Friday, 2 of June 2023

Our standard meeting format

Our meetings come in several different forms, but the most common involves manuscript readings in the first half, followed by a second half involving critique of works which were submitted in advance.

First half of the meeting: manuscript readings

During the first hour, writers can bring along their writing on the night to be read out to the group for instant feedback.

  • These works should be no more than two thousand words long (1500 is better!). Please do a word count before the meeting – we need to know how long it’ll take to read!
  • You don’t have to read it out yourself, or even reveal your identity, if you don’t wish to – if you bring along a clearly-printed copy of your work, we can arrange for someone else to read it out on your behalf.
  • You can bring along more than one piece to read out if you wish, but we will generally only allow someone to read a second piece if everyone else has already had a chance to read.
  • If you’re presenting a short poem, we often ask for it to be read out twice to let it properly sink in.

Second half of the meeting: critique of works submitted in advance

After a brief break, the second part of the meeting usually features in-depth critique of pieces of writing that members have submitted and read in advance of the meeting. This is done without revealing the identity of the authors: we have found that the convention of anonymity makes for more productive discussions (even though in some cases many people can guess who’s written what! You don’t have to go out of your way to hide your identity). At the end of each session, the writers will be given the option to identify themselves if they so wish.

First come, first served

  • Writers can submit their works for critique at any time; they will generally be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Up to four manuscripts will be published in the password-protected members’-only section of our website for the group to read about a week before the meeting, and the group will be emailed links to download them.
  • If you can’t attend the meeting where your manuscript is due to be discussed, please let us know in advance so that we can reschedule, or possibly make arrangements for someone else to take notes of the critique for you.

Word limits and multiple submission

  • We don’t want to have four monstrously-long manuscripts to read all at once. Up to two of the four manuscripts can be up to fifteen thousand words long; the rest can be up to five thousand words long. It’s still first-come, first-served: if four shorter works get there first, they’ll take the ‘long’ slots. Please note that fewer people get round to reading longer manuscripts – anything over five thousand words starts to lose readers. It’s fine to split works into multiple parts for multiple meetings, but if you have eg one seven-thousand-word chapter, you might as well send it in all in one go.
  • If you’ve got something more than fifteen thousand words long which you want the group to critique, speak to the committee: we’re happy to arrange special review sessions outside the regular programme for novellas and novels.
  • Writers can generally only have one manuscript scheduled per meeting (although you can bring along something to read out in the first half even if you’ve submitted something for the second).
  • You can submit a manuscript comprising multiple shorter works (eg a collection of poems) if you wish, but the collection will be reviewed as a whole (ie we won’t allocate time for separate discussions of each specific poem in the collection), so this would generally only be appropriate for closely-related works.

Genre and content

  • You can submit any type of writing you wish. Most submissions tend to be prose fiction or short poems, but we’re open to all kinds of writing.
  • We generally reformat submissions into standard formats for distribution (eg we tend to bundle manuscripts together for people to download as ebooks). If your manuscript features unusual formatting or includes images, please be aware that we may need to adapt it slightly and it might take us longer to prepare – so please submit well in advance of the deadline if you want it reviewed at a specific meeting.
  • If your manuscript contains content that could get people in trouble if they downloaded it at work (‘rude’ words, i guess?), please include a warning.
  • Please include a title (even if it’s just a working title). It is also helpful to include a line or two of guidance about the kind of feedback you’re looking for, and/or the context of the piece (nothing too detailed, just the sort of information you could infer if you were glancing at the finished article in a bookshop). Please include the title and the guidance in the body of the document itself rather than in a covering email, or we might miss them when editing the manuscripts together.