This following information is on the writers workshops introduction webpage which people may not visit much once they have begun to participate on the Hatrack River Writers Workshop forum:
First, please be aware that our concern for author's rights means that this workshop is not for stories about someone else's characters or settings; no STAR TREK stories, no ALVIN MAKER stories, no MURDER, SHE WROTE stories, and so on. These, and others like them, are copyrighted and such stories are only published under very special circumstances. We'd like you to be able to see your own stories published; professionally, if possible.
The discussion of the 13 lines must be polite and it must deal with what is posted. No psychoanalysis of the author, no comments on how you would do it.
Also, while this is a workshop for writers age 18 and older, it is open to readers of all ages. For that reason, if you want feedback on something that is potentially offensive or PG-13 or worse, please indicate that in the post and don't put such material in the 13 lines.
The purpose of feedback is to help the author turn the manuscript into the most efficient and effective vehicle for conveying the story to the reader. In order to do that, the other writers must understand what the author is trying to accomplish in the manuscript--so authors need to include that information with their 13 lines.
Your second goal in giving feedback is to let the author know whether the 13 lines did or did not succeed in making you want to read more of the story. Say where it was unclear, where it was slow moving, and so on. Feel free to share with the author any questions you had as you were reading the 13 lines.
Your next goal in commenting is to provide suggestions on how the 13 lines may better accomplish what the author intends for it. This is what "constructive criticism" means, at least in this workshop. You do not advise an author to get rid of something without offering an alternative that the author can use.
And all through the discussion, you must be polite.
The author may ask for clarification of another writer's comments, but any explanations, justifications, elaborations, and so on should be taken care of in rewrites. You can't explain things that aren't in the text to an editor, so you should get out of the habit of explaining them anywhere else.
If, after all feedback has been offered, the author would like to ask for more specific suggestions, or if the author feels that the intent of the story was misunderstood and would like help in making that clearer, the author may ask for further discussion along the lines of "brainstorming" with the other writers.
Even though this "brainstorming" will be less formal, it should still be polite.
If the author would like feedback on more than just the posted 13 lines, that information should also appear in the post with the 13 lines.
Those participants who would like to read more of the story and comment on it, using the above guidelines, are welcome to volunteer.
The author may email more of the story (up to and including the whole text, if the participants agree) to any volunteer the author chooses.
We set the limit at 13 lines for two reasons:
First of all, the first page of a manuscript should only have about 13 lines on it, since that first page should begin in the middle of the paper. It is not unusual for an acquiring editor to read only the first page (13 lines) of a submission before deciding whether to reject the submission or keep reading. We submit that 13 lines is enough for a potential reader to determine whether or not they want to read more.
Second, Hatrack River Writers Workshop forum is not a publisher, and we do not want you to risk using up your electronic rights to a story by posting any more than the first 13 lines on our website. Most professional editors are not interested in purchasing work that has been published online, and we want you to have every chance to be professionally published if that is your goal.