Critique Groups vs Online Writing Workshops

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Robin
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Critique Groups vs Online Writing Workshops

Post by Robin » April 8th, 2010, 9:39 pm

I need another set of eyes to keep me on track and to push me.
1. Have you found critique groups useful or do they just respond with "that was nice"?
2. Online writing workshops- are they worth it? Which are your favorite?
3. Do you belong to any local or national groups, ie. Romance Writers of America, Atlanta Writers, etc...

Thanks!
Robin
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Sommer Leigh
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Re: Critique Groups vs Online Writing Workshops

Post by Sommer Leigh » April 8th, 2010, 11:46 pm

I run a writing group locally, but for the most part I'm on a different path than most of them. Most of the people in the group are pretty much hobby writers, so none of them are ready to help me critique my editing progress on my full length novel. It's very frustrating.

I have not tried an online group. I have no idea how to even track people down that way.

Good luck! If something works out for you, share your story!
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Ishta
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Re: Critique Groups vs Online Writing Workshops

Post by Ishta » April 10th, 2010, 1:13 am

I'm in an online critique group that I found through a message board at SCBWI's website. It works really well, and we give each other great feedback - always positive mixed with the constructive. We upload our MSS to the server, download everyone else's, critique them, and upload the critiqued MSS back to the server.

If you're interested in something like that, I'd recommend going to the boards at Verla Kay or SCBWI and posting a message saying that you're looking to join a critique group.

Good Luck!

worstwriterever
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Re: Critique Groups vs Online Writing Workshops

Post by worstwriterever » April 10th, 2010, 7:26 pm

I am interested in whether online workshops would be a good thing too, I was checking out a couple of them online at writers digest and they run around $400 or so each. Wonder if they'd be worth it....certainly look interesting!

As for the online critique groups, the previous post looks like it might have a good one, but in my experience, it can be frustrating to critique something you're not interested in, and have your work critiqued by people that are not interested in it. Maybe that says something right there about our work but anyway that's a different topic ;)
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Re: Critique Groups vs Online Writing Workshops

Post by A.M.Kuska » April 11th, 2010, 2:31 pm

I use www.critiquecircle.com and request line-by-lines on each chapter. I'm impressed and pleased with almost all of the critiques I get.

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Quill
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Re: Critique Groups vs Online Writing Workshops

Post by Quill » April 11th, 2010, 2:42 pm

I hate to sound even the least bit paranoid, but is there any chance at all of people appropriating one's ideas when one publishes or exchanges sections of a manuscript or a synopsis online? Seems there would always be risk associated in the cyberworld.

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Re: Critique Groups vs Online Writing Workshops

Post by dahosek » April 11th, 2010, 11:44 pm

Quill wrote:I hate to sound even the least bit paranoid, but is there any chance at all of people appropriating one's ideas when one publishes or exchanges sections of a manuscript or a synopsis online? Seems there would always be risk associated in the cyberworld.
Ideas are cheap. It's the writing that matters.

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Re: Critique Groups vs Online Writing Workshops

Post by Margo » April 12th, 2010, 10:34 am

dahosek wrote:
Quill wrote:I hate to sound even the least bit paranoid, but is there any chance at all of people appropriating one's ideas when one publishes or exchanges sections of a manuscript or a synopsis online? Seems there would always be risk associated in the cyberworld.
Ideas are cheap. It's the writing that matters.
I totally agree with dahosek. If someone steals your idea, it's still going to be an entirely different book. There are many examples of two books having similar ideas without either dying (I'm thinking Charlaine Harris with Sookie falling for the vampire partially because she can't read his mind and Meyer's Twilight wherein the vampire is crazy over Bella in part because he can't read her mind). Not that I wasn't distressed to learn that the two major hooks in my current WIP have been done recently -- and published, dangit! curse you, memes, curse you! -- but the agent I spoke to about this was not bothered in the least. He and the editors who read it still loved the ideas and felt I had established my own take on the topics.
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Re: Critique Groups vs Online Writing Workshops

Post by tameson » April 12th, 2010, 11:28 am

I just sent out a story that I thought had good ideas in it. I would not feel comfortable outlining the things I thought were cool about my story online, but I had no problem sending my story out to a bunch of people online I barely know. Before they were just cool ideas, now they are an integral part of the story, with the writing and the characters and everything else tied to it. If someone were to take the idea and run with it, it would end up being very different from my story. Though to be honest, I would still be a bit annoyed if one of them took the idea, but I think the story will be strong even if that element was done in popular fiction.

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Re: Critique Groups vs Online Writing Workshops

Post by polymath » April 12th, 2010, 12:56 pm

Ideas are not copyrightable. I've seen readers "borrow" my ideas, my voice features, and other aspects of stories I presented in workshops, face-to-face, online, and in private correspondence, and use them for their own purposes. I expected it. I could do little about it, except reserve my A material.

A writer writing in another writer's copyrighted milieu or characters is generally considered a rights infringement. However, there are limits to rights protections. First; publication in terms of copyright is when a writer shares a fixed, tangible form of work publicly in consideration of compensation, usually monetary compensation, but any kind of return counts, like audience approval.

By precendent, convention, and consensual agreement, a workshop isn't necessarily a public venue. The work isn't necessarily in a fixed form either. A main point of workshopping is to improve a work in progress. It's presumably in progress so it's not in a fixed form, but is in a tangible form, so for all intents and purposes it's under copyright. The implicit or tacit contract of a workshop venue is it's not a public venue and a writer's creative vision is off limits for other participants' usages.

Limits to rights protections include story types that parody, imitate, or pay homage to another writer's story, milieu, voice, motifs, tropes, etc., for purposes of commentary on the original work. Also, motifs and tropes, ideas, etc., are not copyright protected in a general sense. A microfiction story, for example, like Hemingway's famous six-word story: "For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn." isn't copyrightable, per se, mainly because of its brevity. Substantially short works are not copyrightable. However, the story is attributed to him and therefore construed as off limits for claiming as one's own original creation. Plagiarism is another matter. The story, its ideas, motifs, etc., are, however, wide open for parody, homage, pastiche, etc. // Lost and Found: Artificial legs. //

A main worry-worthy concern I see for borrowing from another's creative vision is the potential of litigation. A writer borrowing from another writer's creative vision is subject to legal actions, whether there's any merit to an accusation of infringement or not. Is it worth the unpleasantnesses, troubles, and costs? is a question I ask when I'm anywhere near someone else's creative vision. Publishers and accomplished authors have deeper pockets than emerging authors who have yet to make a marketplace breakthrough, so they're both high profile targets for lawsuits and they have vested interests motivating suing for perceived infringements. The veritable caught between a rock and a hard place.

A trademarked concept is a similar concern. For example, LucasFilms' "Droid" is under trademark protection. Droid is not technically a trademarkable word because it's a derivative of the common and widely-known word android. However, the commercial viability and reputation of the term is substantial and therefore subject to trademark benefits. Usage in a creative or commercial context is protected but not exclusively so. Anyone using it in potentially infringing but otherwise innocent contexts had better be prepared to come up againt the full weight and power of an immovable object and an irresistible force.
------
My experiences with workshops, critique groups, writing discussion venues of all kinds, and I've experienced them all, in person, online publicly and privately, in academic, civic, regional, commercial, and industry settings, are mixed. I gleaned some benefits and suffered some harms. One principal benefit is audience testing feedback. A principal harm I suffered is as much from my sensitivity as it is from commentators insensitivity, uncalled-for and pointless personal criticisms. (Rigorously avoid second person addresses. The First Principle of writing discussions: Address the writing, not the writer.)

By and large, in my opinion, workshopping is good for getting a handle on big picture writing concepts, but poor for demystifying the particulars of writing concepts. The "show don't tell" missive, for example, ask any ten writers what it means in all it's glorious complexity, and ten noteably different answers will be given. Ask a hundred and get a hundred different answers. A thousand? Plot, I've encountered more than a dozen different answers of what plot means in terms of stories. In my final analysis, workshops have a place, mentorship has a place. But in the end, it's all up to an individual writer writing in isolation.
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