Do I have to be a published writer to join GSFWC?
Not at all. Beginners are as welcome as experienced writers (very few of us had anything published professionally prior to joining the group). GSFWC’s goal is to help each member to progress one step at a time towards the ultimate goal of professional publication.
Do I have to bring something to critique?
No. In fact, we recommend that prospective new members drop in on one of our sessions and see how we operate entirely without commitment. That way you get a feel for whether we’d be the right group for you before you have to worry about taking part.
Will I be expected to read my story out loud to the group?
While we understand that a number of writers groups operate on this principle: No. Not ever. There are three reasons for this: 1/ We circulate a story in advance so that we can give it a good couple of reads and prepare our thoughts, and it is difficult to formulate any deep critique on the basis of an oral reading, 2/ it takes up a lot of time (especially if it’s a novel) that could more usefully be spent in discussion, 3/ when you submit the story to an editor you won’t be there to read it to her will you?
Tell me more about this Milford thing.
The Milford critique rules were developed for the annual Milford Writers Workshop. This event was founded Pennsylvania by Damon Knight and others in the 1950’s, but it has been held in the UK since the 1970’s and has been attended by many genre authors over the years, including several members of GSFWC. The Milford rules in full are:
Manuscripts are distributed beforehand. Everyone reads, critiques and prepares before the formal workshop begins. It is etiquette not to discuss the manuscripts beforehand either with the author or other members of the critique group. The participants sit round in a circle. The author whose work is being critiqued has to sit in silence through the first part in which each participant in turn delivers their critique. Then the author gets uninterrupted right of reply. Following that a general discussion ensues. Constructive criticism is strongly encouraged.
Does GSFWC deal with novels or short stories?
Both! We dedicate each meeting to the discussion of one piece of fiction (the only exception is for very short work) and it doesn’t matter whether the piece under scrutiny is a story or a novel. The only difference is that we allow longer for members to read a long work. Some writers like to submit a novel a chapter at a time, but we try to dissuade them for doing this: 1/ because it’s difficult to say much about the more overarching elements of a novel in progress (such as story arc and character development), and 2/because it the first draft is rarely the best time to get criticism anyway.
How much does it cost?
The Ogilvie Centre charges us a very reasonable rate of £2 per head for the hire of the meeting space.
As if! Our critique sessions always end in a trip to the pub where we talk writing, publishing and general genre nonsense over a tipple or two.