Ah, the Alternative Writing Workshop — there's some brilliant stuff down there, all kinds of extraordinary writing... so I thought I'd put my piece down there and see what happened to it. Well, not a lot, as it turned out — it's strange how few people have commented. A couple said they liked it, but not why. I'm sure many more must have read it. Because I know it's not quite right yet and there's any number of things I'd like some feedback on. But no one seems to want to talk to me about it. Maybe everyone's busy?
Just a few minutes later, I had another message, this time from an upstanding hootooizen:
Ah, the Alternative Writing Workshop — there's some brilliant stuff down there, all kinds of extraordinary writing... I love hanging around down there, reading and reading, just for pleasure. But it's strange how few people comment. There's a handful of regulars who give out advice and there's the odd thumbs up and the like, but in general... All right, I can't talk, I know, but I never know what to say. What does the author want in the first place? Maybe all the other readers are in the same boat as me... Maybe everyone's busy?
A match made in heaven, no? So how do we get these people together?
With the AWW Autumn 2006 Crit Run – that's how!
If you're a writer and you'd like some feedback on your work, we're asking you to submit a piece to the AWW with the special and distinctive phrase 'Crit Run Autumn 2006' added in the title.
Hold it — where do you think you're going? Come back!
At the same time, we'd like to ask you to sign up and pledge to offer at least three substantial reviews of other pieces in the AWW also entered in the Crit Run. Easy, no? You give out some help and advice to your peers and they do the same for you. You can submit more than one piece and they don't have to be brand new either, but the same rule applies... three reviews for every piece submitted.
Stop! Haven't finished...
If you're not a writer, doesn't matter: we still want as many people as possible to take part, as long as they're willing to sign up to the same pledge: three substantial reviews. If you do spend time in the AWW (and if not, why not?), then why not take the time to let the writers know what you thought of their work, see if you can't help them out a little?
If you already think you know what's involved in this kind of 'reviewing', then what are you waiting for? Please sign up below. If you're currently humming and hahing, then have a look at the guidelines a bit further down.
- All participants must complete a minimum of three substantive reviews on Critique Run entries.
- Any author submitting entries for review on the Crit Run, must undertake to write at least three substantive reviews for each new entry submitted.
- Proper spiked running shoes must be worn. Anyone flip-flopping around the Crit Run track will be eliminated on sight.
- That's it.
How to Enter
Fill in the application form below by clicking on 'Sign Me Up!' and adding your name and 'U' number to the message, then subscribe to the AWW forum1 and keep a look out for Crit Run entries appearing there.
I am __________ , U_________
How to submit an entry to the Crit Run:
- Include "Autumn '06 Crit Run" in the entry title before pressing the 'Submit for Review' button.
- After pressing the button, select the Alternative Writing Workshop (AWW) and in the message box include the words "Crit Run entry (see A16273820), do your worst guys, Crit Runners and non-Crit Runners all, I'm ready for it. (And I've sworn to do the same back at least three times.)"
- Entries already in the AWW can be entered in the Run by removing them from the AWW2 and resubmitting following 1. and 2. above.
New to Reviewing?
How to Review
Read the entry. Every single word, undistracted by anything else. Note your first feelings while reading and, having finished... read it again. And again.
Write the review to include all the things that worked as much as those that didn't.
So What's a Substantive Review?
Its more than an 'I like/hate this entry.' There's no model review and every reviewer will have their own style, but it should include at least some of the following:
Your reactions to the entry and what in the writing and what parts of the writing made you react that way. 'Reaction' includes the reaction of being bored, left cold, or 'I’ve seen that before', 'what was the point of that?' as much as it includes being amused, moved, enraged, horrified, scared, gripped, intrigued, etc.
A look at the mechanics of the entry, the writer's choices in how to tell the story or present the piece. This includes such things as:
- A look at characters — do they have personality, do they make you interested in them. How the characterisation is done or not done.
- A look at pacing: for example, the lengths of sentences, the amount of detail given and whether the writing stays in close focus or not. What is the effect of choices made, and does it fit the content?
- A look at choices of words — are they ordinary, predictable or novel, long or short, hard or soft sounding? What effect does that have and does it fit the content? Do the sounds of the words add to or detract from the content?
- A look at the images and metaphors given — are they predictable or commonplace or interesting, are they sharp or fuzzy? Do they add or detract from the content? Would you find the same phrases on greetings cards?
Grammar, typos, punctuation, spelling — critiquing isn't proofreading. But if any of these detract from the entry, it's worth saying so. And if they exist to the extent that you feel the writer’s made so little effort to present the piece well that you wonder why you’re bothering to read it properly, it's worth pointing that out too.
A look at whether the content is interesting, original, entertaining. Whether the tone and style of writing were suited to the content.
Suggestions for revisions
If you have any, feel free to state them. But critique is more about letting the writer know what effect his/her writing had on you and how effective you found it, or didn't. It's the writer's job to decide whether they got the reaction they hoped for and if not, how to fix that.
Finally, you might find these links useful:
- The BBC Get Writing site's advice on reviewing
- An Outline for a Review
- Review grids
- A couple of point by point frameworks
- More point by point frameworks
- Some Get Writing do's and don'ts
What's next? 'Sign Up' button's back up the page there — that's what's next!
Any queries, leave a message below. There will be a finish date, probably towards the end of November. It'll be announced later in the AWW.