1. We use the Milford System for our critiques, though we don’t read aloud, we use DropBox to distribute work prior to each meeting. We don’t invoke the rule that ‘No one can attend or comment who does not bring a story.’
2. If you’re new, you must get in touch before you attend. Don’t just turn up! You need copies of everyone’s work or you won’t have a clue what we’re talking about.
3. You must attend one meeting and deliver critiques on work from existing group members before you submit your own work into DropBox for your second and subsequent meetings. You need to see whether the group is right for you and we need to see whether you’re right for our group. If you go ahead and submit anyway your work will be marked for critique for the following month.
4. Work must be submitted to the DropBox at least one week prior to each meeting.
5. We will critique as many pieces as time allows on a randomly selected basis. We spin a pen during each meeting and start critiquing from wherever the pen lands.
6. You must not submit multiple pieces at a time: i.e. queue them up for subsequent meetings.
7. You must submit Word .DOC files (not DOCX, RTF, PDF or any other file type). Include your name and the title of the piece in the filename.
8. You must add a page number, title and your name to each page. This makes life easier for everyone. It’s a good idea to use something like Shunn formatting.
9. There’s a 4000-word limitation for each submitted piece. Anything longer than this should be split into smaller sections and submitted across subsequent meetings. If you have several short pieces of work that total less than 4000 words, flash fiction for instance, feel free to submit up to three (3) pieces together in a single Word document.
10. We discuss prose. That’s novel/novella chapters, short stories, flash fiction. We don’t discuss poetry or scripts.
11. Do not remove work from DropBox after you’ve submitted. Members invest a lot of time in reading your work and pulling it from the DropBox after they’ve done this can be annoying. If you’re not sure, don’t submit in the first place. If you think you might miss a meeting after you’ve submitted, leave your work in DropBox and let us know. It will be bounced to the following meeting. If you miss a second meeting your work will be removed from DropBox.
12. Do not re-submit work previously submitted to DropBox. That includes work that’s been edited or even completely rewritten. If you’re not sure about this get in touch before you submit.
13. Submissions must be speculative-fiction. Borderline genre/literary/weird speculative-fiction is fine. Individual novel chapters which, on their own, contain little or no speculative elements but are part of a grand speculative arc are probably fine, but don’t expect much in the way of positive feedback if we have to wade through three chapters of kitchen sink drama before a boggart leaps out of the plughole. Speculative fiction means:
- Alternate history
- Slipstream/weird fiction
14. We’re adults and open-minded about blood and gore, sexual content, profanity and risqué political views. We will not tolerate work that sets out to offend other people.
15. Membership is free. There are no fees, recurring or otherwise. We invite attendees to a second or subsequent meeting to donate £1 per attendance using PayPal.
16. Feedback must be constructive. We want to know what works as well as what doesn’t. Punctuation mistakes and grammar gaffs are best left to highlighted line-edited copies of work handed back to the author. We want to hear about the technicalities of point-of-view, whether we’re telling too much or showing too little, what makes a character come alive, which line of dialogue rocks, the narrative that blows your mind. Don’t try to fix the whole piece, just identify a few points.
17. You must read all of the submitted work in DropBox for the month and prepare a few notes on your feedback in advance. A few bullet points per piece is fine. No last-minute reading during the meeting itself. Members invest a lot of time in reading your work, do you have time to read all of theirs?
18. We encourage attendees to hand over a copy of each author’s submission with some in-line notes. This can either be a hardcopy or emailed to the author immediately after each meeting. This certainly isn’t mandatory, but we’ve found it to be very useful, especially when it comes to identifying technical issues with spelling or grammar. This allows us to focus on higher-level or more complex areas of critique during the meeting itself.
19. Critiques must be delivered in person during the meeting with supporting notes handed to the author either during the meeting itself or emailed immediately afterwards. We realise that some members have difficulty in attending, but we do not critique work via email or other social media.
20. We do not tolerate plagiarism. We know there’s supposed to be no such thing as an original story and everyone uses film, TV and other fiction to influence their work, but blatant copying is not acceptable. Fan-fiction is fine, but should be clearly identified as such at the beginning of your work.
21. Due to the occasionally mature content of some of our work I’m afraid that we can only accept members who are 18 years of age or older.
What happens if you break the rules? Your submission might be removed from DropBox. You will probably receive an email will some clarification over our house rules. You might be asked to submit a more suitable piece of work. In extremely rare cases you might be removed from DropBox and asked to find a more suitable writers’ group.