Latetly some of us have been struggling with our writing, short on both motivation and inspiration (rather, some of us are, while one particular other remains as prolific as ever!). Thanks to a fellow-writer Swapna Kishore, I was introduced to a new concept — online writers’ workshops.
These are workshops in the sense that they are online communities where writers get together to read each other’s stories and discuss them. The aim is to help each other write better and also learn about how to analyse others’ and one’s own work. There are dozens of such communites around, covering various genres; some of them require you to pay for membership and others are free. I was looking out for sci-fi/fantasy communities, and a few of them caught my attention.
Other Worlds Writers’ Workshop or OWWW functions as an e-mail list on Yahoo! Groups. Any serious writer of speculative fiction above the age of 18, irrespective of skill level, is free to join. You are allowed to submit your own work after you have completed six critiques of others. Both short stories and novels are allowed, as well as works in progress, covering various sub-genres like sci-fi, fantasy, alternate history, alternate reality, and mixes of the same (apart from horror and mainstream). OWWW also runs a beginner’s programme called the Six Keys.
Critters is also an online critique group for SFF writers, and is run by Andrew Burt, former vice-president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, an association of professional SFF writers, whose alumni includes the likes of Isaac Assimov, Anne McCaffrey and Ray Bradbury. Critters works on a similar concept of “critique and be critiqued”. Again, they accept both shorties and longer works, and have a separate programme for full-length novels.
Members of such workshops are expected to provide (and expect to get in return) detailed critiques of their work, including feedback on character and world building, technical help, line edits in some cases, and analysis. While it seems hard work, it also appears that one can get a lot back from a community of this sort.
Finally, a word about privacy. While members agree to abide by the confidentiality rules of the communities and respect other people’s work, remember that you are submitting at your own risk.