Saturday, September 06, 2008


Have you ever participated in a writer's group? I was in a weekly group right after Sept. 11th, 2001. As a matter of fact, the Manhattan apartment that six of us screenwriters met at each week overlooked the "pit" of the World Trade Center. The first few weeks of the group there was a burning metal smell coming through the windows -- and the smell of something similar to burning rubber -- and the busy sounds of generators and heavy equipment working non stop. It was a bird's eye view into hell on earth.

The group was fairly productive. We'd each submit 30 pages of our script every few weeks. The members of the group would read it as a PDF online and then come to the group with comments, suggestions, etc. We'd also cast it and read each script aloud. Depending on the reader/actor, we'd either cry, laugh or cringe. At the end of the reading, each person would give a verbal critique to the screenwriter. This was squirm time for most of us -- as another writer would start off positive (a rule we had) and then go negative -- suggesting we change this, change that, go in this direction, make your protagonist a man not a woman or vice versa... and before long, the writers would grow defensive, annoyed and sometimes hostile toward each other. It was kinda funny -- like a support group gone wild.

So yes, a writer's group can be a fabulous and productive experience if you crave feedback, maybe long to hear your words read aloud, or just want human interaction away from your computer. But beware, develop a thick skin and try not to take every comment personally. If you trust the members of the group, listen and rewrite accordingly, but always follow your instincts of what remains true for your story and your characters.

I'm glad I was a part of that unique group back in September of 2001. There are images and emotions that we shared in that downtown Manhattan apartment that will stay with me forever.


petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Janet, can imagine your mind still fueled with those vidid images on and after 9/11.

I dated a man who lived nearby while I attended the New School. We were all in shock, and many of whom died came from New Jersey.

But about writers' groups. Yes, they can be extremely helpful. It did me until I felt I could spread my wings. I enjoy honest feedback;
the only way to grow and improve on weaknesses.

Have a wonderful week!

Cake Man said...


As part of a writers group that most recently met last night, actually, I agree with what you're saying about the benefits and potential risks of being a part of a group. However, I think, especially for younger and unproduced writers, the pros of a group far outweigh the cons.

Yes, one of the key things is having a thick skin. Let's be honest, though, it's not just a requirement for a group. If a writer cannot respond well to criticism from friends and peers within the comfort of a recognizable apartment, then that first meeting with a producer or manager could seem like torture.

It sounds like you were, as I am with my group, comfortable with the people in your group and could trust them to be honest with you about your writing. I know that without my group, my writing would be nowhere near what it is now. Not only have the group members helped me improve, they've pushed me to continue writing in times when I was close to casting everything aside.