FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
FutureClassics is a group of writers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who are intent on pursuing professional careers in speculative fiction.
We meet twice a month in the Plano area to exchange and critique each other’s fiction. Our critiquing is primarily focused on short fiction, mostly due to the difficult logistics of critiquing novel-length work in a workshop setting. Novel critiques work best on a quid pro quo basis with another writer who has a novel for critique as well, but we are open to the occasional novel chapter submission.
There are a number of good articles available on the internet regarding professionalism and critiquing. Here are a few:
In FutureClassics, we emphasize professionalism and constructive feedback as the main goal in our critiques.
Stories are distributed electronically via our mailing list page, so that everyone can read and critique the stories before the meeting begins. We normally ask for a volunteer to be critiqued first, then go around the table giving our feedback.
It is best to focus your oral critique on larger issues and general impressions, rather than on nitpicks or mechanical errors (which can more easily be indicated on the manuscript). Feedback should be constructive, helping the author make his or her story better and potentially salable. In this vein, it’s a good idea to mention the positive aspects of a story, along with the things that didn’t work for you. It is not a good idea to overhaul or edit the writer’s story according to your vision of the way it should be — leave that job to the writer. Your goal is to help the other writer produce a top-notch story, not do it for them.
Critical comments should be justified to the best of your ability; that is, if you say you like the opening, try to explain why you liked the opening. For example, if you thought a particular character was flat, make suggestions that will help flesh out the character, or recommend removing that character from the story if you consider it superfluous. If you have an opinion on an aspect of the story, you need to back it up with an explanation, either to reinforce what the writer has done well or help him/her fix what hasn’t worked.
We try to avoid cross-talk during critiques, though an occasional follow-up question or unmoderated comment is fine. We’re not that strict, but we like to maintain an atmosphere of relaxed professionalism.