The Authors’ Roundtable of Mount Dora, FL (ART) is a group of thirteen experienced or published writers sanctioned by the Florida Writer’s Association (FWA). The group meets at a Mount Dora Library facility twice a month for 2-2 1/2 hours. The group’s membership is closed due to space limitations, so we suggest that budding authors join FWA at http://www.floridawriters.net/ and find or form another FWA chapter. In the Orlando area, we suggest checking out the larger groups in Maitland and Orlando.
The strength of our group springs from our diversity, including a mix of writing genres and perspectives. Our two hour meetings primarily focus on honest & direct critiques of member writing submissions.
We circulate online copies of 5-7 member written works to be critiqued by the others a week before a meeting. We email our detailed feedback to the author before the meeting, and then verbally discuss high points at the meeting, which usually takes 10 minutes per item.
During the meeting, each of us in turn verbally reviews the work of the writer who submitted a piece. We highlight things that we liked and things that perhaps didn’t quite work…structure, flow, pacing, character development, dialogue, or action. The writer can respond after the critiques are completed. Authors have time at the end of their critique to ask questions. Our group leader keeps us organized and on time so that we make the most of each session. We require all submissions be emailed to members no later than the Wednesday before the Friday meetings, and do not encourage last minute cold submissions.
We often have somewhat differing opinions about certain things, and encourage the writer to pay special attention to that feedback that is more or less unanimous. Every couple of months, we invite a guest presenter for content useful to us all. For example, one author walked us through his process for e-publishing and marketing; another gave us information about website design, blogging and other social media. We are located near Orlando, so can get experienced authors from that larger city to visit us.
We also attend FWA and other conferences and coordinate attendance. We email the group frequently with ideas and writing opportunities such as upcoming writing contests.
We support each other by showing up at the meetings and being prepared for the critiques. This is a remarkable group of people because we are dedicated in our desire to truly see each other improve and succeed. We give the writing our time and attention, not rushing through and cutting corners. Our level of detail is extraordinary. We compliment and encourage and deliver the hard truths with care and finesse. And, very importantly, laugh a lot.
Our group does not have much turnover, so we’ve learned that we are safe communicating honestly with each other and can reveal our critique opinions without holding back. That makes it easier to risk the raw or sentimental story or comment. We’ve also learned there is more to learn about writing and promotion of our works. We encourage each other and learn to improve our writing skills either as an author or a when providing feedback.
Several of us are award winning authors and most of us are published. We’ve learned that writing well pays off and that helping each other does too.
Our tips for a successful writing group:
Write. Show up. Be prepared and organized. Stay on topic. Play nice (which is really hard for us guys who would rather arm wrestle and race cars.)