Finally. I put aside all the duties of family and made it to a meeting of a group of local writers. They meet the last Wednesday of every month. A few members of the group have invited me in the past but the timing never worked out for me to make an evening meeting. Since I dropped my membership in RWA at the end of last summer, I've missed meeting with fellow writers face to face. Thank you to Don Helin for inviting me.
The group met at the local B&N since Borders closed. Even though it's about a 35 minute trip in heavy traffic, I felt I really needed some person to person connection. It was great. Twelve writers attended, a multiple of genres represented, and together discussed where to go for the next meeting. B&N didn't really want us there taking up space in the cafe. Scrooges. Next month will be in a local library.
After getting the organization items out of the way, the group hunkered down to the real purpose of their meetings. A number of the attendees had brought up to five pages of a piece of work. They passed around hard copies for everyone. We took a few minutes to read and mark, and then went around the circle and gave feedback. One of the rules is for the author not to respond to what is said. It was very friendly. The scope of knowledge and professionalism makes me regret not getting to this group earlier.
So what kind of feedback should one give? I think it's important to start with the positive. Good dialogue, great characters, interesting setting or perhaps an engaging plot. But you don't really help anyone if you're only positive.
At least one of the things shared was not of a genre I like reading so I tried to only pay attention to the words on the page. If I felt I couldn't relate to the characters or their behavior, I kept my mouth shut unless I could specifically say what didn't work about them. If I thought the pacing too slow, I searched for where the writing could be tightened. It was my first time giving feedback in such a setting. Usually I do this sort of thing online and not in real time so I have more time to figure out the words that are constructive rather than destructive. I did know enough to try and end with a positive observation. Writing is tough and anyone who can stay at it deserves some pats on the back.
Fortunately, the group gathered made few grammatical or punctuation errors. Do you ever do face to face critique sessions? What is the most important feedback you feel you can give or receive?