Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Flash Factory at Zoetrope.com

(Or, A Place to Hone your Critique Skills) 

My sister Cecilia, the literary writer of the family, has been a writer/critiquer for longer than myself. When I expressed an interest in writing a few years back and I stunk at it but she didn’t want to be the one to tell me, she directed me to the writing community at Zoetrope.com. She introduced me to her friends and told me to write something. Post it. See what others say about my skills.

The experience turned out to be enlightening. Zoetrope is organized into different areas of writing: short stories, screen plays, novellas, poetry, and flash fiction. (Other types of art, like photography and songwriting can be shared as well.) Before one can begin to post his/her work, s/he is required to first critique several pieces by other writers. At this point, the writer is allowed to post a piece and receive critiques from other participants. Zoetrope sets a minimum word count for each review and provides categories to rate each piece. For example, if a writer posts a piece of flash fiction (a story of 1,000 or fewer words), they will receive a written review of at least 100 words and will be rated on a 10-point scale not only on their overall quality, but also on their voice, focus, quality of writing, and efficiency of language.

It’s a great way to learn how to write very structured critiques. But also? If you happen to hop over to Zoetrope and you’re wanting to ramp up your critique skills each week, go to the office directory and look for a place called the FLASH FACTORY, started by Frank Sullivan and now run by Richard Osgood.

The FF provides its members with a prompt. This week’s prompt?

1,000 words or less: We’re just riders on the storm -- it’s storming like crazy out there -- it ain’t a fit night out for man or beast. What’s happening in your storm? Ghosts, sock monkeys, murder, intrigue, love, revenge, betrayal? Have at it. But a storm has to figure prominently in the plot.

Each participant will write a story, and it’s an eclectic bunch. You’ll find literary wit, mystery, fantasy, and more in the posted pieces. Each participant reads each of the posted entries, writes a review for seven of them, and then votes for his or her favorite three. The winner has the honor of coming up with next week’s writing prompt. You don’t have to write a story to review.

My critiquerly friends, this experience is intense. Some adventurous writers participate week after week and have many publications that started in the factory. I participate less frequently, but I learn something new each time. Sometimes I re-learn something I’ve forgotten. Each week I participate, I feel very alive as a writer/critiquer.

So if you’re itching to hone your writer/critiquer skills and you’re wondering what flash fiction is all about, check out Zoetrope and head on over to the factory. Tell Rich I sent you.


Anonymous said...

Hello, Mary! I am Zin! I agree the Flash Factory is a wonderful place and I have learned a lot and written some stories that turned out to actually be decent!

Richard Osgood said...

Yes, the Factory ROCKS! Thanks for the love, Mary, from all who work therein. We're in week #220--consecutive, mind you--of the weekly challenge/gig. We average between 15-18 stories each week, which over 220 weeks equals, what, over 3,300 stories? A 'Best Of' anthology of the first 100 weeks is nearing publication. Once complete we'll start work on the second 100 weeks. Easily half of the posted stories get published. Best Flash workshop on the net, IMHO.

Kierah Jane Reilly said...

This sounds like a great place to go when you're trying to work out ideas for your next WIP. When I'm done revising, I'll definitely head on over. Thanks!

Anita said...

Great post, Mary! I used to use Zoetrop when I first started out to help me find publications to send short stories to. I had no idea how many other opportunities they offered to sharpen prose and skills! Wow. And how cool that your sister is a writer, too. I think she and I would get along great. I love literary writing. :)

A P Diggs said...

Hey Mary,

Love your blog. I've been a writer on Zoe for so long I can call it Zoe. For the most part, I stuck with novellas, not a bad place to get some feedback. But when you suggested the Flash Factory I balked at the prospect of writing mini-stories. I am a novelist, darn it!

But now that I have participated for the past few months, I find the Factory both addicting and challenging. It's a great place to hone one's skills and meet writers from around the world.

Thanks Mary

Marybk said...

Hi, Zin! I see you've thrown your hat into the FF circle this week. Good for you.

Rich: YOU rock! The FF wouldn't be flashing without you.

Kierah: It's a fab place. Check it out.

Anita: Maybe you had used Duotrope before? Zoetrope is a plateful of awesome and lit writers ooze from its web pages. :)

APD: Awww, thanks. Seems you're hooked on flash. It does a writer good.

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