Trust and Expectations: Writing Group Essentials for a Manuscript Swap

DSC00663On July 1st, my writing girls came over and we swapped manuscripts. My 88k went to Jen, Liz’s 85k went to me, and Jen’s 27k went to both of us. Jen has been waiting to read the ending of my novel for about five years–so it’s about time!

One of the best attributes of a solid writing group is trust. We are vulnerable with each other in sharing plot points, story ideas, and raw drafts. Each group meeting is full of conversation and laughter, giving us a chance to feel out the dynamic. If we can trust each other in the smaller issues and critique in healthy ways, then bigger projects should be no big deal, right?

DSC00662Even with trust in place, clear expectations are still quite important. Before sending each other off to read, enjoy and critique, we discussed what commentary would be most helpful. All of us need a big-picture developmental edit, so our specifications were mostly similar.

Being the overly prepared person that I am, I printed my requests on the title page:

Dear Jen and Liz,

If you have time, these responses will be really valuable for me:

  • Impressions of characters and reactions to events.
  • Point out any inconsistencies that you find—from shirt color to timing and location. I’m beginning to weed them out, but it will take some time.
  • DSC00660Feel free to share any obvious errors, but don’t waste your time in any deep prose work. I’ll save that for later drafts.
  • Brief summary: I need to work on my ‘elevator pitch’ and your perspective will be very helpful.
  • What did you enjoy most, and what alterations would you recommend?
  • Any title ideas? I’m horrible at titles. I’ve just called it ‘Anadora Mesuline’ for 7 years.

I didn’t print it double-sided so that you have the option of writing on the back of the pages. Also, this draft is very rough. I hope that its pathetically poor prose doesn’t impair your enjoyment!

Future Best Selling Author,
– Sarah Yoon

(I kid, I kid! But still, can’t help but hope.)

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