Practicing What We Preach Part 2

pad and pencilIn an earlier post, we described how we and a couple of others had started a non-fiction writing critique team. There are three of us: One person starting a How To book on financial planning; one revising a book on how to develop a performing team; and a third revising a memoir.

We have met three times. We use a checklist to track where we’ve been and where we’re going. At each two-hour meeting, we take turns reading from five or six pages of our work while the others silently read their copies and make notes. Then we discuss what we’ve read. Even early on with this team, there are a couple of observations worth noting.

Honest, open and trusting people. We have sung the praises of having such people on your team, regardless if it’s a team of writers, healthcare professionals, or women business owners. It makes a difference, he adds for emphasis, if they are honest, open and trusting people. Here’s why. Writing can be a very personal effort and it is easy, especially if, regardless of your chronological age, you are a novice, to get defensive if what you have written is criticized, regardless how justified that criticism may be. Honest, open and trusting people will know that and be tactful in their comments.

From a team development point of view, we think there was a brief period where the team entered the Storming stage, and it was related to the critiquing of one person’s work. There seems to be a new “genre” that has appeared on the writing landscape called “creative non-fiction.” (We hasten to add The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test and In Cold Blood then called the new journalism would fall into this “genre.”)

The slight entrée into Storming occurred when one of the works was criticized because although it was being touted as creative nonfiction, a salient element contained in it was fictitious, make up, not real. In fact, this fictitious element was initially poised to be the unifying thread throughout the entire memoir. But the other voices claimed that if a memoir is non-fiction (creative or not) hanging on a fictitious narrative thread didn’t ring true.

The writer defended their choice. Initially. But listened to the reasoning of the others that the potential promise and strength of the memoir lay in the extensive research and original material. Those were strengths that could enable the work to stand on its own. A fictitious thread would do that research and originality a disservice.

A few hours after the meeting, the writer emailed the others and agreed that the fiction should be deleted. One point for the team.

A second point is proof that if the team members are not in competition, there is less likelihood of protecting one’s turf. This episode was not about who was the better writer. It was about remaining true to the story that is the memoir. If all three were writing memoirs would the results have been the same? We suspect, yes, but can’t prove it.

It is early in the game for The Critique Team, but we think they will soon enter the Norming stage. And then, we suspect the writing will get tighter.

We’ll let you know in a future post.

Approx. 536 words.

Comments welcomed!


About Bob McCarthy

Originally from the Northeast, I now call Southwest Florida home. I have been a professional copywriter and editor since 1979, both freelance and in house. I have had article published in regional, national and international magazines. Plus, a video for which I wrote the script won an industry award as Best Training Video.
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