Monthly Archives: June 2011

Closed Meeting: 28th June

Another long meeting last night with an extremely detailed level of critique. Half as many people attending as the previous meeting and we still overran!

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Important Announcement: Twice-Monthly Meetings

Our previous meeting on the 8th June was a huge success with 14 attendees, the highest number of people we’ve had to a single meeting so far. That’s great!

But it’s impractical.

We ran wildly over time and several attendees mentioned afterwards that they felt their feedback was rushed. Luckily not all 14 attendees offered feedback, or we would have had to drop the last couple of pieces from the meeting altogether.

No doubt this would have been very frustrating for everyone involved and would have probably caused a knock-on over-subscription to the following month’s meeting.

We need to change something.

As you all know, we currently offer open membership (with no attendance fees). We already cap the number of pieces of work being discussed per meeting, but this doesn’t stop the number of people attending each meeting from increasing to potentially unmanageable levels.

As you may also be aware, there’s a handful of dedicated group members who have been with the group for a long time who have been instrumental in establishing the group and making it what it is today. We’ve loosely called these people the ‘regulars‘.

An easy solution to the over-attendance would be to close membership, and of course it would make sense for the ‘regulars’ to get first dibs on available places.

We’re not going to do that!

Well, not quite. You see we’re in a predicament. We love new members joining our group; they introduce a refreshing new perspective to meetings and of course several of our ‘regulars’ started out as new members in the first place.

You see, we need new members. We don’t want to close membership, although a closed membership would allow us to more effectively manage our time. So we’re going to do both at once!

We’re happy to announce that, effective immediately, we will be running twice-monthly meetings, one with an open membership and one with a closed membership. Each meeting will have its own DropBox. Only ‘regulars’ will attend the closed meetings and joining the ‘regulars’ is by (extremely rare and occasional) invite only. This will reduce the load on the open meetings, giving everyone a little more breathing space.

To summarise:

  • We will continue to offer an open meeting on the second Wednesday of every month. We will continue to use the existing DropBox to distribute work for this meeting, the word limit will stay at 3000 words, anyone can join and there will be no fees. In fact, nothing at all will change with this meeting.
  • We will also run a second closed meeting on the last Wednesday of each month. This meeting will only be attended by the’ regulars’. Joining the ‘regulars’ and attending the closed meeting will be by invite only. During this meeting we will be discussing each other’s work as normal but we will also spend some time discussing the running of the overall group.

Many of the ‘regulars’ will attend both meetings. Some of the ‘regulars’ might submit work for both meetings (at least the prolific ones might do – I don’t how they manage it, but I suspect caffeine and a lack of sleep is involved).

This system has the advantage that we split the group between two meetings, there isn’t a headache over managing who attends which one, but we will continue to mix as a whole group.

“How do I join the ‘regulars’?”

That could take a very, very long time. Perhaps never. There needs to be a free space and we haven’t decided how many people we’re going to cap closed membership at yet.

“Can you add my name to the waiting list to join the ‘regulars’?”

No. There isn’t a waiting list. It won’t work like that. If – and that’s a very big ‘IF’ – we get a free space, we will look at all the recent attendees at the open meetings and we will pick the best fit for the closed group. We will not pick whoever has attended the most.

So that’s it. All we can do now is wait and see if this works. Thanks for your continued support!


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Meeting: 8th June

I’d like to welcome all the new members who joined us for last night’s meeting. We had fourteen people attending with seven pieces of work critiqued. This is the largest number of people we’ve had to a meeting so far! Even with a few people passing on comments we didn’t finish until 10pm and whilst it was great to see so many people we might need to think about how we deal with this many attendees in future.

What do you think? Should we limit the number of people who attend in future or was last night just too much fun?

As some of you know, we started trialling twice-monthly meetings a couple of months ago. We had two meetings in April but we only needed one in May. June looks like it’s going to be another busy month and we already have two pieces of work in the DropBox ready for a potential second meeting. I’ve chased MadLab for a date, I’ll send around an email as soon as I hear whether this second meeting is going to happen or not.

Twice last night I received the suggestion that perhaps we should have a second meeting per month dedicated to novel chapters. This was further discussed down the pub.

What do you think? We have two novel authors already submitting work (Rob and Guy), two of the new attendees last night submitted first chapters (Dan and Zarah) and I have a novel which I keep threatening to submit to the DropBox. Should we have two meetings per month, one for short stories and another for novels?

Here are the pieces of work we critiqued last night:

  • Zarah presented the prologue and first chapter from her novel The Weeping Empress. Everyone enjoyed the use of language and they especially liked the first chapter after the prologue. Several people commented that they weren’t sure whether the prologue was needed or could be chopped up and moved around or just dropped altogether. A few people thought the action scene in the first chapter could be speeded up by dropping some of the physical descriptions of the combatants involved.
  • John presented a short story  called And So I Awoke And Found Myself Here On The Cold Lake Side. Everyone enjoyed the quality of writing and the creature; several people liked the dialogue and the interaction between the characters. A couple of people thought the story was a little over-long and that the name/surname introductions could be cut down to first names only. There was a quick discussion about suitable markets.
  • Shirley presented a short story called The Wolf (case no A6554C). Everyone liked the CCTV and I think most people liked the scientists, although questions were asked about how scientific they were or whether they were more like certain TV presenters. Several people weren’t sure about the DVD ending and this prompted a debate about increasing the significance  of the DVD elsewhere in the story.
  • Dave presented a short story called The Pixellated Man. Everyone really liked the car crash. A few people thought the first half of the story was a little slow to get going and there was a little confusion about the initial resolution of the man himself. Glad to say I wasn’t the only old timer 8-bit fan out there! Several people enjoyed the allegorical racism and this prompted a debate about whether there should be more or less or whether it was too tidy.
  • Craig presented a short story called The Other Meat. Most people enjoyed the first line and the food/sex juxtaposition. A few people weren’t sure about the woman and her dialogue, or whether everyone will know what a Defender is. The jury still seems divided as to whether this is spec fic or not – good! Turns out there are plenty of roadkill-eating experts in the group as well as one practitioner. Lots of comments about the ending including one very well received suggested alternative.
  • Dan presented the first chapter from his novel Cold Calling. Everyone seemed to enjoy the hum-drum call centre environment and the sarcastic humour. There was a discussion about ladder heights and/or availability of lower rungs. There was also a quick debate about reveals in short stories versus novel chapters rounded off with a lovely graph from Ben (see below).
  • Chris presented a short story called Snowglobe. Everyone really liked the imagery in this story. A few people thought the story was a little over long, that the directed question to the reader didn’t quite work. Several people liked the dialogue, though a couple of people wanted more differentiation between the two speakers. Several people asked about the title and the author looked a little shifty when he gave his answer. There was another discussion about suitable markets.

As usual we popped down the pub afterwards for a very quick drink and a chat (it was after 10pm by the time we got there).

At the moment I’m not sure what’s happening with the next meetings. I’ve asked MadLab for a second meeting in June, hopefully on the 21st. I still haven’t heard back but as soon as I do I’ll edit this page with more details and send around an email. Watch this space!

Update 13th June: Hi everyone, we’re still fine-tuning the details on how we manage meeting numbers in the future but the good news is that we have a plan! We still need confirmation from MadLab on some dates before we go public with what we have in mind, but I’ll post again once we’re ready. For now, we’re running a small closed meeting on the 28th June (regulars only) and the next standard meeting after that will be Wednesday 13th July.

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