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The CompuServe Science Fiction Forum's Writing Workshop
[Latest Update: February 10, 1995]
THE OFFICIAL FINE PRINT DOCUMENT
This document contains all of the fine print for the writing
o What the workshop is
o Who can participate
o How to sign up
o What is expected of you
o Submission format for your work
o Submission format for your critique
o Critiquing others' work
o The Standby Plan
Part 1: What the Workshop is
The CompuServe Science Fiction Forum Writing Workshop is a formal
workshop that allows new writers the chance to work with
professional writers in a formal, productive environment. We
have tried to set up an atmosphere where the workshop students
can learn how to improve their writing and, more important, how
to build the skills that will allow them to teach themselves to
be better writers after the workshop is over.
The workshop is staffed by three writers-in-residence and has up
to seven students per session. Sessions currently run one per
month, excluding September and December, on the following
Day 1: Submissions due by midnight Pacific time.
Submissions will be accepted with great gratitude ahead
of time! (Workshoppers download submissions, write and
submit critiques over next two weeks.)
Day 14: Critiques due by midnight Pacific time.
(Workshoppers download critiques, discuss the critiques
in Section 20 [Writing Workshop] for as long as
necessary, regardless of how long it takes.
Two weeks before the beginning of a workshop, members will
receive an invitation to participate and be given a set of
deadlines for their workshop. They have a week in which to
confirm or request a delay in participation; then they have a
week in which to upload their submissions. Because of the tight
time constraints of one workshop each month, the confirmation and
upload deadlines *must* be met!
Part 2: Who can participate
Anyone who is a member of CompuServe's Science Fiction Forum who
has not had a professional fiction sale may participate. A
professional sale means a sale that would qualify you to become a
member of SFfWA (Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America). If
you have previously participated in a workshop, we will require
you to wait at least two sessions before participating again, if
there are people on the waiting list who haven't yet
participated. We want to make the workshop available to as wide
an audience as possible rather than filling it with the same
faces every time.
*The staff reserves the right to remove anyone from the workshop
*if they feel there are problems with their participation.
Such problems include things like the inability to meet deadlines,
a lack of basic writing skills, a destructive attitude or negative
behavior towards the other participants or any other action that
we feel is detrimental to the workshop or its participants. Such
action can be appealed to the WizOp if you feel it is unjust.
Part 3: How to sign up
If you want to join the writing workshop, send mail to:
AsstOp Sasha Miller 76702,2032
She maintains the waiting list and can answer any and all
questions you might have about the workshop. (See application
form on last page. Silly side comment--if you have one of those
names that can be male or female with equal ease, give us a break
and tell us which one you are. Makes life so much easier on this
side of the monitor.)
Please note that this *is* a formal workshop. We can only handle
a certain number of students at any time, so there is a waiting
list. If you wish to submit works for comments to a general
audience on an informal basis, you may do so in Library 19, which
belongs to the IMPs. Drop a note there and you'll find out more
than you ever wanted to know about becoming an IMP. You may be
an IMP *and* a workshop member simultaneously, though we bear no
responsibility for what this might do to your emotional stability.
Part 4: What is expected of you
* We expect you to submit a work that you feel is the best *
* you can do, as well crafted as possible and something *
* that you would feel comfortable in submitting to a *
* magazine or book editor. What we are *not* expecting of *
* you is professional quality prose, but you should have *
* put enough work into the piece that you feel it is *
* representative of your writing talents. This means that *
* you can't write a story the weekend before the *
* submission deadline or turn in a first draft and expect *
* it to be greeted with glad cries from the staff. The *
* work you want to workshop is the work you feel is as *
* good as you can get. If you turn in ragged, preliminary *
* and sloppy fiction, full of easily avoided errors and *
* typos, you're going to waste your time and the time of *
* everyone else in the workshop. *
The use of "handles" is not permitted on the SFLit Forum, except by
application to the Wizop or for long-time members who have been
"grandfathered" in. In the Writers' Workshop we are trying to
create as professional an atmosphere as possible. We *must* have
your true identity, in case you are operating under a handle
(analagous to using a pen-name), so we'll know who we are dealing
with. Look on the staff as the editorial department of the publishing
house where you are submitting your latest work. Would you really
expect your editor to hunt down "Little Red Riding Hood's Wolf" in
order to send your check to the right place?
Please supply *all* the information requested in the application
form. The staff needs your phone number and the kind of computer
you use so we can reach you in case you need special help in
uploading or downloading files. This has come up enough times in
the past that we feel this is an important part of workshop
participation. By all means, transmit this information via
private message or MAIL; it will be held in strict confidentiality.
Further, your application must be on file before you will be allowed
to participate in any workshop session.
Everyone involved must download, read, and critique the other
submissions. There are example critiques available from previous
workshops in Library 14 if you aren't sure where to start.
Please remember that this is a workshop, not a creative writing
class. It is not a passive situation. Everyone is expected to
participate in the analysis of every manuscript in the workshop.
Learning to analyze others' manuscripts aids you in developing
your own self-analysis skills. Also, you are expected to take an
active part in the discussion.
WE EXPECT YOU TO MEET DEADLINES! This is serious. Writing is not
just a set of skills, it is a business. Commitments and deadlines
are critical aspects of this business. A highly skilled writer who
can't meet deadlines will not make as much money as a journeyman
who can be relied upon by the editor to follow through on
commitments. Because of this we take a rather hard line on
missing workshop deadlines.
o If you agree to join a workshop, but do not submit a work by
the deadline, you will be dropped from the workshop. You may
re-apply, but you will be placed at the bottom of the current
o If you do not submit your critiques, you will be removed from
the workshop. The critiques on your work will not be released
and you will be permanently barred from participation in future
Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. We understand
this. We are willing to be flexible where we can, but you *must*
keep us informed of what is happening. If you think you are
going to miss a deadline, let the workshop administrator know *in
advance* and we'll see what we can do. If you wait until after
the deadline to tell us why you are late, it's too late. If we
know about a problem in advance, we can usually schedule around
it. If you wait until after, you have upset the schedules of
everyone in the workshop and you shouldn't expect us to be happy
(or flexible). Think of us as your editor. Imagine your editor
sitting at his desk--with his art director, cover artist,
typesetter, proofreader and copy editor ALL sitting there,
waiting for your manuscript to show up, getting paid to do
nothing. This is why we're hard-nosed about deadlines. Screw up
a deadline, and you've got an editor who isn't likely to buy your
work in the future.
But what, you say, if I change my mind, or what if I don't like
the critiques I receive? In the case of cold feet, workshop
submissions can be withdrawn up to one week after the release
date (i.e., seven calendar days). After that time, all
submissions *must* go through the entire workshop procedure. The
Online Workshop strives for a professional atmosphere and
demeanor by its participants. Ill-received criticism is no
reason for withdrawal as with the sweet inevitably comes the
bitter. Nor would it be fair to other participants if one or
more attempted to withdraw *after* their critiques had been
completed and uploaded. All submissions will remain available on
the CIS system for two months in LIBrary 20 for further review, and
after a suitable time they will be archived off-system.
Part 5: Submission format for your work
Upload all manuscripts to LIBrary 15 - Writing Workshop.
All manuscripts *must* be in pure ASCII format. No word
processing codes embedded--this gums up the works like you
wouldn't believe. We will return such manuscripts for conversion
into ASCII. Do not include any special characters in your
manuscript such as letters with acute accents or umlauts or
ligatures even though ASCII characters exist for these. Think of
your computer as a high-powered typewriter. If you can't make
the letter or character you need without jiggering or backspacing
or half-spacing, don't put it in your manuscript. It will make
CompuServe cough and throw up and generally reject your file.
The shorthand for uploading an ASCII file is:
"Filenm" may be no longer than 6 characters. We usually ask, for
the workshop, that you use your last name, or if that's too long,
to use your first with your last initial. Thus:
"Proto" (protocol) may be one of the following: CIS B (B), CIS
B+ (B+), CIS Quick B (QB), or XMODEM.
"Type" should be ASCII if you are uploading a straight text file.
If you've compressed your file in some way (we recommend ZIP),
then "type" would be BINARY. If you are having trouble uploading
in ASCII format for one reason or another, try uploading in
Apple users who have trouble uploading files should contact the
good people on the MAUG Forums who can offer you assistance with
your particular word processor.
Check in LIBrary 1 (General Forum Info) for a file titled
UNARC.TXT for locations throughout CompuServe for other un-ARC
Of course, if all you key in at the LIB! prompt is UPL, the
system will lead you through the various responses.
Please include the following information at the top of your file:
Copyright/name info/type of submission at front of file. Format:
Type of submission (short story, novel exerpt, novellette, etc.)
Copyright (c) 199#
All rights reserved.
If you don't fill in all this information, the administrator has
to go scrounge it up somewhere, and it makes her cross to have to
do it for you. So do it yourself, please.
Words underlined in your normal manuscripts (to be italicized
upon publication) should be in UPPER CASE or enclosed in
*asterisks*. (One convention only--pick one and stick with it!
Hint: the convention the panel is used to, uses asterists.)
CompuServe will ask for a description of your file upon upload
completion. Your description should read as follows:
"Writing Workshop nn Submission: Short story titled __________
by _____________. (or novel excerpt, etc.) Copyright (c) 1992.
All rights reserved."
Keywords to include manuscript title, author's name, *which* WW
Use 65 character lines in your manuscript. Paragraph indent is 4
spaces. Your genial administrator will put the file through a
program that will add the line numbers, page breaks and page headers.
File size can be no larger than 30K. This length is representative
enough of your work for the panel to get a feel for it. If your
work is longer than this, you must submit a subset (i.e., the first
two chapters of a novel) under 30K. The panel may, at its
discretion, request upload of more of the work. If your work is
only a *little* longer than 30K in its entirety, ask first. We'll
usually accomodate you.
Part 6: Critiquing others' work
Workshopping fiction isn't hard. Once you get going, you will
find that all of your fears will dissipate (well, not really, but
it sounds good). A critique in a workshop is close to editing
your own manuscript. This is a hidden advantage of workshopping;
as you practice working on other manuscripts, you will find that
you can look at your own work more objectively and you will find
more and more of your own mistakes.
Many people break critiquing down into two broad areas:
Macro-Comments and Micro-comments. Do these in whatever order
comes easiest to you. The important thing is to get your
feedback to the author in an accessible and useful format.
Macro-comments: These are discussions of the larger, more
general issues-- plotting, characterization, themes, pacing, the
craftsman side of writing.
Micro-comments: These are the "nit-picks", the
microwriting--grammatical problems, missing commas, sentence
structures, all those wonderful things that made you hate your
sixth grade English teacher. Liberal references to Strunk &
White are appropriate here.
[Editorial side comment: If you are writing and you do not yet
own a copy of "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White, you
*will* acquire one now, and you *will* sit down and read it
slowly and carefully. Leave it in the bathroom, so you can study
it repeatedly at your leisure. It will do more for fixing your
writing problems than an entire High School of creative writing
What is important in a critique? As much information and detail
as you can give the author. "This story is bad" isn't useful.
The comments should focus on what YOU think would improve the
work. Did you like it? WHY? Did you hate it? WHY? Did it
disappoint you? WHY, and how? If you make a comment about
something, you *must* tell the author why you think so. You
should also try to suggest fixes, improvements, alternatives. If
you see a plot problem, try to find a way around it. Remember
that you aren't re-writing the story or collaborating on
it--Here's how *I* would write this is usually a no-no; better is
something like--This doesn't work because *mumble*. You might
try *mumble* to fix it. Give the author as much as you can about
why you feel the way you feel, so the author can put your
comments into perspective and decide whether it's something that
needs addressing. One other no-no is to critique the type of
story. The fact that you don't like Fantasy means nothing--you
should still be able to critique the story on a technical basis
and appreciate the plotting, characterization, etc. In fact,
critiquing material you normally don't like or read is one way to
help learn objectivity in your writing by forcing you to get away
from the familiar constructs. Something is not bad because it's
in a category you don't read--don't treat it as such.
Be tough, but fair. Don't be brutal, especially to someone you
don't know well. Especially don't get personal. "This story is
bad" is much different from "You are a rotten writer".
Understand why these two statements are different and never cross
the line. Workshops are tough, demanding, primarily negative
environments because of the way they have to be run. Cheap shots
are not appreciated and will be firmly discouraged (with baseball
bats, if necessary) by the staff. We can't emphasize this
enough: do *not* get personal with your critiques. We are
dealing with words here, not authors. Don't mistake the two.
Part 7: Submission format for your critique
If the following format is not adhered to you will be notified
and asked to re-read this section and upload your critique
again--in proper format. You are warned.
This is an example of a format for the Science Fiction Forum Writer's
Workshop Critiques...excluding these top four lines.
The Story Name by The Author
Critique by Your Name Goes Here
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
The Story Name by The Author
Critique by Your Name Goes Here [Your User ID here]
All micro-comments start in column 4 (i.e., after 3 spaces) and
continue to column 70. Each new line in a micro-comment also
starts in column 4. This makes the critiques easier to follow for
the person reading them. Neatness counts.
Each new micro-comment is separated from the previous one by a
single space, as shown above.
All macro-comments start in column 1 and continue until column 70.
That is, there is no indent at the start of each macro-comment.
Each new macro-comment is separated from the previous one by a single
space, as shown above.
[Etc., through rest of work]
Then upload your finished file in ASCII format.
File name for CIS:
Critique file names will be named with the manuscript's author's
file name followed by the initials of the critiquer; e.g.
FILENM.GMM. Please, PLEASE *don't* use .CRI following your file
name! The administrator has dibs on that one for the compiled
critiques, and has spent time in the past frantically trying to
retrieve a file the system overwrote because somebody used this
The reason we're as picky as we are is, this format makes life
generally easier on everybody who has to deal with the critiques.
It doesn't cost any more to do it right the first time, so do it.
Part 8: After-words
Once the critiques are done, we want to see some feedback during
the open discussion phase--where do folks agree, disagree, etc.
In other words, make the critiques bleed a little in turn; it's
only fair. A good subject for comment is how you plan on dealing
with some of the issues. There are inevitably a few critiques
where two of the critiquers essentially disagree with each other,
and that's something the author needs to look at and decide who's
right, if anyone.
Rule 1 of reading a critique: If, after thinking about it, you
don't agree, the critiquer is wrong.
Rule 2 of reading a critique: Make sure you are not blowing off
a critique because your ego is getting in your way.
Part 9: The Standby Plan
If you have a manuscript ready to go and can be ready to fill in at
a moment's notice if all the people scheduled for a workshop fail
to show up, you are free to send your manuscript to go into the
Standby file maintained by the administrator. This works like any
other standby plan. You have to be there, at the gate, ready to
board when the call goes out and the first folks to volunteer get
to leap tall waiting lists at a single bound.
You may change or alter your submission at any time between when
you initially upload it and the acceptance of it to fill in a gap.
After that, the figurative plane doors have shut and you're
committed to take-off.
Part 10: Shadow Critiqueing
We have found that when people on the waiting list shadow critique,
they cut their learning curve dramatically for they are then able to
avoid many of the mistakes that plague most people who are just
getting started in the writing dodge.
Shadow-critiquing is like auditing a class. You go through all the
motions--download the manuscripts, do as thorough a critique as is
in you to do, and the only difference is that you do not upload these
critiques when the workshoppers upload theirs. You are, however,
encouraged to check your findings against what the regulars found and
particularly what the pros had to say. Believe it or not, this
Naturally, a shadow-critiquer is very welcome to participate in the
after-words phase of the workshop. More often than not, the discussion
part is where the real learning takes place. Ask questions. People
love to kick around technical discussions about why this worked and
why that doesn't, and how to fix different problems, etc.
You won't be disallowed from participating in a workshop because you
haven't shadow-critiqued any of them, but you will make life easier
on the pro panel as we won't have to spend our time going over the
Same Old Mistakes rather than on more substantive parts of your work.
You will, in short, get a lot more out of the workshop if you prepare
for it beforehand.
Application Form for Writing Workshop--Science Fiction Forum
1. Your name: _________________________________________________
2. CompuServe User ID: ________________________________________
*3. Phone number: (home): ______________________________________
* (work-only for dire emergency): ______________
*4. Level of education (High School, College, Post Grad-work)
5. Type of computer: __________________________________________
6. Communications Program: ____________________________________
7. Word Processing Program: ___________________________________
*8. Other information that might be useful in helping the staff
evaluate your work: ________________________________________
All of the above '*' information will be kept in strictest
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