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Author Topic: long term groups for almost-there's?
micmcd
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As I was posting earlier, I got to thinking about how I haven't done much in the way of reviews here or posted anything for review, and I came to realize why.

Back when I was just starting up my work, I used the heck out of the 13-line post, then send a chapter or two stuff that we have going on in the Feedback forum. That was great, but you were somewhat restricted to commenting on the beginning or near-beginning of the novel. The impression I got (and I could be totally off) was that these were usually one-off things. Usually I did a crit exchange, but I almost never (or perhaps never never) re-exchanged works at later points.

I've been working on my main WIP for well over a year now, and it's grown into quite a little beastie; I passed the magic 100K word count a while back, and a fair amount of the story has been crafted and recrafted over and over... and I'm not really interested in crits on my first 13, the first two chapters, or any small section of the beginning (right this second).

What I'd love to do, however, is work with folks in a similar situation who want to go over the book as a whole (or a large, large portion thereof), with the expectation of a swapped crit and that this would be a long-term thing. I certainly don't expect analysis on 400 pages in a week (nor will I give out such crits... I do have a job).

I'd also propose that this group have a bailout period. For instance, if after reading the first five chapters or so of a WIP, you realize you can't stand it and really are not interested in reading the next 20 chapters or so, you can bail on a book. Alternately, if you realize 10 chapters in that you just don't have time, you can bail also - no shame allowed

Would people be interested in doing that? It's meant to be more involved, and I suspect the unpublished amongst us (such as myself) would be more interested... this is motivation and strategy to get to chapter 50 more than polishing a small section; crits could be at a higher level (chapter as a whole, rather than line by line) due to the volume. We could hash it out if there's interest. Dunno, perhaps live chats among people hearing crit on a book? I could arrange that via various online tools if needs be.

So... is there any interest?


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Meredith
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We do something similar to this in the Novel Support Group (NSG) from time to time. Start a chapter exchange and they will usually go through to the finish of both books at whatever pace the participants are comfortable with.

You could try that. Something more formalized would be good, too.


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micmcd
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I noticed the NSG's in the Hatrack groups section, but I wasn't sure if they did organized chapter swaps. Since you mentioned it I went back to see if I noticed it, and a couple people mention it in passing but it doesn't seem to be a universal activity or the point of the group.

I'd like something a bit more formal where we do regular chapter exchanges. The group size would be limited by necessity; I can only read N chapters per week/two weeks/interval, etc, for some small value of N that has yet to be determined.

Larger groups could work, provided the exchange was circular; person A was reviewed by persons B and C, but not D, E, F, or G... B would be reviewed by C and D, ... and G reviewed by A and B. Each person reviews two others and is reviewed by two (or three, or four, depending on what a reasonable limit is).

Is there interest in a formalized group of this structure? I guess I'm looking for a writing group that isn't handicapped by the need to find everybody living within 20 miles of me. Unless you all live in RTP or something, which would be weird.


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Meredith
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Sure, I'm always interested in more ways to exchange critiques on longer works.
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micmcd
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Sweet! We have 1! Any other takers?

Also, any suggestions on how the routine should work, contrary to / complimentary to the above?


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micmcd
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Incidentally, I was thinking this would likely be a low number of people participating... I'm fine with just 1 or 2.
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Teraen
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I'd be interested in this. What kinds of rules are in for joining? Must someone have written the 100K mark? I've got about 20K words written on a novel I've tabled, but plan to pick it up over the summer once my current headache is complete...
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andersonmcdonald
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I have 60,000 words. Not enough?
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micmcd
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I certainly don't want to impose a word minimum. 20 and 60K are plenty enough.

The only real rule is that everybody understands the idea is for this to take a while - months, etc.

Your 20K may grow to 40K while the group is operating.

Not sure what the rules should be with regards to what happens when you're out of material, but person X still has 15 more chapters to go.

[This message has been edited by micmcd (edited June 09, 2010).]


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micmcd
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Any suggestions?

Incidentally, we can take this over to Groups - I put it in discussion mainly to see if anyone would be interested, and perhaps to get some discussion as to what the goals, rules, etc of such a group should be, since (from what I can tell) this sort of thing is new(ish) here.

I vow not to smite anyone with executive fiat, unless those who join request that I do so.


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Meredith
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There's nearly always going to be an imbalance, even with finished drafts. Book A may have 20 chapters and Book B has 35. You can't just say a chapter for a chapter unless both parties are willing to read through to the end. It could be a rougly equivalent number of standard ms pages required and feel free to volunteer for more if you like the story.

There's also a difference between reading the first (unfinished) draft and a third or fourth draft. The critiquer should be looking for different things. In a first (or sometimes second) draft, I'm only interested in plot, pacing and characterization. I'll fix all the fussy little errors in the second or third draft. In a third or fourth draft, I want to know about any of those fussy little grammar or spelling errors, unintended POV shifts, etc. that I don't care about in a first draft. So there might be some guidelines along those lines.


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TamesonYip
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I like the chapter exchange I currently have going. My big concern on long term is that life changes a lot in 132 days. So, I'll probably watch, see what kind of time commitment we are looking at and then decide.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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If I may, I'd like to offer some suggestions for critiquing novels (in a topic I created a while ago).

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Meredith
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I like any of those ideas.

Not all of us would have a synopsis or outline available for a first draft or incomplete work, though. I don't really outline any more. Just make notes. I'm a pantser, what can I say? The last time I did outline, I ignored it completely anyway. The time before that, I made more revisions to the outline than to the novel. It's just not worth it for me.

Then again, I never outlined when I did essays in college, either, no matter how many times they told me I had to. And it never seemed to hurt my grades.


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micmcd
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What say you to the following proposed guidelines/rules of operation for the proposed LTC (long-term crits) group?

  1. Each member of the LTC should have no more than two works to crit simultaneously.
  2. If you have a work to crit, that implies you accept to go through at least 50K words worth of work, at a rate of 10K per week (8k per week? 10K per two weeks?). It is greatly appreciated to go through the entire work, even if your own is not quite as long.
  3. Crits are intended to be high level and non-repetitive. "You often use this passive style, such as in sentence A," as opposed to "Sentences A, B, C... ZZ use the passive style; may I suggest the following fixes. You have misspellings on lines N1, N2..." Crits should not be line-by-line first reviews.
  4. Things that Critters are on high alert for should be overall stylistic issues, character development issues, plot logic failures/holes, pacing issues, overall feeling.
  5. Upon submitting a section for crit, the submitter should identify the section as level 1, 2, or 3. The higher the level, the more refined it is supposed to be. A submission at level 1, for instance, is intended to be more open to "That whole section in the marketplace could be left out - maybe you can send them to the church instead b/c things would play out better." A level 3 submission is less open to radical plot changes, hoping instead for comments more about how the characters come off, whether things seem a little aimless. You know that the characters are going to be in the market, but perhaps you should have less dialogue and more action; perhaps having the protagonist shoplift doesn't seem believable; character B probably wouldn't curse in that situation...
  6. Once per month per submitter (perhaps twice?) we'll host a chat where the subject is that submitter's work thus far. The two critters working on the submitter's work discuss what they think of the work so far, overall opinions, ask the author questions they may have about the plot, the background, etc. Suggestions can be made as to what the reader should know at this point, how characters are getting too dark, too light, not believable, etc. (Positive crits are super helpful too
  7. The weekly crits you make ought be no more than a page or two of comments regarding the things mentioned above. Think high level, low word count!
  8. If your work is at the level where you need many revisions to go back and just fix grammar or spelling issues... you probably shouldn't be doing this sort of crit group. This is intended for works that are well on their way to completion (or are possibly completed already) and want deep, long-term crits.
  9. If we finish your WIP, we'll spend the next chat that would ordinarily be focused on your material for the month and have that be focused on "the future." You can make suggestions/hints about where you want the plot to go; your critters can do the same. Get ideas, flesh things out, and have fun.

Depending on how things go, how enthusiastic members are, etc, we might have "world creation chats" with each author as an opportunity to have the author describe the world they've created, the rules of scifi/magic, how the speculative bits affect the world at large, politics, history, etc.

Bailout clause - stuff happens and we occasionally realize that we have committed too much of our time. Some weeks my story grows by 20K words, some months it doesn't grow at all. If you decide after the first week or so that you just can't keep up the pace for any reason, we'll consult to see if the pace ought to be changed. If any change of pace seems unlikely to fix things, you're allowed to leave guilt-free.


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Teraen
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What about a "partnering" system? Writers who have similar works (sci-fi, epic fantasy, or whatnot) could pair (or trio) up and discuss the works.

I also would like an "audition" type format. When I go into the library, I will run through a dozen books before I find one I like. If everyone submits a sample chapter, we could go through and find works that we may be interesting in reading the complete work, perhaps by ranking what pieces someone is most interested in... A moderator would ensure everybody gets matched up.


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micmcd
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Sound like good ideas. Only issue is that so far, only 4 people (self included have expressed interest), so if we aren't going to be reading each others' work (with a possible rotating alignment as I mentioned before), at least for this iteration it isn't going to work.

I'm all for posting little summaries, then voting for which two (of the three) you'd like to crit... you can give a #1 and #2, ties broken by my trademarked nickel-plated random boolean generator ( coin.flip() ).

[This message has been edited by micmcd (edited June 10, 2010).]


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Meredith
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quote:
If you have a work to crit, that implies you accept to go through at least 50K words worth of work, at a rate of 10K per week (8k per week? 10K per two weeks?). It is greatly appreciated to go through the entire work, even if your own is not quite as long.

There is a lot of value in a fast moving critique. But I'm worried about setting a required weekly word limit.

It may scare some people off who would have been valuable participants.

And any group like this has to allow for the fact that there just will be times when life interrupts. That's not a word count that would normally be a problem for me. However, I can see circumstances in which I wouldn't be able to meet it in a given week. And those are precisely the circumstances when I wouldn't want the extra pressure of trying to get the critique done.

But such contingencies might well be temporary and I wouldn't want to see participants forced to quit the group because they had a bad week or two.

quote:
Once per month per submitter (perhaps twice?) we'll host a chat where the subject is that submitter's work thus far. The two critters working on the submitter's work discuss what they think of the work so far, overall opinions, ask the author questions they may have about the plot, the background, etc. Suggestions can be made as to what the reader should know at this point, how characters are getting too dark, too light, not believable, etc. (Positive crits are super helpful too

It's an interesting idea and could be fun. But if we end up being scattered over a wide range of time zones, it might be a little difficult to find a time that works for everyone. JMO.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited June 10, 2010).]


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Teraen
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If the idea is to remove the stress, maybe a good idea would be simply to have a monthly (or whatever interval) posting where anybody who wants to crits says they are open for critting. People send their works, and then the reader critiques and returns what they want to. No stress.
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micmcd
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I'll shortly move this over to groups -

With regards to the feedback:

  • For pacing, I think Meredith is right that 10000/week is too fast to allow for the little things in life that creep up and cause delay. Would 10K per two weeks be too intense? Could we do 10K/3weeks, or 10K/month? I don't want to drop it too far; the idea is to get criticism on a whole lot of work, and at the rate of 10K/month, we won't be anywhere near done with some of the longer works until about a year in, and I was hoping for a little faster pace than that.
  • With regards to how difficult time zones will make chatting... I'm on the east coast of the USA. The interested-ish parties so far appear to be Meredith, Teraen, and andersonmcdonald... according to your Hatrack profiles, Meredith is in CA, andersonmcdonald in Missouri (I'm assuming central time?), and Teraen... has gobbldygook on there. I've arranged fantasy football drafts that were cross-country (plus one in Japan, actually, but he was fine with waking up at 2AM). Finding common holes in schedules turns ugly fast, but with 4 it might work. I was thinking every other weekend or so, but we can shoot around emails to do that.
  • I'm pro partnering, though with 4 people... we're almost all partners. I'm against just "voluntary" critting of submitted stuff b/c my experience with that in the past is that it drifts off quickly.

You guys want to give it a go?


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Meredith
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quote:
With regards to the feedback:


For pacing, I think Meredith is right that 10000/week is too fast to allow for the little things in life that creep up and cause delay. Would 10K per two weeks be too intense? Could we do 10K/3weeks, or 10K/month? I don't want to drop it too far; the idea is to get criticism on a whole lot of work, and at the rate of 10K/month, we won't be anywhere near done with some of the longer works until about a year in, and I was hoping for a little faster pace than that.


I'd vote for 5K a week (or 10K/two weeks to start). The two week idea might actually give a little more flexibility to work around stuff that comes up. I think it's best to start a little slow. We can always increase the pace later if it works out that way.

quote:

You guys want to give it a go?


Sure.


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Teraen
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Gobbledygook? Actually, that is really the name of the city in which I live... Odd, I know. But Michiganderanianites are like that...
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micmcd
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I am terribly, terribly sorry - I the all lower-case bit made it so that I didn't recognize ypsilanti mi as "Ypsilanti, MI."

I am so sorry, and I apologize wholeheartedly to Michiganders everywhere!


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Teraen
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Should we move this over to groups soon? I figured instead of Novel Support Group we could give it a snazzier name, that way we can always recognize it on the group heading. I vote for one of the following:

1) Novel Critique Group
2) Kick in the Butt Group
3) Actually Get Around to Finishing that Manuscript Group
4) Future Published Novelists Anonymous
5) Don't Even Think About Posting Here if You Aren't Interested in Getting Published Group
6) Manuscript Revision Group

I like 4 best. "Hello, my name is Teraen and I am a writer..."


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micmcd
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I'm starting a post over in groups right now... I'm a fan of FPNA as well
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InarticulateBabbler
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One of the reasons chapter swaps are not a "regular" part of NSG is that we'd all have to have chapters ready to swap for that. When I first started NSG, it was to be for anyone at any stage of novel writing. In the earlier days (NGaS), there were a few of us swapping chapters.
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micmcd
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FYI - I have created an FPNA topic in Hatrack Groups, as well as emailed those in this thread who said they might be interested... let me know if you still are. Only one person emailed me back.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Do you want me to move this topic into the Hatrack Groups area?
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micmcd
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KDW - I created a topic in groups. Should we migrate this one there as well?
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DRaney
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I would love to get into this action! Count me in. I will migrate to 'Groups'
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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There's no need to move it, especially if it will get people to go to the one in Groups.
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MrsBrown
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bump
http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum2/HTML/000201.html

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