This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
The South Shore Massachusetts Writers formed in 2004 as a small group of writers seeking to support one another. Since then we have grown to more than 35 members. Our mission is to meet, share, support, and grow as a writing community. The Rules SSMAW meets monthly. Members are expected to attend whenever possible. Every other month we will dedicate the meeting to Critique or Beta Reading. We divide the membership into six groups, each of these providing one member with either a full critique of his or her work, or a beta-reading of his or her work The process should unfold as follows: • One person in the group shares digital copies of a work in progress with the other members. At this time the author requests either a critique or betareading. The author makes clear what he or she hopes to get in terms of feedback. Members read the work, and participate in a month-long discussion via email with comments, suggestions, and helpful input. At the end of the month, the group gathers at the monthly meeting and a deep, in-depth discussion is shared.
• • •
SSMAW considers the following guidelines in being a helpful beta-read contributor: • Beta-readers should consider themselves “testers” for the work. Readers should look for mistakes, but also PROBLEMS with either characters, logic, or flow. A beta-read is the WRONG time to bring up major issues with the manuscript, since this is the first run-through read. The exception to the above would be at the request of the author. Readers should avoid platitudes and evasive language. “I loved it” is nice, but not helpful. “I hated it” is nasty, and not helpful. Be specific, and take the time to look for actual errors. “Snag Detection” is, perhaps, the greatest benefit to beta-reading. Any part of the story that causes a reader to pause and lose the flow should be highlighted. Beta-reading is more focused on helping the AUTHOR with a FINISHED work.
SSMAW considers the following guidelines for critiquing: • • THE AUTHOR SETS THE RULES Use Amy Sterling Casil as a basic guide: http://www.crayne.com/download/casiltip.txt
• • • • • • • • WRITE
Be brutal but never insulting. If your comments will not improve the manuscript, don't make them. Look for common problems such as head-hopping, repeated grammar issues, plot. Follow the 3M rule: mark it, mention it, MOVE ON. Do not badger the author or nag. Respect the right of the author to make note of your opinions and leave it at that. Authors must respect the work their group has put in and make an effort not to take things personally. The goal is improving the work. The goal is making things better. Hostility never does this. Use the SSMAW CRITIQUE CHEAT SHEET, included at the end of this document.
Members are expected to write. Publishing is not required, but should be the goal. All SSMAW members will be expected to share their work AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR and to show progress regularly. Anyone who has not shown any new work for beta-reading or critique at least once in a given calendar year will be asked to take a break until he or she has new material to share. This is not meant as punishment. It is meant to keep us all working. PARTIPATE IN GROUP ACTIVITIES All members must host a meeting either in their home or at a venue of their choosing once every 35 meetings unless he or she can provide a legitimate reason for not doing so. We have a minimum of one fund-raiser a year. We have a minimum of one retreat a year. Neither is mandatory, but both are encouraged. (Both are also fun.) WE ENCOURAGE: Supporting, helping, and celebrating one another Working toward publication. Working toward finishing manuscripts. Sharing skills and resources. WE DO NOT TOLERATE: Discourtesy toward others. Unprofessional behavior. Hobby-writers or those who have no intention of finishing and/or publishing their work. GOSSIP.
SSMAW CRITIQUE CHEAT SHEET
1. Does the PLOT THICKEN? What moves things forward? What causes things to stall?
2. Passive vs. Active: Is there an over-use of passive voice? Give SPECIFIC examples.
3. Are there structure issues? Does the writer have a “bad habit” or make repeated, similar mistakes? Point them out, give examples, but try not to “harp.”
4. What's the hook? Give a sentence or two that might be the opening line of this book's blurb. Does it grab the reader? Is the plot too complex to explain in simple terms?
5. ALWAYS FIND AT LEAST ONE POSITIVE THING TO SAY. List as many as you can think of. Lead with the positives.
6. THE GOAL IS TO HELP THE AUTHOR IMPROVE THE WORK. Make your point, make it clear, and then move on. DO NOT try to re-write, re-invent, or put your own stamp on the author's work.