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OUR GROUP

Novel-In-Progress—Austin is a critique group for fiction writers. It began meeting in the 1990s and has launched many published authors, both traditional and indie.

The group meets the second and fourth Sunday of each month (except as noted below) from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Austin Recreation Center (near 15th and  Lamar, behind House Park football stadium). Writers who are interested may simply show up for a meeting to see what it is like, but we encourage you to check the Schedule page to make sure the meeting is being held.

Note: Around Easter the ARC is sometimes closed. In addition, we schedule our Holiday Party on the second Sunday in December and do not meet again until the second Sunday in January of the following year.

We generally have 12-15 members and one or two guests at any given meeting. At each roundtable we critique up to 25 pages of one member’s work, which is distributed two weeks in advance.  Guests can also receive in advance an electronic copy of the work that will be discussed at the meeting. Note: The interval between meetings occasionally expands to three weeks in the transition from one month to the next.

HOW OUR MEETINGS WORK

1. The 30-second ice breaker. Attendees answer a question about writing, such as, “What is your current work in progress?” Or, “How do you personally incorporate critiques into your writing?” We encourage guests to participate, and it’s a great way to introduce yourself.

2. Business. This very brief agenda item allows time to assign slots for future critique sessions, and provides members with the opportunity to mention any significant events in their writing lives that have occurred since the last meeting.

3. Critique of the work. Each member will give a verbal critique of the current work under review. This is not a discussion, but an individual commentary, and the author does not answer questions or respond during this part of the meeting. The amount of exclusive time allotted to each member varies depending on the number of members in attendance. Based on current active participation, verbal critiques are limited to about five to six minutes.

4. We take a short break at 2:30 p.m. If anyone needs to sneak in late or leave early, this is their chance.

5. We reserve the last 15-30 minutes for an open “free-for-all” discussion in which the author can participate. This has proven to be a valuable opportunity for the member being reviewed to focus on specific elements of the verbal critiques.

6. Guests will not generally critique the work, but if they received the material in advance and would like to speak up, they will be given a turn. It’s entirely up to them.

HOW TO JOIN

Guests become members by joining our Yahoo Group to begin receiving meeting notices. For specifics, please consult the Join page in the menu bar below the header.

After attending five meetings and having submitted five pages of their work for informal critique (just as practice—we do not reject members based on their writing), guests become full members and are eligible to be scheduled for a 25-page roundtable critique.

STILL UNDECIDED?

With over two decades under our belt, we believe in the group and what it can do to help writers improve their craft. Our current members write in a variety of genres; thriller and mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, historical and literary, middle grade and young adult.

In 2012, several of the core members of NIP formed Austin Indie Writers, where we also assist in production and promotion of each other’s works as independent authors. While the two groups are separate, they generally consist of the same people. Note: AIW is currently inactive.

Is there a novel trapped within you? Or are you currently struggling inside that lonely cocoon surrounding your writing desk, trying to tame a beast of a book that refuses to cooperate? Maybe you have a complete manuscript but you’re just not sure if it’s ready for the bright lights of the outside world?

For any and all of these situations, any writers’ group can help. That said, Novel In Progress—Austin is not just any writers’ group. All it takes is a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon to check us out.

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Comments

Home — 12 Comments

  1. I have been a member of NIP for many years (with a few interruptions) and what it has done for me, as much as anything else, is keep me motivated to write. I find it very hard, as I’m sure most people do, to keep working on something for which you get no feedback. Of course, it means opening your work up to criticism, but once you begin to realize that the criticism you receive is making you a better and more thoughtful writer (even criticism you may disagree with), it makes the whole process far more enjoyable. The fact is that the membership of NIP is quite diverse, yet also quite astute. Members come and go but they all have something valuable to contribute.

    Yes it’s all free, but the adage that you get what you pay for, doesn’t always hold water.

    One last point. The reason NIP has worked so well for so long, is because of the dedication of the various chairpersons over the years. Tosh is the latest one and he is taking a fresh look at the way we do things. Based on my knowledge of his intelligence, creativity, and willingness to listen, I expect things to get even better.

    If you are writing and don’t belong to a group like NIP, you need to fix that right away.

    • From NIP Austin Admin: Thank you, David. I have republished your comment as a post in the Blog Roll to enhance its visibility and approved it here to provide you the opportunity to submit any subsequent comments without the need for moderation.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. This group has offered constructive criticism that I need to keep on keeping on. Thanks to David for the comments and Tosh for current leadership.

  2. The late great Elmore Leonard was an acclaimed writer of crime and western novels. He is widely considered to be the preeminent prose stylist in the crime fiction genre. His ten rules of writing are famous. I follow some of his rules but not others. My opinion is that they are great, or even infallible, for his genre but not necessarily for other genres, but you can’t go far wrong if you take them to heart.

    Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing:

    1. Never open a book with weather.

    2. Avoid prologues.

    3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

    4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.

    5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

    6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”

    7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

    8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

    9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

    10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

    My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

    Here’s my take on his rules:

    Rule 1:. For better or worse, I am a big fan of weather, and I always want to keep my reader informed about what nature is up to. It seems to me that Western novels demand a lot of weather reports.

    Rule 2:. I try, but a I can’t always.

    Rule 3:. I think “said” needs to alleviated occasionally to avoid boredom. Also, the human voice is a complex mechanism subject to many nuances that may be relevant to the story.

    Rule 4:. Occasionally, nuance is important.

    Rules 5, 6, 7, 8: Always good regardless of genre, although there are times when I use “suddenly” but I’m always ashamed of myself for it.

    Rule 9:. “Great detail” about places and things is a relative term. Some people’s “great detail” is someone else’s “not enough.”

    Rule 10:. I have no idea what parts readers tend to skip. If I find myself skipping parts, I throw the book away. The types of things I skip over are probably not the parts other readers would skip over, and vice versa. I think you have to write with the assumption that your reader is exactly like you.

    Summary Rule: This rule is always good regardless of genre.

  3. On this day, February 11th in the year 1778, some 300 people visited Voltaire following his return to Paris. Voltaire had been in exile for 28 years.

    Born Francois-Marie Arouet to middle-class parents in Paris in 1694, Voltaire began to study law as a young man, but quit to become a playwright. He made a name for himself with classical tragedies and also wrote poetry. In 1717, he was arrested for his satirical poem La Henriade, which attacked politics and religion. Voltaire spent nearly a year in the Bastille as punishment.

    Voltaire’s time in prison failed to dry up his satirical pen, and in 1726 government disapproval of his work forced him to flee to England. He returned several years later and continued to write plays. Then in 1734, his Lettres Philosophiques criticized established religions and political institutions, and he was again forced to flee Paris. He retreated to the region of Champagne, where he lived with his mistress and patroness, Madame du Chételet.

    In 1750, he moved to Berlin on the invitation of Frederick II of Prussia and later settled in Switzerland, where he wrote his best-known work, Candide. After 28 years, in failing health, he returned to Paris and was greeted by hundreds of intellectuals. He died in that eternal city in May of 1778.

    I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.
    —Voltaire

  4. On this day in 1938, best-selling author Judy Blume, known for her children’s books and young-adult novels, including “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” and “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Blume’s books have been beloved by several generations of readers; however, the explicit subject matter of some of her novels for adolescents has made them a target for censors.
    Blume, born Judy Sussman, was raised in New Jersey and attended New York University, graduating in 1961 with a degree in teaching. She married while still a college student and had two children by the time she was in her mid-20s.
    In 1969, Blume published her first children’s book, “The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo.” More fiction for grade-school-age readers followed, including “Freckle Juice” (1971), “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” (1972), “Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great” (1972) and “Blubber” (1974). In 1970, Blume published the young-adult novel “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” She went on to write other novels for adolescents, including “Then Again, Maybe I Won’t” (1971), “Deenie” (1973) and “Forever” (1975).
    Blume’s books, which realistically address such topics as menstruation, bullying, divorce, sexuality, friendships, family, and body image, gained legions of young fans. However, their content frequently led them to be banned by school libraries. After her work was the target of an organized book-banning campaign in the 1980s, Blume became an anti-censorship activist. 

In addition to writing for young readers, Blume has penned novels for adults, including “Wifey” (1978), “Smart Women” (1983) and “Summer Sisters” (1998), all of which were best sellers. To date, her books have sold over 80 million copies and been translated into more than 30 languages.

    Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.
    —Judy Blume

  5. On this day in 1991, Sotheby’s announced the discovery of a long-lost manuscript of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
    The manuscript was the first half of Twain’s original version, heavily corrected in his own handwriting, which had been missing for more than a century. The manuscript surfaced when a 62-year-old Los Angeles librarian finally got around to sorting through some old papers in six trunks sent to her when an aunt from upstate New York died.
    Twain, it turned out, had sent the second half of the manuscript to the librarian’s grandfather, James Gluck, who had solicited it for the Buffalo and Erie Library in Buffalo, New York, where Twain had once lived. At the time, Twain was unable to find the entire manuscript, and it was presumed lost for more than 100 years. However, it turned out that Twain did eventually find the manuscript and send it to Gluck.
    A custody war over the manuscript ensued, with the sisters, the library, and the Mark Twain Papers Projects in Berkeley, California, squabbling over rights to the papers. Ultimately, the three parties struck a deal: The library would hold the rights to the physical papers, but all three parties would share in the publication rights. Because the novel contained previously unpublished material, and showed Twain’s edits, interest in publishing the manuscript was high, and in 1995 Random House won the rights to publish the book for an undisclosed price.

    Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.
    —Mark Twain

  6. On this day in 1980, playwright Lillian Hellman filed a lawsuit clamming $2.2 million in damages against novelist Mary McCarthy for libel.
    McCarthy, a sarcastic and critical novelist whose most popular novel was The Group (1963), about eight Vassar graduates, had called Hellman “a bad writer, overrated, a dishonest writer” while appearing on a national talk show. The two writers evidently had a long history of hostility, dating back some 30 years, when the pair had clashed publicly at a poetry seminar at Sarah Lawrence College.
    Many writers and supporters of free speech rushed to McCarthy’s defense, including an heiress who picked up McCarthy’s $25,000 legal defense fees and saved her from certain financial ruin. Hellman died before the lawsuit came to trial, and the suit was dropped.

    I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashion.
    —Lillian Hellman

    Bureaucracy, the rule of no one, has become the modern form of despotism.
    —Mary McCarthy

  7. I find that I need constant encouragement in order to try and write. One of my favorite upnotes is: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart an intuition. They somehow already know what you want to become.” Steve Jobs, 1955-2011, American businessman

  8. I collect examples of writing that I want to emulate or run from. I’ve compiled a list, along with the lessons I’ve derived, in a file called Brief Writing Lessons which I skim before I work on my own novel. Here are a couple of entries:

    From White Oleander, by Janet Fitch, P. 320. This is about a pregnant teen.

    She curled up on the carseat when we were moving again, picked up her Seventeen and turned pages, her hands trembling. She closed the magazine and stared at the girl on the cover, a girl who had never been pregnant, never had a social worker, or a filling. Yvonne stroked the water-wavy cover. I could tell, she wanted to know what that girl knew, feel how she felt, to be so beautiful, wanted, confident. Like people touching the statue of a saint.

    Lesson: Use artifacts to deepen the description of a character instead of having description stand alone. Also can be way to drop in back story. Sometimes Fitch’s punctuation is weird, as in the comma after “I could tell,” . . .

    From “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” by Elton John:

    “It’s enough to make kings and vagabonds believe the very best.”

    Lesson: I think volumes could be written about this sentence. There’s so much power in what is left out. He could have preceded it with something like “Love is universal” or Love is a feeling shared by all.” Making “kings and vagabonds” equal in the same sentence, wow! The subtext is that love makes them equals. What if he’d said “. . . everyone from kings to vagabonds . . .?” It would lose its power.

  9. To set the record straight and give credit where it’s due, Elton John composed the music and Tim Rice, the lyrics.

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