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The nonfiction critique list

Welcome to the Nfiction list! Your List Administrators, Gary Presley, Grace Skibicki, and Diane Diekman, are here to make your experience a pleasant and productive one.

Your submissions to Nfiction may include articles for magazines or newspapers, chapters from nonfiction books, essays, or other types of nonfiction. We also help each other with query letters for publishers.

Give your critics everything they'll need to give you the best crit possible. In nonfiction, this means telling us about your target market and their requirements. Include your article's word count in this introductory material. If your article includes regional references, tell us upfront that your readers will be familiar with X, Y or Z in the article. Also, if you absolutely positively must have critiques by a certain deadline, be sure to mention that at the top of your introductory paragraph.

Be sure that you understand the use of headers (Sub: , Crit: and Offer:) as described in the How it works page. Many members use headers for sorting their mail.

Remember that Nfiction is for the posting of Subs and Crits only. General discussion about the craft of writing are carried out on the WRITING list. Thank yous for critiques must be sent privately.

Query letters are appropriate submissions here on Nfiction. Again, tell us as much as possible about the publication you'll be sending it to and what its writer's guidelines say about the type of article you are proposing.

Do not read critiques of a submission before writing your own critique. Bring a fresh eye to the work. Don't read SUBs for entertainment or information. If you read it, you're expected to make helpful and useful critical comments.

The minimum participation for all NFiction members is at least 4 contributions (subs or crits) per month.

Feel free to post as many critiques as you like. But we respectfully request that you limit your submissions to no more than one every three days. We also request that you wait at least one week before posting re-writes. And yes, that re-write counts as your sub for the week. All the more reason to make sure that your initial SUB is as close to done as you can make it yourself.

Remember to keep your crits lean. Trim out any portion of the original sub that you aren't directly commenting on. But be sure to leave enough in that we can follow what you're saying.

The more you participate, the more you'll learn. So jump right in and get involved.

Here's a short essay on the Web you might find helpful. It's called The Diplomatic Critiquer by Andrew Burt.

And Greg Gunther, the IWW's chief administrator also has a short list of excellent ideas about the critiquing process.

  • The most important virtue in a writer is the will to write.
  • Critics want you to write like them.
  • Give more credence to critiques from successful writers.
  • To maintain your will to write, change slowly.
  • It doesn't make any difference whether a critique is harsh, diplomatic, or complimentary.
  • Let the critiques be a stew you absorbed osmotically over time. Value them all in aggregate.
  • Protect your will to write.


Creative-D is a sub-list of NFiction where members discuss the art of creative nonfiction in all its forms. An essay in the genre or style is posted early each week, and a free-form but focused exchange of ideas follows. You must ask to join. There are no participation requirements, but members are expected to contribute intelligently and politely to the ongoing discussion. Send a message to creative-d-request@lists.psu.edu if you'd like to participate.