How to Critique

It’s worth highlighting the pages on this site so this series of posts will do just that by echoing their contents. First up: critiquing

Step 1:

Read the entire piece through once. This initial reading is for a general impression of the work. Don’t skim, but avoid laboring over specific elements of the piece. If you see an occasional spelling error or typo, go ahead and mark it. If there are numerous mistakes throughout the piece, just add a general request for a spell check at the top of the story.

Step 2:

After the first reading, write a short paragraph giving your initial impression. Keep your comments constructive. If you found your mind wandering during the story, don’t just remark that you were bored. Find sections that held your attention, and suggest the writer keep that pacing throughout the piece, pinpointing the sections that could use some work. If one character left you cold, credit the characters that you found compelling, and suggest the lacking character be developed more like those. If the humor in the piece fell flat, find the author’s strengths (action, dialogue, description, etc.), and suggest leaving the humor out to let those strong points shine through.

Step 3:

Now do a second, closer, reading. This read is for continuity, character development, dialogue, descriptive passages and plot points. Make notes in the margin (or in a word processor file, if reading online, noting the page and paragraph in question before each comment) as you go. Try to note the writer’s strengths as well as weaknesses. What were your favorite moments? Which descriptions made you feel most present? Which character(s) did you find most compelling? Did any plot shifts pleasantly surprise you? Did you feel lost at any point? Does the plot seem plausible? Is the pacing good, or did you feel rushed, or find yourself getting restless waiting for something to happen? Are there any continuity errors, like sudden name changes or location shifts?

Step 4:

Review the paragraph you wrote after your initial reading, adding any specifics that might clarify your first impression. Maybe your first reading left you wanting more action and less dialogue, but after your second read, you realized it was only one section of dialogue that was a problem for you. Again, keep it constructive. Harsh criticism won’t help the writer develop her strengths to make up for her weaknesses, it will just leave her feeling inadequate. Likewise, don’t give a review of pure praise, unless you truly found the story flawless. Help the writer craft this story into the best work it can be.


New Member & New Look

Welcome back to Suzie, who as a core member of the Group can now edit pages and posts here as per How to Contribute to This Website. Those details have changed a tad since I last posted them if you want to refresh your memory. In particular the Calendar has taken on a life of its own with its own instructions. (Louise will also be able to see all this now that I’ve corrected her email address.)

Some areas still look ugly and I am tinkering with them as I get under the site’s new skin. If you see anything truly foul, tell me and I’ll get on to it as a priority.

Word of Mouth

A free event at the Thunderbolt, Bristol, 8 o’clock tonight. Stories of ghosts, tales of riots, anecdotes of love and legends of lost and forgotten Bristol. Writers performing their work include: Trevor Coombs, Andy Gibb, Franca Davenport, Louise Gethin, Justin Newland, Mike Manson, Jari Moate, Terry Stew, Tom Sykes and Gavin Watkins.

You are guaranteed a compelling evening of Bristol stories taking you to places you never knew existed. To mark the performance the Group has put together a volume of ten short stories called Hidden Bristol. The book will be available for sale and can also be purchased for £5 from Tangent Books.

Hidden Bristol

Hidden Bristol

Hidden Bristol

Stories of ghosts, tales of riots, anecdotes of love and legends of lost and forgotten Bristol. This anthology is the perfect companion to our upcoming evening of Thunderbolt Tales. Enter shop for price



Not long ago a group of poets, writers and slammers gathered together in St Andrew’s, Bristol, for ShedFest, probably Europe’s smallest literary festival. Each writer had five minutes to perform their work. Space and time was limited. The shed was used as a stage while the audience was packed onto the patio. In all fourteen writers performed their work. We laughed, we cried, we were even a little bit scared. This small anthology shows the range of talent that was showcased on that warm September evening. Enter shop for price

OK, I’ve Logged In

Now what do I do?

The answer is “not a lot” if you’re a mere Subscriber. You can change your profile.

The core members of the Group, though, can do much more and are confronted by a humongous WordPress dashboard after logging in.

Don’t panic.

The most important bit is the left-hand side and you can safely ignore the rest. From top to bottom you’ll only need the Posts, Pages, Calendar, Profile and Email sections.

Posts and Pages allow you to add new and edit existing posts and pages. Posts are what appear in the blog; pages appear in the Visit menu. Feel free to post like crazy. You should only need to change your own pages and subpages, and not often.

You can add events to the Calendar and change existing events. It’s really a tool for whoever does the rota but, hey, if you want the group to know about your birthday or dental appointment, knock yourself out. Note that only the core members (and a few select others) will be able to see the events.

The Profile is pretty much self-explanatory.

You can Email any number of users without having to know their addresses. The more useful aspect of this is the ability to email a group, as in Administrators, Editors, Authors, Contributors and Subscribers. These are WordPress categories of user.

The core members are all Administrators and Editors so you could send an upload of your week’s submission as a media file. You may also want to include Authors in this.

Which brings me on to what they can do. They can post but not page. They can add events but can’t see the calendar from the website. They can email one or more users but not as a group.

Contributors can post and an Editor needs to approve the post. Otherwise they are only one step up from Subscribers.

This is a Post. I’ll also create it as a Page when it makes sense to everyone – in fact a subpage of a new How To page. There will be more.

So, go forth and… post, page, email, whatever.

Under New Management

(Doesn’t that always suggest that it’ll be the same old crap but with a different face?) Anyway, this site is open for posting (if you know how). It has moved to .com but the .net address should still work just as well.

[A brief posting 101: click the “Log in” link down the righthand side of the home page and enter your credentials – good word, that. A dashboard will appear with “Add new” in the Posts box top right-ish. Click this and let rip. If I’ve set you up as an Editor, you’ll also be able to create and modify pages. If you’re not even registered, we’d love to have you on board as a Contributor.]

Most Editors will also have a member page. Louise‘s is an exemplary illustration of the general format: a sort of biog, plus links if you want, and then subpages of bits of writing or some such.

Keep an eye on the Marketplace and Free Downloads pages. Secret Bristol, or whatever we decide to call it, and other cool books will be for sale or for free, as it says on the tin. And much, much more is in the offing, so don’t watch that, watch this