For the past sixteen months, I’ve been a part of a fabulous “fiction critique group” with a literary organization here in Amsterdam called WordsInHere. We’ve learned a lot from each other along the way, and we continue to grow and develop both as persons and as writers. Over the last couple of months, we’ve had to deal with some ethical issues within the group — and as we worked through things, we realized that we didn’t have anything in the way of official guidelines to help us work through the process. We even tried doing some research on-line, to see how other similar writing groups might handle sticky situations like what we were experiencing…
In the end, though, we decided to write our own guidelines. And since there seems to be such a relative paucity of information on the internet about guidelines for a writing group, I thought I’d go ahead and increase the "public knowledge" by posting what we came up with, for whatever it’s worth (special credit goes to Chris Saxe, by the way, for his work in putting our group conversations down in written form). So anyway, here are the guidelines that we’ve developed:
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The Mezrab Writers Group – Who we are
We are a group of serious writers – some of us published, some of us not published yet. The Mezrab Writers’ Group provides us with:
- A valuable forum for literary critique,
- Encouragement to reach new heights with our work, and
- A real "writer’s community".
The Writer’s Group serves many purposes, but the primary purpose is to be a critique circle: reading each other’s literary work as writers and providing feedback about story, character and craft (as requested by the submitting writer). We are of diverse backgrounds – both culturally and literately – and receive inspiration for our work from outside the group, but we can inspire and motivate each other by providing helpful critique to our fellow writers.
How we treat each other’s work
The primary requirement of a well-functioning writer’s group is trust. In order for writers to feel safe circulating their intellectual property in the group, readers commit to returning all hard copies to the submitter and deleting any soft copies following critique. Plagiarism (the use or close imitation of the language and ideas of another author and representation of them as one’s own original work) will not be tolerated. Anyone who is "inspired" by another writer’s work in the Group should confer with that writer before undertaking an endeavor that could possibly be construed as plagiaristic. When in
How we treat each other
We are not only writers, but human beings. All communication (oral and written) amongst group members should be respectful. During critique sessions, criticism will be focused on the work, and not the individual. All writers in the critique circle must be given the opportunity to share their thoughts and criticism on the submitted work; as a diverse group of writers, critique might be focused on divergent aspects of the work, so it’s important that the submitting writer has the opportunity to ingest and respond to all critique of their work.