Once you've sent off your story, it's no longer your story, it becomes the readers story.
ALL manuscripts are submitted to the group in Standard Manuscript Format (SMS): Use ONLY "Courier" font in 12 point, with one-inch margins, lines should be double spaced, underline words to show italics, etc.
Mary Soon Lee has an excellent webpage telling exactly how a SMS needs to be formatted: HERE(http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~mslee/format.html )
William Shunn also has an excellent webpage showing exactly what SMF looks like for a short story (Short Story SMF). He also has a web page showing what SMF looks like for a novel (Novel SMF) Give it a thorough read before you submit your work to the group for the first time. Yes, this is a test. In the real world, professional markets have submission guidelines, and some of them are rather unusual; failure to follow the guidelines is one of the reasons stories get tossed into the rejection pile unread. So yes, we have our own guidelines that we expect you to follow. They are based on the same guidelines that 95% of professional markets out there use, and as a result, leaning them now is something that will help you become more professional in this career field.
Our operating procedure is simple. Manuscripts are distributed to group members, in one of two ways. Copies of the manuscripts may distributed at one meeting and critiqued at the next, or may be uploaded to our *yahoo group email site for other members to print out and read.
A typical meeting starts with a short session of writing-related new business (show and tell), then old business. If there is more than one MS up for critique that week, the word count determines the order of the manuscript critiqued--the longest piece goes first. We take turns in a circle giving oral critiques, beginning with the person to the right of the author, while the author listens quietly to the critiquer. Some people do line edits, others give market suggestions. Authors who cannot sit through an oral critique (taking notes is fine) and wait until the end of their critique to reply with their comments, will be asked to leave the group. It can be very hard to hear comments about a story you've sweated blood over--we understand that. We are strictly pledged to honesty, without resorting to insults or abusive language. When everyone is done giving their oral critique, we all hand the author the written critiques and the author may then ask clarifying questions, but not defend the critiqued MS. We can generally manage to get through two or three short stories per meeting.
If you cannot attend the meeting or would like the author to have a copy of your notes (in digital format) we ask that you wait to email the author your critique until after the meeting has adjourned.
The WorD group has very few guidelines. Some we've established are:
- You must be local to the Pittsburgh, PA area and be able to *attend meetings.
- Hard copy manuscripts distributed at a meeting must be returned to the author (even if comments haven't been written on them).
- It is acceptable to show a manuscript to a close friend, if you are having trouble critiquing it and need another viewpoint.
- Cover letters, poetry, and any lengths from flash fiction to novel are all fine to submit for critique. For non-fiction and non-SF/F/H fiction, ask other group members first via the Yahoo group email list. If the group is not open to working on a particular MS, asking for private critiques, not during WorD meetings, is perfectly acceptable.
- Although we have no attendance, production or submission requirements, we do ask that if you intend to submit your stories for critique, that you offer critiques in return. It's the right thing to do. Those that do not attend for a period longer than one year and those that do not offer critiques in return for the group critiquing their work, will be asked to remove themselves from the group.
- As novel critiques can take up 7, 8 or more sessions--that's a third of a year--the group does not look at entire novels at once, but rather looks at a synopsis and the first 50 pages of the novel (which happens to be the standard way that agents and editors ask to see novels) and then makes a determination from there as to whether or not the group should devote a quarter of a year or more to critiquing the entire work. This way, we don't block out so many meetings working on just one person's material.
- If your story contains strong sexual themes, we prefer that you query the group via the yahoo discussion group and ask first. We will not accept stories for critique that contain beastality or the abuse of children.
For more information on critiquing, look at How to Critique Fiction by Victoria Crayne.