Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Guest Blogger: Christian Fiction Author Jimmy Root Discusses Writer's Groups

A Good Writer’s Group Can Be Valuable
By Jimmy Root Jr, author of Distant Thunder

Opinions are varied, but for the writer just getting started, finding a good writer’s group can be of tremendous value. Such has been the case for me, though it was the last thing I was looking for.

A writer’s group, at times called workshop or critique group is a cadre of three to six writers. This group gathers on a regular basis to offer constructive criticism and support for each member’s work. These groups can have a variety of experience levels, ranging from the novice to the polished, published author. The purpose is simple, to improve the skills, motivation, and success of each member.

My experience in a writer’s group has been exhilarating. When I first began to write Distant Thunder, I had no knowledge that such groups were available therefore, I had no thought to search one out. I came upon my opportunity by pure chance. I was invited. I am a better writer for the experience.

Horror stories abound. Many published authors openly declare a disdain, even loathing for the writer’s group. The truth is, in many instances, they are right. A poorly designed group can steal the joy from a writer’s soul. Ego can be driven to the lowest depth. Motivation can be exorcised from an author by an overabundance of criticism. However, finding a properly functioning team filled with fellow authors who only want to get better, can make all the difference.

Here are some suggestions when deciding on a writer’s group.

First, the group must have clearly defined goals. This can be as simple as making sure each member has something new to offer at each session, to how and when an author might defend his writing to the critics. A group without purposeful parameters finds itself wasting time and energy, thereby draining the members of creativity.

Second, there must be rules for criticism. Good guidelines will allow the group to function with efficiency. Within the confines of my writer’s group, each of the four members will share the latest segment, chapter, or article. Both the strong and the weak points of the writing will be examined. Praise comes accordingly, as does the criticism. Remembering that quietly listening to a critique can be intimidating, a special rule has been adopted by the group. For each critical comment, there must be at least two, equally authentic praises. We call it “two pats for every slap,” and it works beautifully. A guideline should also be adopted to prevent a monopoly on criticism by any one individual. Criticism must always be constructive and shared.

Third, the group should meet regularly. This can be once a week, or once a month, but it must happen methodically to have value. If one is offering segments of a continuing story, regularity of meetings can keep the other members on track with the context. But motivation is the greatest benefit with a disciplined pattern of meetings. To show up without having put forth an effort to write is taboo. If nothing else, it teaches the individual to stick with the hard work of honing the craft. The idea is for everyone to participate.

Fourth, there should be a mechanism in place to remove unfaithful or unruly members. Occasionally, a person may fall into the category of someone who does not pull his or her weight. Either by consensus or by vote, the person must be politely removed, or the entire group will suffer and eventually fold.

Other rules can be established, but the key is to find a group of fellow writers that can help in the formation of your craft. You may find, as your skills become polished, that a group becomes unnecessary. Understand that the group will be able to offer the perspective of your target audience. Feedback becomes a springboard to new ideas. The act of brainstorming another person’s work increases your ability to listen. Each of these aspects is important.

If you are not plugged into a good writer’s group, one may be easier to find than you might realize. The internet is a great place to start. Groups continually add members, and you will be able to sort by genre. Another resource is your local library. It is possible a group is meeting there now. For the new writer, my suggestion is to participate and grow.

Learn more valuable tips for authors at www.lightningchronicles.blogspot.com.

Jimmy Root Jr., has served as an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God since 1982, including service in Nebraska, Missouri, and a seven year term as a missionary in Colombia, South America. Jimmy is the lead Pastor of Family Worship Center of Smithville, a growing suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. Married to his wife Jean for twenty-nine years, the Roots have three grown children.

Root is a 1981 alumnus of Central Bible College of Springfield,
Missouri where he majored in Biblical Studies and Pastoral Theology. He is also an alumnus of Southeastern University, Lakeland Florida, where he majored in Intercultural Studies.

A lifetime student of Biblical prophecy, Jimmy is also the Professor of Eschatology, The Study of End Times, for
Berean University through the Norther
n Missouri District School of Ministry. He is a featured speaker at Churches and other venues, and is the host of “The Bible Uncensored” radio broadcast heard on radio stations around the country.

His writings, both in book form as well as his blog, are purposed to be a wake-up call to a sleepy American church that seems to be losing a truly Christian World View. Distant Thunder and its sequels, A Gathering Storm and Then Comes Lightning, will reveal to the adventure/thriller aficionado the reality of the coming fulfillment of Biblically prophesied events. You can visit his website at www.lightningchronicles.com or his blog at www.prophecyalert.blogspot.com. Connect with him on twitter at www.twitter.com/JimmyRootJr and Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimmyrootjr.