General info:
How it works
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Critiquing Lists:
Child/Young adult

Discussion Lists:

The IWW Blog Writing Advice

Other Topics:
Our administrators
Other writing lists
Books on writing
IWW History
Showcase of Successes

The Internet Writing Workshop
Frequently Asked Questions

Quick reference index:

Q: This site looks too good to be true. Why don't you charge for it?

A: We believe writers should be able to have their works critiqued, regardless of their ability to pay. We understand because our staff of volunteers are themselves writers, some of whom are already published, and others of whom wish to be.

We're thankful to Penn State University for donating their computer and Listserv program as a public service.

Instead of charging, we ask member's support in keeping this community of writers a trouble-free and effective place to learn.

Q: How do you stop disruptive people?

A: All lists are monitored. Anytime a disruptive post appears, we will contact the sender privately. 
     In order of increasing severity, the possible results are:

  • The member is asked to promise corrective action.
  • The member's address could be set to NOMAIL and/or NOPOST.
    With NOMAIL, the member does not receive list mail. With NOPOST, the member cannot post to the list.
  • The member could be deleted from that particular list.
  • The member could be permanently banished from our Workshop.
Most commonly, we provide a gentle reminder and the member agrees. There's no penalty. 
The harsher responses are reserved for the more serious offenses. 
Banishment is for the incorrigible.

Sometimes, we use the Review option in which the member's posts come directly to the administrators first.

Rarely, when there's a flood of inappropriate responses, we'll contact the list with an ADMIN: post. Otherwise, we prefer to work behind the scenes.

See Rules for details.

Q: What are the criteria for joining the workshop?

A: The first criterion is participation. You do not have to be published (most of the current members are not) but you should have some works in progress and be prepared to submit them for critique. You do not have to be an English major, but you do have to be serious about writing. 

Effective participation in the writing workshop requires:

  • a commitment to writing and to becoming a better writer.
  • constructive participation.
  • respect for other members, for the list rules, and the willingness to cooperate with administrators if problems arise.
  • reasonable knowledge of email and of text formatting, in order to be able to post without problems.
  • reliable email access.

Q: Why do I have to participate to remain a member?

A: Because we don't want you to waste either your time or ours. You're here to get feedback and learn. That takes participation. We're committed to helping you improve as writers. We expect you to do your part.

The Internet Writing Workshop is an educational organization. Participation means posting submissions, critiques, and taking part in discussions. It does not mean:

  • Reading submissions solely for pleasure.
  • Lurking.

Reading solely for pleasure would make us look like a publisher. We want works critiqued on our lists to be seen as not-yet published.

Q: I have a lot of obligations. What is considered to be a sufficient level of participation?

A: See Participation for details.

Half an hour a week is not hard. The greater problem is that you may want to do more than you have time for. That's how it is with worthwhile vocations/avocations. They draw you in, and then you have to decide.

One thing you can look forward to is sharing your writing problems with sympathetic members on our discussion lists who know just what you're talking about.

If you find yourself overloaded, take a break, sign off from the Workshop, and return another time. We won't mind.

Q: How do I copyright my material?

Under international law, all material is copyrighted as soon as it is written. The copyright remains with the author till it expires (usually after the author expires). 
So works posted here are automatically protected by copyright.
You can also register a copyright with the country of your residence. That's only advantageous when you're selling your work.

Q: If my writing is published, who can I brag to?

Congratulations in advance. On our Writing list, you can announce "Yahoos" (sales or other successes). We love to see them. Also, check out our Showcase of successful writers.

Q. I have no idea how to market my writing. Can you help?

Our membership has all levels of experience, and marketing is a common topic of discussion. You'll probably get more ideas than you know what to do with.

Q. I edit/publish a magazine/e-zine. Can I ask people to submit to my publication?

We don't allow soliciting in the body of emails, but we do allow you to use up to three lines on your email below your signature for limited advertising. You can give only your name, the publication's name, your position in the publication, and a URL. (No more than that, however.)

Q: I really like that story/poem/article I critiqued. Can I show it to a friend?

A: Not without the express permission of the author. Not ever. Absolutely not. If you do and we find out, we will kick you off the list. The author might sue you for copyright infringement. So, don't even think about it.

Q: How do I submit my work to the list?

A: See How the IWW Works. It talks about critiquing, submitting, and use of discussion lists. It also talks about the "OFFER:" method of getting critiques outside the mainstream of the critiquing lists you belong to.

Q: I have a story that is still in progress, but would like some feedback about it now. Would it be all right to submit it for critique?

A: By definition, all works posted here are "in progress." Writing, like any creative activity, starts with a fog of uncertainty from which your work will be sculpted. When you finish your first draft, you may have an almost overwhelming desire to know whether it's any good or not.

You may, but in general, that's not the best time to submit it. That's the time to give it a breather and come back later when you can see it more objectively. 

I don't know how many times I've waited to reread something I've written, and then said to myself, "How could I have written this crap?" Maybe you won't feel the same, but it's a good idea to polish the work a little before submitting it to the list.

The first reason to wait until your work is polished is to take pride in a job, to submit the best you know how to do, and the second is to not wear out the list members' time by submitting one revision after another.

Q: How do I get my story from my word-processor into my mailer?

A: Select (highlight) it in your word processor, copy it (Edit, Copy in the menu at the top of the screen), and then Paste (Edit, Paste) it into your email's sending screen. 

See How the IWW Works for other details, and consult our Formatting page. 

If you need help, Contact us.

Q: How do I critique? What if I offend someone? Someone already said what I think. Why should I critique, anyway?

A: You should critique for the many benefits it brings both you and the people you're critiquing, and because you'll need to do it to stay in the Workshop's critiquing lists. The insecurities you may feel about it will fall away when you experience its importance and depth. 

Besides helping others, it teaches you how to critique you own work. Very valuable.

The benefit of being critiqued by a number of people is that some will see things you've never thought of.

Critiques can range from detailed to broad. A broad critique focuses on how well the work conveyed its underlying message and the emotional or intellectual response it created. A detailed critique can delve into specific examples and can include corrections of grammar and spelling. Both kinds are valuable.

It is best to write your critique before reading other critiques. That way you'll be giving your own impressions. If you repeat something someone else said, so much the better--the more people make a point, the more seriously the author should take it.

Critiquing Etiquette: 

  • Critique the written work, not the author.
  • Say what you like about the work as well as what you didn't like.
  • In Texas, road signs say, Drive Friendly. In the IWW it's, Critique Friendly

Q: What if someone's critique trashes my submission?

A: It may not always seem like it, but a critique is a gift. Take what is valuable, disregard the useless parts, and make note of questionable parts for possible future use. You don't have to tell anyone. 

Maxims in the face of critiques:

  • The most important virtue in a writer is the will to write. If someone saps it, put their words aside.
  • Critics want you to write like them. You don't have to.
  • If a critique angers you, save it. You may see it differently later.
  • It doesn't make any difference whether a critique is harsh, diplomatic, or complimentary. Use only what makes sense.
  • Change slowly.
  • You'll probably get better advice from successful writers.
  • Protect your will to write.

Q: How dare you say that about my work? This critique missed the point. What I meant was...

A: Receiving critiques is hard. It's not fun to have people point out the problems in our carefully crafted work. And sometimes people do miss the point, and not everyone likes everything. The first thing to remember is that a critique is an opinion to be evaluated in light of your own writing goals and preferences.

How you deal with critiques is your business--you can ignore them or not as seems right to you. No one has to know what you accept and what you don't. If you were to publish your work to the world, and some reader missed the point, well, you'd want to know that in advance, wouldn't you?

In private communications with your critic, you can ask for clarifications, but never, ever, critique a critique (that is, don't challenge it), either publicly or privately.

In consideration of others on the list, if you wish to discuss a critic's comments, take the discussion to private e-mail, or to the Writing list if you feel the subject matter is broadly relevant.

Q: What if someone steals my work?

Unfortunately, plagiarism can occur anytime writers share their writing with anyone else. Writers have had their works plagiarized by family members, friends, or writing instructors. 

However, plagiarism is not as common as some people believe. Remember also that a similarity in ideas or plots does not automatically indicate plagiarism — there are only so many ideas and plots around, after all.

That said, the IWW offers these safeguards against plagiarism:

  • Membership to the critiquing lists is restricted to active members (no lurkers).
  • List postings are not archived. The only people who see them are the list members who receive the posts.
  • Anonymous or hidden members are not allowed.
  • Since several people will see any given submission, this increases the chances any plagiarism will be discovered.
In the end, each writer must weigh the risks and benefits before sharing work with anyone else, in the IWW or elsewhere.

Web site created by Rhéal Nadeau and the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.