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How to Navigate the Gateway to the Peer Review Queues

So, You’ve Decided to Take Your Chances in the Peer Review Queue at the Writers’ Block?

Let me tell you this: you won’t regret it. You may not believe me at first. It may hurt to see critique members mark up a story, poem, or article you poured blood, sweat and tears into.

You worked really hard, didn’t you? And what do they know anyway?

Well, we don’t claim to know everything. We do claim, rightfully so, that two sets of eyes see more than one. Four brains know more than one. And that is where our strength lies.

Some of us may be great at imagining stories. But what if we’re less proficient at turning them into words?

What if one of us has a great idea–a great starting point–but no clue how to proceed with it?

This where the queues come into play. We submit our drafts to the queue so we can get others to look at it and give us their opinions. Others with different strengths and weaknesses to supplement our own.

We do understand that it can be a bit daunting. You sweat and labour over a piece of writing, only to hand it over to a bunch of strangers so they can trample it–bathe it in red ink.

Relax. Breathe. Everything Will Be OK.

We don’t want to scare you. Promise. That’s why we made a separate queue for people submitting their first pieces.

Think of it as a kiddie pool, where you can wet your toes and get used to the water temperature before jumping into the deep end of the big pool.

When you submit a draft here, it will be reviewed by a smaller group of people–more experienced team members who are familiar with the critting process and how painful it can be initially. We won’t tear your baby limb from limb, but we will be honest with you.

The Sample Queue, as we call it, serves a dual purpose.

  1. It allows you to familiarise yourself with our review process.
  2. It allows us to get to know you. We can get a sense of your style as a writer and your level of experience. This way, we can easily figure out the best way to help you.

Making Your Way to the Kiddie Pool

Ready to get started? Well, for the Sample Queue, we request that you submit a rather short stand-alone piece.

Why? Well, it’s for your benefit as well as ours.

It’s pretty hard to judge your grasp of the mechanics of writing when all we see is a first chapter. An unfinished storyline, so to speak.

As far as you’re concerned, it’s best to familiarise yourself with the critiquing process with a shorter piece you’re not as emotionally attached to. That novel you’ve been working on for ages? If you’re not used to getting reviewed, it’s a scary process. Do you really want to submit your baby to that?

That’s why we ask for 1000-1500 word stand-alone pieces both for fiction and non-fiction submissions. When submitting poetry, you may submit up to three of your best poems.

Put on That Bathing Suit

To begin, you need to get your draft in the proper format. Google Docs allows you to share a link that grants permission to make suggestions. That’s how we make editing notes. Your original text will not be changed, but we’ll be able to make suggestions and remarks that are easily accessible.

So, paste your draft into a Google Doc, and get your link permissions set to Comment. Do you need help with that? We’ve got you covered. The wonderful @jonknight has created a tutorial that will guide you through the process.

Ready to Get Your Feet Wet?

To submit your Google Doc to the Sample Queue, fill out this form. Paste the link to your draft file in the corresponding box, answer the other questions, and that–as they say–is that.

Remember to make a comment in the #writing-samples channel so that we know your draft is in there. We’ll get to it as soon as we can.

One or two editors will review your draft, leave you some editing notes, and if necessary, ask you some more questions in the #writing-samples channel.

If you prefer we only speak to you about your draft privately, please mention this when you tell us you’ve submitted. We have no interest in embarrassing anyone, but do be aware that once you hit the main queues, anyone in the group who is interested will be able to see comments others have made on your piece. If you have any questions at all, regarding the notes you received, the process, or anything else, feel free to ask them. We’re all here to help each other.

Go Ahead and Jump In

After we’re done reviewing your piece, one of us will ping you in #writing-samples. At this point, we’ll pull your draft from the queue so you can get to work on those editing notes.

Take your time to go through everything we’ve given you. Maybe you’ll get a reading assignment as well. Take your time with that, too. There are no deadlines.

Apply what you’ve learned, and resubmit your draft to the Sample Queue. By this time, it should be a piece of cake. Again, when submitting, please let us know in the samples channel. Reviewing your second draft will allow us to assess whether you feel comfortable with the editing process, and assure that everything was clear to you.

Sadly, in some cases we may determine that our group lacks the necessary skills to help you appropriately. We never like sending writers who want to learn elsewhere, but it would be unfair to you to send you into the main queue if you needed a different kind of help than our people can offer at the current time.

It’s also possible that we’ll recommend you do some more studying or some practice pieces before you dive into the main queues. This isn’t an insult to your ability, but an effort to assist you in reaching your dreams as a writer. We’ve all had to learn things to get where we are and we’re all working to continue to learn and improve.

Occasionally we may just not be the right fit for you as a writer. There are a lot of writing groups out there and it can take some time to find the right group for you. This test phase gives you a chance to find out what kind of critiquing our group offers so you can make the choice of whether we seem like a group where you will be happy.

Congratulations! You Made It!

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