How to Form A Writing Roundtable

courtesy of Mike Schinkel
By Jennifer Blanchard
Once you’ve written something and done an edit on it, you will probably want to have someone else read it for you. But where do you find this person?

Well, you could just ask your mom or your brother or husband or sister-in-law–whoever–to read it for you. BUT, you won’t get as good of a read as you would if you give it to another writer. If it’s one thing most writers are good at, it’s critiquing others work.

A good way to get a bunch of readers is to create a writing roundtable.

Here’s how to form a roundtable:

  • Gather Interested Parties–Look in your local community or your even among your group of friends or work colleagues. You want to find other writers who are interested in reading and critiquing other people’s writing, as well as having their own read and critiqued.
  • Appoint a “Secretary”–This person would be the one who sends out reminders of what needs to be read and critiqued for the next meeting, as well as any group news or information that needs to be communicated.
  • Set an Initial Meeting–Get the group together casually (such as at Starbucks or lunch one afternoon) and discuss what everyone is writing. This will help you know who is currently writing, who has completed stuff ready for reading and who needs some motivation to write.

    At this meeting you should decide whose stuff you’re going to read first. Have that person send his/her writing out to the group as soon as possible so everyone can start reading.

  • Schedule Your Next Meeting–After everyone has a copy of the first author’s story/chapters, decide when your next meeting will be.
  • Prepare for the Meeting–In order to prepare, everyone should read the person’s writing and critique it. The group needs to decide if they’re going to offer only a verbal critique or if they will also give the writer notes.
  • Keep At It–When you have a meeting where you critique someone’s writing, make sure you choose the next person who will send writing out. Then keep on going. If no one has anything available to read, you don’t meet.

Tips to Help Make Your Roundtable More Effective:

  • Everyone needs to be committed to writing. This is important because if no one is writing, then there’s nothing to read. It’s also not a good idea for one writer to dominate the group (for example, if one writer has a novel finished and no one else is writing at all). There needs to be a balance, which comes from everyone being committed to getting writing done.
  • Write up a one-page (or more if you need) summary of your notes, thoughts and ideas and give it to the writer. Although having a discussion about the piece is helpful in improving your writing, having notes written down to refer to will allow you to enjoy the conversation without having to remember every single thing someone said (since they also wrote it down!).
  • Allow writers of all genres–even non-fiction (every writer needs a reader).
  • Read/follow critiquing guidelines. Here are a couple examples: 1) How to Critique in Fiction Writing Workshops and (if you’re thick-skinned) Hardcore Critique Guidelines.

Have you ever participated in a writing roundtable before? What was your experience like?

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