(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
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.