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Tip Tuesday #112

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where writers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

I hope all of you who partook in Halloween festivities yesterday had a wonderful, safe evening. Kristin Lenz sent in today's tip, which I love, along with a note about a couple interview-giveaways she has up in the blogosphere this week. If you'd like to learn more about author Lara Zeilin and enter for a chance to win The Imposion of Aggie Winchester make sure you stop by YA Fusion and YA Stands to read Kristin's interviews. But before you go, here's her tip!
Donna Jo Napoli spoke at the SCBWI-MI fall conference last month. She described an awful thing we do to ourselves. As children, we draw pictures, and our parents display our work. Visitors ooh and aah and praise our talent. We get an A on a spelling test, it goes on the refrigerator. We write a story, it gets passed around, and our creative genius is applauded. Then we grow up, and the criticism begins. It chips away at our confidence, doubt creeps in. We censor ourselves. A great critique group can provide support and encouragement, a nurturing environment to grow our skills, and some butt-kicking to challenge ourselves. But here’s an additional idea:

My SCBWI-MI friend, Leslie Schneider, has a critique group AND a writing group. Her writing group gathers to write and share and give positive critiques. No negativity, no criticism, no sandwich method… only positive words.

They begin with a prompt – an object, a photograph, a line from a book. Sometimes, they use writing workbooks that provide prompts/exercises. Everyone writes for 5, 10, 15 minutes; they’re not formal about it. Some prompts result in more material. They take turns reading their work aloud, and the others tell what they liked. That’s it. It’s free-flowing expression, crappy-first-draft type of writing; it doesn’t need to be critiqued. But it gets you writing. It gets you through those stuck moments. It helps you turn off that internal censor that’s questioning/correcting/revising as you write. It’s a cure for writer’s block, as well as a new story generator. Like journaling or morning pages, you might never return to the material, but more likely it’ll seep into your psyche and morph into a character, a setting, a conflict, a plot.

I’m ready to give it a try. How about you?

-Kristin Lenz


  1. You're so right Kristin about how we lose some of the wonder and excitement as we get older as doubt and fear creep in. That's an awesome idea about the writing group. Thanks for the tip.

    And everyone, you should check out Kristin's blog YA Fusion. I really like it.

  2. I love prompts and use them all the time! For me they really do get my creative juices flowing - or just kick starting my old grey cells into doing something creative! Take care

  3. Our critique group does that too. Once a month we meet to critique manuscripts and once a month we meet for Write Night, where we write to a prompt, read what we've written, and share only positive reaction.
    Usually the prompt has to do with someone's manuscript (for instance, if they've become aware of a weakness, they'll develop a prompt to strengthen it).
    Other times the prompt or exercise is from a book on writing.
    Wherever it comes from, the rest of us find it's very useful even if it doesn't have specific immediate relevance to our own works in progress. Sometimes it brings out plot twists or character information we wouldn't have known otherwise.

  4. Ruth - great idea to combine this with your regular critique group, and to create a prompt to deal with an identified weakness. Thanks for taking the time to share!

  5. I belong to a group like this, and it's fantastic. An excellent way to get writing -- and yes, I write an awful lot of first draft crap! Plus, there's something about the energy level in a room when everyone is being creative. Magical things happen!

  6. I hadn't really considered this. I am that mom right now oohing and aahing over my chipmunk's accomplishments. I hope I can be a guide in helping her keep her confidence with the regular fits of life kick in with their criticisms. And I can see how having a positive support group can be very helpful.

  7. Dude! I need a "writer's group!" They sound AMAZING!!

  8. I learned that kind of writing from NaNo last year - just write and don't worry about it!

  9. What a wonderful idea Kristin! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Great idea, Kristin! I need to find a writing group like that!

  11. What a marvelous idea! I tossed out a vignette to my critique group last week to see if anyone wanted to start a round robin sort of story, but no one's taken me up on it yet. I kinda like this idea better. Then everyone's got their own thing.

  12. I should do prompts when my ideas run dry or I get writer's block. Great ideas, thanks!

  13. My first face-to-face writing group (The Black Hills Writers Group) did this very thing. Each month, we "wrote to topic" and then shared it at the next meeting. As the only children's writer, any of the critiques offered were always, "Oh, that's nice." So I wrote an adult thriller for them from one of the topics, and they said, "Oooo." Then I got into real critique groups, but I miss my monthly prompts with others.

  14. I never thought of it that way but that's so true. Love this idea!

  15. I would never last in a writing group like that. I always cringe when I'm in a workshop and the author gives us a writing prompt to work on for the next five minutes. For me to come up with something to write down, I have to go for a run. A run that lasts longer than five minutes. Running is when all my brainstorming happens. ;)

  16. New follower here! I'm naturally a fear based person. Can't stand that about myself. It took all the gonaids I had to share my stuff, but the more I blog I see we all suffer from the same problem. Now I'm just content to say "at least I tried!"

  17. I likes it. Love is better than hate.

  18. Grate ideas..i am gald i discovered your blog. I am a new follower. :)

  19. Stina - I'm the same way. I freeze up and draw a blank whenever I'm asked to write on the spot at a conference/workshop. But I still like the idea, and maybe a personal, comfortable group makes it easier.

  20. It sounds all warm and fuzzy and lovely. But if someone doesn't tell us what we can improve, how can we improve? Still, it would be nice to write in a safe, nurturing environment.