Saturday, June 20, 2009

Confucius Say, "Reciprocity!"

Want to take a step toward improving your writing? I know one technique that works. Join an on-line critique group and apply a bit of ancient wisdom.

You can find it in the Bible -- "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully."

Or you can look to wise old Confucius. When a student asked for a guiding principle by which to live, reduced to a single word, the master replied, "Reciprocity."

I had my belief in that principle reenforced after I began devoting quality time to participation in The Internet Writing Workshop. The IWW works via email and includes multiple critique lists -- fiction, nonfiction, novels, poetry, script, prose, young adult, practice, and teen writing -- plus a general list discussing writing. The genre lists generally are restricted to submission and critique postings only and have participation requirements.

Writer critique groups have been around for a long time, mostly meeting face-to-face. That still may be the best place for a beginner who wants personal interaction. Or, if you're a writer who has time for chit-chat, donuts, and coffee refills, you need a face-to-face group.

But, if you want a critique group that gives back in full measure the energy you devote to it, I suggest you find an on-line critique group. The more you participate, the more your writing skills will improve. That's Confucius and reciprocity, and it's also a measure of John Lennon's instant karma. The IWW, for example, has hundreds of members worldwide. Post a submission on-line anytime of the day or night, and there are usually enough people monitoring that you might see several critiques within hours.

And there are these points:
  • a sophisticated and eclectic membership
  • effective moderation
  • a protocol that makes certain your work is secure
  • participation requirements which prevents lurkers, which in turn means submissions are being seen only by those with intentions to critique work posted

You can find details about The Internet Writing Workshop here.

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