SIWA Critique Swap

The bi-monthly SIWA critique swap is a fun, informal way to improve our writing through giving and receiving feedback drafts of our amazing stories and poems.

It’s easy to join in! Just bring a piece of work to a meeting, and leave with someone else’s. Then bring your written feedback next month to give to the author, and maybe even have a chat about it.

It all takes place during break, so there’s no need for any public speaking or anything like that. We’ll also be switching between poems and short stories (including flash and kids’ stories), so you can join in no matter what you like to write.

How to join in

  1. Dig out that piece that’s missing that certain something, or is on its fourth rewrite, or that needs a spit-shine before sending out to journals.
  2. Print it out. No need to be too fussy with fonts or anything like that, just make sure it’s legible, is double-spaced, and has nice wide margins for scribbling on. And put your REAL name on it!
  3. Bring it along to the meeting, and give it to Sam any time before break. Check the schedule below for dates. If you want to join in but can’t be at the meeting, send him an email at sam.averis@gmail.com and he’ll sort it out.
  4. At break, Sam will shuffle ’em all up and hand them back out. Everyone who brought a piece will take someone else’s home with them.
  5. Read it! Enjoy it! Have fun getting a glimpse into the creative process of one of your fellow SIWA members. Maybe read it a few more times to let it seep into your imagination, then sleep on it for a night.
  6. Critique the story. Don’t worry if you’ve never done it before, or if you’re worried about offending someone – I’ve put together some information below on writing a short, respectful and helpful crit.
  7. Bring your critique to the next meeting. Give it to the stories writer. Receive yours from your critiquer.
  8. Thank whoever critiqued your story for their help!

2018 Schedule

Date Form
August 9 2018 Poem
October 11 2018 Short Story
December 13 2018 Poem

Bring your critique back the following meeting.

How to write a nice, helpful critique

We put a lot into our writing, and while sharing feedback with our friends is a great way to improve, it also can be hard – both to give and receive!
These pointers will help you give feedback that is helpful and also respectful.

  • Thank the writer

    It’s a big deal to share unfinished work, and a privilege to be allowed to read it.

  • Find something you love

    Open with your favourite thing about the piece. An interesting character, a striking image, a line that really sings. It’s there if you look hard enough!

  • Don’t get too fancy

    There’s no need to know your sestinas from your ekphrasiseseses. In fact, it’s a good bet the piece’s writer doesn’t either. The best feedback is plain language about why a piece works for you or doesn’t, about how it makes you feel.

  • Be specific

    Give examples of what you’re saying. Whether you use quotes or scribbled marginalia, your feedback will be most helpful when it’s definite. As an example, consider these two accounts from Evander Holyfield of his infamous boxing match with Mike Tyson:

    “The fight was very painful”

    “The most painful part of the fight was when he bit my ear”

    Which will help Tyson inflict greater pain in future fights?

  • Be helpful, not negative

    Just saying something is “bad” never helped anyone’s writing, or their feelings. When something doesn’t work for you be honest, but be gentle.

  • Don’t try to fix it

    Don’t offer too many solutions. Say if there’s something missing, but you don’t need to rewrite the ending.

  • Be brief

    Your first couple of thoughts are often the most helpful. A few short paragraphs of your most insightful feedback is likely more than enough.

More resources

If you’re stuck for something to say, these critique forms may help you comment on a piece:

Yes, these sources are a bit weird. If you find any great resources on how to give a good critique, email them to sam.averis@gmail.com and I will add them here.