Almost all serious writers have a set of trusted readers with whom they share their work in progress. We need people who can tell us where our prose is working and where it isn’t, what draws their attention and what bores them, what we might cut and what we might add, what lines of thought we might pursue, and so on.
Writing groups are a popular and effective mechanism for getting this sort of response to your work in progress. The one crucial rule of a writing group is that everyone in it must bring some work to each meeting. Everyone writes, and everyone reads and comments.
You are required to work in this course as part of a five-person writing group. I insist on this because (1) I want you to get a wide range of responses to the writing you do this semester, and (2) I’d like you to get a sense of how participating in such a group might support the work you do as a writer beyond this course. Past students have consistently singled out working in writing groups as one of the aspects of this course they most enjoyed and learned from.
I’ve set aside five class meetings for writing group workshops (weeks 3, 5, 7, 10, 12). I will arbitrarily assign people to groups at the start of the semester. If these groups don’t work as well as they should, we can reconfigure them around midterm. I will also provide you with a kind of script for how I would like you to respond to one another’s work-in-progress both in writing and in workshop. There’s a lot of room for improvisation in both scripts, but it’s important that you stick to their basic outlines. I’ve designed them to make sure that each writer in a group has the chance to ask for particular kinds of feedback, to hear what is working in her piece, and also to hear what her readers feel she needs most to work on next. See Response Guidelines and Workshop Guidelines for details.
The writing you share with your group will count as a Revision (Rev) for this course. I will expect it, that is, to be a piece that you have developed out of one of the exercises (Xs) you’ve written previously, and that you feel some real commitment to as a writer. Other than that, it is entirely your choice as to what piece you want to workshop. The writing groups are meant as a resource for you to use as intelligently and well as you can. I hope you find them useful!