings shorter while keeping the large, single group. To do this, we plan to see if more than one meeting per week is possible. The catch is that you can show up to as many meetings as you'd like, but you can only read once a week. This gives everyone a turn without making each meeting into a marathon.


To find out when our members would like to meet, we're conducting this survey. The survey expires, so please answer before October 2nd, 2023. We'd love to hear your schedule! We'd also love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or via email. What worked for you and what didn't? What are your writing goals, and how can AWOW help you achieve them?

 

Happy birthday to us. Here's to yet another year of fantastic writing and critique for all writers!

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Don Eggspuehler
Don Eggspuehler
20 de nov. de 2023

Happy Birthday and thanks to both Kim and Charlie for their many hours of dedication to get this group up and running. It's a great group. Don


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