1. We use the Milford System with the following exceptions:
- We use DropBox to distribute work prior to each meeting. We don’t read aloud. It’s not that we don’t like reading aloud, but 4000-word pieces and the DropBox system doesn’t lend itself to this.
- Instead of: ‘No one can attend or comment who does not bring a story’ we say: ‘Anyone can attend a meeting but if we have a lot of people and you haven’t submitted work you might be asked to comment at the end of each round of comments, time allowing.’
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. We recommend you come along to a meeting before you submit any work to the DropBox to see whether the group is right for you.
3. Work must be submitted to the DropBox at least one week prior to the meeting. A maximum of seven (7) pieces will be discussed per meeting on a first-come, first-served basis. You can’t submit multiple pieces at a time – i.e. queue them up for subsequent meetings. We’re sensible and fair about how we manage this. Some writers are more prolific than others, so don’t be offended if your work gets bounced to a following meeting for someone who submitted after you who needs a turn.
4. Please submit Word .DOC files (not DOCX) to the DropBox. Include your name and the title of the piece in the filename.
5. Add page number, title and your name to each page to make life easier for everyone. You should be using standard formatting anyway.
6. 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.
7. We discuss prose – that’s novel and novella chapters, short stories and flash fiction. We generally don’t discuss poetry or scripts.
8. Removing work from the DropBox is frowned upon. Members invest a lot of time in reading your work and pulling it from the DropBox after they’ve done this really annoys them. If you’re not sure, don’t submit in the first place. If you think you might miss a meeting but you’ve already submitted, leave your work in the DropBox for the next meeting and let us know. If you miss a second meeting your work will be removed from the DropBox. You cannot re-submit work previously submitted to the DropBox.
9. Work must be speculative-fiction. Borderline is fine, we like subtle. Individual novel chapters which, on their own, contain little or no speculative elements but are part of a grander speculative arc are fine. Just don’t expect us to read three chapters of kitchen sink drama before a boggart leaps up from the plughole. Speculative means:
- Alternate history
- Slipstream/weird fiction
10. We’re adults and open-minded, so blood and gore, sexual content, profanity, risqué political views are all fine. Be sensible about work that might offend others.
11. Membership is free and flexible. There are no fees, recurring or otherwise. All we ask is that attendees voluntarily donate £1 to MadLab for each meeting.
12. Feedback should be constructive. Sure we want to know about punctuation mistakes and grammar gaffs, and we want to hear about the technicalities of broken point-of-view and when we’re telling too much or showing too little; but we also want to know what works well, what makes a character come alive, what line of dialogue rocks, what narrative blows your mind. Don’t try to fix the whole piece, just identify a few points that don’t work for you and a few that do.
13. Please read all the submitted pieces of work and prepare feedback in advance. A few bullet points is fine. Members invest a lot of time in reading your work, do you have time to read all of theirs?
14. Don’t plagiarise. 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 will not be tolerated. Fan-fiction is fine, but please identify it clearly at the beginning of your work.
15. Due to the occasionally mature content of some of our work, I’m afraid we can only accept members who are 18 years of age or older.
What happens if you break the rules? Well your DropBox work could be removed and you might receive an email asking for a more suitable piece of work. In extremely rare cases you might even be removed from the DropBox and asked to find a more suitable writers’ group.