Thursday, January 22, 2009

Focus groups and crit groups

Debby here, on the right day. Whew. Rick certainly knows more about focus groups and screen writing than I do--I was fascinated by his comments. Especially how one person's name on the screen credits shows the rest of the writers had their names removed because they didn't want to be associated with it. Did I understand that correctly?

I've got some questions. How is a focus group different than a crit group? Except perhaps that the product is already bound for commercial perusal or viewing? How different is a focus group from the MFA writers' programs, I wonder? Maybe some of you can help me understand this process.

I work with a critique group, an ensemble of four or five writers who meet once a month (approximately) to help each other with our plot credibility, character development, story structure, and the occasional grammatical error, though we don't dwell on those. We all make 'em, especially in early drafts. And these folks, believe me, are looking at very early drafts. Their tact is admirable.

We have little or no ego involved in this process, so maybe that's one big difference from a focus group. We also have a tacit agreement that if two or more people give the same advice, the writer should pay attention. When we have disagreements, the final decision is up to the writer. We all want our work to be published and get good reviews.

To answer Charles's question, if my crit group is similar to a focus group (is it??), then it helps me immeasurably. It is an eye-opening experience to hear others digest my story, and I can see where the writing is weak, the plot is thin, the characters' actions and thoughts need to be better explained, and where truth and believability are at odds.

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