Today I'm going to write about a writers' group near and dear to my heart --- Saturday Writers.
In January 2002, the Saturday Writers' chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild was formed by Lou Turner, David "Kirk" Kirkland, Margo Dill, Amy Harke-Moore and me (Donna Volkenannt). In seven years we've grown from our five founders to around 80 regular members and 10 honorary members. Our motto is "writers encouraging writers." At our monthly meetings over the past seven years, we have sponsored speakers, hosted workshops, held poetry and short story contests, sponsored children and young writers' contests, and published Cuivre River Anthology and Cuivre Kids. We also have a website and a newsletter.
Our theme for 2009 is "taking your writing to the next level." One way we are encouraging (there's that word again) our members to stretch their writing muscles is by offering mini-teaching sessions before meetings to focus on areas of interest identified by a survey.
Last weekend I participated in an editors' panel, after Kirk gave a mini-session on "Self-Editing." The "First 300" editors' panel discussion members were: Amy Harke-Moore, editor of The Write Helper, and Louella Turner, publisher of High Hill Press, and me.
Lou, Amy, and I gave critiques and suggestions on the first 300 words of manuscripts submitted in advance. Treasurer David "Kirk" Kirkland read the submisssions (before and after versions).
Nine members submitted works (including a play) for critique, and one member submitted his manuscript the day of the meeting. For the last manuscript, the audience gave suggestions. What I found uplifting was the quality of the writing, Our members are so talented, yet they are still willing to learn and "take their writing to the next level."
I wanted to share some of the things I looked for when critiquing the fiction submissions:
- Title - Is it interesting? Does it enhance the story?
- Opening - Does it grab my attention?
- Description - Is it fresh? Too much? Too little?
- Characters - Interesting? Memorable? Complex?
- Conflict - No conflict/no story.
- Suspense - Does the story draw me in so I want to read more?
- Sensory details - Does the writing appeal to all of my senses?
- Voice - Is the voice engaging? Interesting? Unique?
- Language - Creative? Appropriate? Enhance the mood/tone?
- Humor - If used, does it work?
- Word use - Vivid verbs and concrete nouns. Not a lot of "was, were, would, had." Adverbs and adjectives used sparingly.
- Dialogue - Realistic or used for "info dump"?
- Point of view - Consistent?
- Narrative Arc - Beginning, middle, end.
- Clutter Eliminated - Are unnecessary words/repetitions eliminated?
- Conclusion - Satisfying? Surprising? Logical?
If you live in the metro-St. Louis area, check out Saturday Writers. We're a supportive and friendly group of "writers encouraging writers."