Critique Guidelines

One of the most useful elements of any writing group is peer review. Without wanting to seem po-faced, as Speculators, we are all committed to improving our own writing, and helping others in the group to do the same. We don’t dress in cheerleader skirts (though we may occasionally shake our pom-poms), but we take this seriously enough to spend time considering each others’ writing and being accorded the same in turn. It’s a quid pro quo relationship. Members can only bring their own work to critique (no sneakily bringing your mother’s gothic potboiler along!)

Wednesday Writing Sessions

7pm – 9pm. As the group has grown, and more members working on novel length work, we no longer critique on Wednesdays, but have increased the frequency of our Saturday Dojo sessions. Wednesdays are reserved for personal writing, revision and research.

Saturday Dojo

We call our critique sessions Dojo, and they take place between 1pm and 5pm on alternate Saturdays throughout the year. In the week before an arranged session, members who want to have work included are invited to bid for a spot with an expected word length. We like to try to include as many pieces as we can in each session, but there’s an element of horse-trading that goes on; If you had a long excerpt critiqued at the previous session, you might bring a shorter chapter, or step back for the next one to allow someone else to have a go.

We generally like stories/excerpts up to a maximum of 5000 words (and no more than 15000 words in total for each session), but can sometimes be flexible if someone else has a much shorter piece, flash fiction, or if a submission deadline is imminent. We’re a pretty egalitarian bunch, and don’t usually bite. Most of this discussion takes place on the Speculators mailing list. Once our line-up is established, writers need to remember to print out and bring a copy of their piece for every attendee.

As they read, critiquers note on the page any comments, grammar corrections and so forth, which can be handed to the writer at the end to help with their redrafting. After everyone has finished reading, the group will offer constructive feedback on the story. Please be prepared to hear both positive and negative comments on your story. Anything negative is offered with an honest intention of improving the work. One member will lead a discussion between everyone present (except the writer!), discussing the good, the bad and the ugly. This is usually about readability, clarity of the story, plotting issues or triumphs, that sort of thing. We don’t discuss grammar nitpicks, as they should have been noted on the pages. While the discussion takes place, the writer takes notes for later. After about 10-15 minutes, discussion comes to an end and the writer has a few minutes right of reply, to clarify any questions raised, etc.

It’s suggested that potential members attend a few Wednesdays before coming to Dojo, to familiarise themselves with the group dynamics. There’s an unwritten expectation that members give and take. We’ve been fortunate to have a membership as happy to critique others as to be critiqued.

If the above sounds like something that would work for you, feel free to drop by any of our Wednesday sessions, or email jay.eales@googlemail.com if you have any other questions.

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