A Writer’s Workshop Group

Good Morning! 🙂

I’ve been dying to write this post for some time, and with the #PitchWars hashtag party in full swing, now is as good a time as any.

Near the end of 2016, one of my amazing critique partners, A. J. Super, formed a workshop group. The idea was a group of people who all write in the same age category and genre to tackle queries together. Since queries are murderous to write, of course I was 5000% on board. This was hands down one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only is my workshop group AMAZING, I’ve learned so much from them that my query skills have gone to a whole new level. What used to be a pile of ‘save the world’ generalizations has turned into somewhat concise queries. Not perfect, but leaps and bounds ahead of where they were.

Here’s some things I learned along the way:

I. AGE CATEGORY AND GENRE MATTER
No matter what you write, your workshop group should be as close to the age category and genre you write in. If you write in multiple areas, form multiple groups. A YA Historical writer’s query is going to look quite different from an Adult Science Fiction query, and likely formatted just a tiny bit different.

II. LIMIT YOUR GROUP SIZE
The group I work with has 7 people, but I recommend anywhere between 3 and 8. Large enough to get multiple perspectives, but small enough to get cozy and familiar with one another and your writing habits.

III. NOT EVERYONE AGREES WITH EVERY LINE
That goes without saying. The beautiful part here is seeing one person love a line while another stumbles over it. Multiple perspectives give you a chance to see what’s working, what’s not, and how to dig deep into your words and make that query the best it can be. When everyone in your group loves it, you know it’s pretty damn good.

IV. DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF TO JUST QUERIES
Queries are a fantastic starting point as you get to know each other’s stories. However, only sticking to queries can be limiting. My group leapt from queries to pitches, and now we work together on submission packages. Not always the pages, but we do try to tackle at least the first 250 if we can. Here’s some good areas to tackle with your group:

  • Query
  • Synopsis
  • Twitter Pitches
  • First 250
  • 35-Word Pitches

V. BE READY TO LEARN
I can’t stress this enough. You are going to learn tons in a workshop group. When I started a year ago, I had a general feel for how to hit a query. But after a year of workshopping, learning to hone concepts, find words, cut the fluff, and draw out unique elements instead of generalizations, I’m an entirely different query writer. My badass workshop group made me a better writer, and a better critiquer.

PitchWars is still looming, and as submission time draws near, query swaps are going to get to critical levels. I think I swapped with no less than 15-20 people last year, though Ava Quinn was the one who really helped me level up, and I’ll be forever grateful for her awesomeness.

This year, PitchWars has something new and unique, thanks to an idea by Scott Rhoades: age and genre subtags. Here’s a few I know of:

  • #PitchWarsMG (Middle Grade)
  • #PitchWarsYASFF (Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy)
  • #PitchWarsASFF (Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy)
  • #PitchWarsAR (Adult Romance)
  • #PitchWarsThrillers (Thrillers)

Make use of the subtags. Find other writers and form a workshop group. When you submit to #PitchWars, you want your submission package to be the best it can be. Because, who knows? I have no doubt some of you first year PitchWars hopefuls will kick some PW-Veteran asses and score eight weeks with one of the amazing mentors.

If anyone knows of more subtags, don’t hesitate to leave it in the comments and I’ll add them in. Fingers crossed they’re a fun way for mentors to stalk their hopefuls.

Find your tribe. Your peers. Once PitchWars is long over, you guys will still be hanging out, working on pitches, and celebrating one another’s successes.

Good luck to everyone! 🙂


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2 comments to A Writer’s Workshop Group

  • Sara  says:

    I love our group. Every time we work together my writing gets stronger, more precise, tighter. And I love seeing what everyone is working on.

    • K.J. Harrowick  says:

      Same. And I LOVE the way something we miss one month, someone spots the next. Our group is the best! 😛

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