"We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master." ~ Ernest Hemingway
This is a forum for authors who would like to give and receive feedback, support and professional advice with other writers in the area, with an eye toward getting our work published in legitimate professional venues. We welcome works-in-progress in all genres. We will meet twice each month in Room 2122 (the writing center) on the South Bend campus of Ivy Tech Community College, 220 Dean Johnson Boulevard.
We work in a spirit of mutual support, positive energy and growth. With that in mind, here are some guidelines to consider:
1. Be sure to keep your comments specific and balanced. Comment specifically on what works well, as well as what might be improved. For example, I often suggest that my college English students use the "sandwich" technique in offering feedback: Start with an affirmation, offer constructive observations (never "criticism"), then end with more affirmation. And please offer actionable suggestions. "This is a good story" might boost the writer's confidence, but it doesn't necessarily help him or her know why it's good.
2. Be sure that you honestly want feedback to help you improve. If you are merely looking for a platform to showcase your work and do not truly want serious commentary from fellow writers (or, worse, don't think you need it), this will not be the right setting for you. No one is required to incorporate any of the input that is offered. However, it is not a good use of group time to argue and defend your draft when feedback is offered in a spirit of helpfulness. Asking for clarification when something isn't clear is fine. Engaging in a lengthy debate is not. If you are frequently having to explain or defend your draft, consider the possibility that you need to rewrite it. And either way, whether you agree with the advice or not, be polite and gracious. Remember that it is entirely up to you whether or not you will act on our counsel.
3. Be sure to put yourself in the other person's shoes. Will your comments genuinely help your fellow writer improve his or her work? If so, think about how you would want someone to say it to you. Frame your comments as questions, gentle suggestions and observations, alternative perspectives, etc. And think very carefully if the reason you are speaking up is to demonstrate your superior knowledge or ability in some way. Grandstanding, belittling, criticizing or otherwise diminishing fellow writers are all unacceptable behaviors that will seriously damage the integrity of group dynamics.
4. Remember the cardinal rule of craftsmanship: Writing is rewriting. Very few of us can turn out a perfect draft first time, every time. There is no shame in having to revise your work numerous times before it accomplishes everything you want it to accomplish. It's what all great writers do. And it's why we're all here.