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Newsgroups: misc.writing,rec.arts.sf.written,rec.arts.prose,alt.prose
Subject: So, you want your SF/F/H critiqued, eh?
From: aburt@... (Andrew Burt)
Date: 15 Nov 1995

Hello all!  I'm starting an on-line critiquing circle (aka workshop)
for serious Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror writers, and am hereby
calling for members.  (Call!  Call! :-)

Now, I should mention that word "serious" I put in there.  I've been a
member of several on-line critique groups so far -- and none of them
has worked. :-( People submit stories, hardly anyone else offers any
critiques.  They suffer from a serious lack of participation by the
members.  Hence "serious." (Not lack of participation in submitting
*stories* -- they get those aplenty -- but in submitting *critiques*.
Nobody seems to want to do *that*.)

So I thought I'd try my hand at it, that maybe with carefully crafted
procedures we can get it to work, and folks will get the critiques they

Here's what I'm thinking:

1)  Member submits a short story (or chapters+outline) for review to a
central email address; manuscript is then emailed to all participants
(I can also set up a password protected web page to put it on).  (No
partial stories, please, and chapters of novels should come with a
minimum of a paragraph describing the entire book.)

2)  One ms. is sent around per week. [Amended:  We now send roughly one
ms. per 15 members, which works well.]

3)  Other members are expected to email their critiques back within a
week (thus the critiques are public and open to further comment).  Even
if you don't care for the genre (e.g., you like hard SF and the
work-of-the-week is fantasy), you are still expected to provide a
response.  [I think this is the key -- each member is ***expected*** to
respond to each submission.  "Give to get," that sort of thing.]
[Amended:  Respond to at least one each week.]

Of course members can't be expected to critique *every* work, I realize
folks go out of town, etc.  But I think some percentage like 75% is
fair (if you can't manage to read three out of four, maybe you're
better off spending your limited time just writing, instead of trying
to get critiques from people without reciprocating; remember that tired
old "Golden Rule").  [Amended to 75% of weeks.]

4)  Members who fail to submit their quota of reviews are excluded from
having their work reviewed until they're back in "good standing" (i.e.,
wait a few weeks to get back above 75%).

(I am open to suggested improvements, of course.  Maybe one week is too
short, y'all want two weeks.  We'll figure it out.)

But mutual cooperation is the key.  Commitment.

I.e., if you're not willing to help others as much as you'd like
reviews of your own work, this isn't the place for you.  If you're
willing to do the critiquing to get yours read, then this group should
work out great.

I would hope that the members are also "serious" in the sense of
getting published, i.e., are actually submitting stories to markets and
getting lots and lots of rejection slips.  *BUT*, I don't believe
that's a crucial element to being a contributing member of the group.
All we need are people who are willing to critique.  (In fact, since
there are usually plenty of manuscripts, anyone who just wants to
critique and not send in stories is also welcome!  But don't join
unless you have the time and commitment to genuinely send in critiques;
typically the only carrot/stick in this situation [lacking face-to-face
peer pressure] is whether your own story will be sent around, nudging
you to review to ensure yours is seen.  Thus I anticipate most
participants will have submissions too, but it's not a requirement by
any means.)

I hope we can attract some published writers, though I realize that at
least initially we'll all probably be just unpublished hopefuls.  But I
also hope it's clear to those who *are* published and *might* be
considering joining that the other members will share your level of
seriousness, if not your list of publications.

I realize the net is a difficult place to do a workshop like this,
since there's no way to enforce the guilt found in an in-person one.
However, I believe if people have the willpower to participate, it can
work just as well, possibly better.

To those who say "well, go find a real one then" -- there's only one
"real" workshop in my geographic area that I've found (with some pretty
extensive searching) -- and that has Connie Willis, Ed Bryant, and a
bunch of other well-published people in it, with a multi-year-long
waiting list to get in.  I'm trying to start another one, but am,
again, finding commitment to be a major problem.  People don't even
return phone calls who've said they're very interested, or don't show
up to meetings they say they'll definitely be at (or ever finish
stories they say they want reviewed)...  So, I thought I'd cast the net
out onto the net, and see if there are other like-minded writers out

I suppose it's fair to wonder what my credentials are, so here's a
brief bio.  I'm a math/comp.sci. professor at the University of Denver,
where I do operating systems theory, networking, computer security, and
an unusual branch of AI, and my wife and I run a software consulting
business (e.g., writing custom software for clients, mostly Unix/C/C++
related).  I created and run a free, public access internet site
[telnet nyx.net, or http://www.nyx.net if you're interested] -- I
should add that this is evidence of my commitment:  I've run this as
a hobby for over six years now.  As for SF writing, I am, alas, mostly
unpublished.  (Ok, I have one copies-only publication, but we won't
count that :-) [Amended: I have since made actual sales.]  I did some
SF writing many years ago (try fifteen), but stopped until this July to
get the ol' career going, etc.  Now that I have time for the the
proverbial thousand words a day, I've written over a dozen short
stories, which are starting to bring in personal rejections from
Analog, SF Age, etc.  (And seem to be getting lost at Asimov's; I've a
bunch there and...  silence.  Hmm.) I write mostly SF (some hard, some
not) with an occasional dabble elsewhere.  Anyway, I have good
organizational skills, can whip up a mean critique if that's what you
want, have thick skin to take the worst you can throw at my own
efforts, and enjoy both writing and critiquing.  I'll just add that if
I start something, I don't give it up, so if this fails, you have my
word that it's not because I suddenly found I didn't have time, etc.
(which is what happened with one of the on-liners I tried; the "admin"
bailed).  I'm rabidly persistent. :-)

So -- if you take your SF/F/H writing seriously and have the time and
willpower to put into reading and reviewing, drop me a line!



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