1. We use a slightly modified version of the Milford System for critiques. We don’t read aloud and we don’t invoke the rule that ‘No one can attend or comment who does not bring a story.’ We also have a slightly complicated system for deciding who goes first (rule #7 below).
2. We use DropBox to distribute submissions prior to each meeting.
3. 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.
4. If you’re new you must attend one meeting and deliver critiques on work submitted by 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.
5. We have a limit of seven (7) submissions per meeting on a first-come, first-into-DropBox basis.
6. Your work must be submitted to the DropBox at least one week prior to each meeting.
7. We critique as many pieces as time allows. We decide who goes first as follows:
- We start by critiquing those submissions carried over from the previous meeting.
- Then we critique any new submissions from writers who didn’t have anything critiqued during the previous meeting.
- Then we critique all remaining submissions.
- We spin a pen or toss a coin in all of the above cases to see who goes first, then we proceed around the table from there.
8. You must not submit multiple pieces at a time: i.e. queue them up for subsequent meetings.
9. You must submit Word 97-2003 .DOC files (not DOCX, RTF, PDF or any other file type). Include your name and the title of the piece in the filename.
10. 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. Times New Roman is preferred.
11. 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.
12. We discuss prose. That’s novel or novella chapters, short stories, flash fiction. I’m afraid that we don’t discuss poetry or scripts.
13. Do not remove work from DropBox after you’ve submitted. Members invest a lot of time in reading your work. Pulling it from 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 keep missing meetings your work will be removed from DropBox.
14. 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 whether this applies for a specific piece of work get in touch before you submit.
15. Submissions must be speculative-fiction. Borderline genre/literary/weird fiction is fine. Erotica isn’t OK: although an erotic scene in a speculative fiction piece is OK if it’s essential for the story. 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 several chapters of kitchen sink drama before a boggart leaps out of the plughole. To us, speculative fiction means one of these:
- Alternate history
- Slipstream/weird fiction
16. Submissions must not have been previously published. That includes personal websites and self-publishing.
17. We’re adults and open-minded about blood and gore, sexual content, profanity and political views. We will not tolerate work that sets out to offend other people.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. Feedback must be balanced and 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. We want to know about the characters you love, which line of dialogue rocks, and the narrative that blows your mind. Don’t try to fix the whole piece, just identify a few points.
21. 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?
22. 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.
23. Critiques must be delivered in person during the meeting. You are invited to hand over supporting notes to the author during the meeting but this isn’t mandatory. We realise that some members have difficulty in attending but we do not critique work via email or other social media.
24. 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.
If you break the rules your submission will be removed from DropBox. You will receive an email with clarification over the house rules you’ve broken. In rare cases you might be removed from DropBox and asked to find a more suitable writers’ group.