Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 19, 2012 - 2:55pm

Howie, Matt, Typewriter, and I came to the conclusion that a thread along these lines was necessary. There are a lot of general threads roving about in the forum with all of this information, but I suggested a sort of "welcome basket" to get new-comers immediately invested in the site with the advice they need to get started. I've included links and condensed versions of a lot of the tips. I couldn't find alien's "Newcomers Start Here" thread, so if anyone finds it, send me a link and I'll edit this to include it.

For your viewing pleasure, try to open either the .doc or .docx attachment at the bottom. I promise, it'll make your reading much easier because it's formatted to be less intimidating.

Full text of document:

"First, welcome to LitReactor. Most of us only bite if you express an interest in such activities, so keep your sexual quirks to yourself and you should be fine.

     My name’s Courtney. I’m not a well-established writer or a site administrator, just a friendly user looking to help you out. I was new only two months ago, and luckily, I had enough time to devote to pointless Internet wanderings to get well-acquainted with the way the site worked on my own. I’m fully aware that I’m an anomaly, so I wanted to reach out and help you get the most out of the Workshop from the beginning. You’re paying $9 a month for this – there’s no use in waiting to get used to us to maximize your benefits.

     I want to introduce you to some great sections on the site into which you really need to dive. There’s no substitute for the blessings of the Craft Essays section. Established authors have been kind enough to detail aspects of writing from developing theme to using periods to maximum effect. Chuck Palahniuk has thirty-six fantastic essays that span the knowledge you’d receive in an MFA program. Start there if you don’t know where to begin; there are homework exercises you can jump into if you need help getting started.
Related Links: Craft Essays, Chuck Palahniuk's Writing Essays


     There are some great parts of the site that are completely user-based as well. There are multiple competitions running at all times – the Flash Me! thread runs 24/7 and is dedicated to writing flash fiction using prompts. It’s an easy way to force yourself to write on the days you don’t have motivation. Beyond Thunderdome: Writer Battles in LitReactor is a thread dedicated to user-on-user battles, which we post in the Workshop. PandaMask, whom you’ve probably met by now if you introduced yourself, has a lot of great resources in threads whose titles start with “The Rough House.” Right now, he’s looking for participants in a team competition, which has its own form of Beyond Thunderdome.
Related Links: The Rough House Presents: Team Slayer, The Rough House Presents: The Duo Competition, Beyond Thunderdome, Flash Me!

Workshop Review Tips:
     Start with Bobby Detrick’s “How to Review” thread. I reached out to him to offer some tips on reviewing, and he opened a thread to the community so we could all join in and offer more helpful tips. Before you jump into the workshop, take a look at the "greats" of the site. R. Moon is famed for his reviews, along with Howie, and they both wrote personal statements about their review tactics in Bobby's thread. If you read anything about reviewing, read the posts by those two. You'll get more out of them than I can offer in a condensed list.
     Here’s a condensed list of tips from that thread, just to get you started:
          1. Hone in on weak spots. Writers are blinded by their craft and can rarely see for themselves what needs the most work. Bill Tucker does a great job of creating reviews based entirely on this premise.
          2. jacks_username brought up a good point when he said that he doesn’t read other reviews before he posts his. It can sway your opinion or even make you second guess your opinions. Let your reviews stand on their own; it’s not important to match what everyone else said. We’re a community, not a cult. You don’t have to agree with everyone.
          3. averydoll brings up rewriting and correcting grammar, which is something I constantly do. Don’t do it without explaining it. Don’t be hypercritical and say “I hate this sentence,” but if you think it falls flat/needs to be reworded/completely sucks, explain it and give the writer a concrete reason. Even though I know all of my grammar notes are correct, I always try to google it and give the writer a link to which they can refer when reading my notes so they know I’m not blowing smoke out of my ass.
          4. Another great thing about submitting is that you can easily ask specific questions in your Author’s Agenda. When you’re reviewing, always check the Agenda and make sure you keep those questions in mind. Don’t forget to answer them. It’s vital to the writer that they know the answer or they wouldn’t have mentioned it.
          5. One more tip from Bill Tucker, the guy I mentioned in the earlier section about honing in on weaknesses: don’t be afraid to review something that’s been reviewed constantly. (Unless the writer has specifically stated that they don’t want any more reviews.) Sometimes, one comment can completely change the direction of a story for the better.
          6. You need to find out how you can best serve the writer when you’re critiquing, and you don’t have to emulate any of the people mentioned here, but a lot of people agree that their best reviews have been from Howie, R. Moon, and Bill Tucker. Matt Attack does a good job, too. Look for their reviews in the Workshop sometime and see what we mean – you’ll get a good idea of what we want in our reviews if you see what they’re doing.
Related links: How to Review


LBLs Explained:

     LBLs, or Line-By-Lines, are exactly that: a Word document with notes on lines throughout the story. Most of us do them by clicking the “review” tab and then highlighting what we want to annotate and clicking “new comment,” but you can also do it by adding comments after lines or words in a different color and font than the original text. They’re then saved with the notes and attached in the review. Don’t be afraid to do these – they can be the most helpful part of a review. Of course, they aren’t necessary. You can include all of your in-text notes in your review, or you can forgo them entirely. It’s entirely up to you and how you think you’ll best serve the writer.

How To Use Your Reviews To Your Advantage:

     The hardest thing I had to learn, which I only learned about two weeks ago, was how to use my reviews to revise my stories. I mentioned in the earlier mentioned “how to review” thread that I keep a notebook with me when I read reviews and make notes on common complaints, common compliments, and any significantly helpful notes. Then, I open each LBL and glance through it, sometimes editing the story as I go, but I more commonly take the most helpful LBL and revise my story with it open so I can focus on what they said. You can’t rely on one reviewer to rewrite your story, but don’t be afraid to ask questions of your reviewers. You can do this either by replying to their reviews or by PMing them directly. Another person in the thread mentioned that they do the notebook trick too; of course, it’s a personal preference. You could glimpse through the reviews and then never look at them again. It seems like a waste of your money, though.

How To Submit Effectively:

     There’s a lot of blather in the forums about what we want to read. Don’t be afraid to post a romantic erotica story if that’s what you want to write. No matter the genre, someone will review it for you. That’s the way the point system works. There are a few things you should know about us, though, that will sway how you submit.
          1. Howie has a great rule of thumb for the type of submissions and how many reviews they get. “From what I've seen, 1000 words can get you 10+ reviews, 2,500 gets around 6-9, 4,000 gets 4-6, and 5,000+ gets 2-4.” Thunderdome, which I mentioned earlier, has a 2,500 word limit because that’s guaranteed to get you reviews.
         2. You can always submit longer pieces in multiple submissions if you’re afraid of not getting reviews as fast as you’d like.
         3. Try to put the word count somewhere in your synopsis, title, or agenda. A lot of us won’t even open your submission if we don’t know the word count. If I know I only have half an hour to review, I’m going to go for one short submission so I don’t have to remember what I’ve already read and stated in my LBL when I get interrupted during my review.
         4. You will get reviews if your story is longer. There won’t be as many, but they will be more thorough. It’s a matter of personal preference.
          5. Don’t let your emotions get in the way. This piece may be your baby, your magnum opus and the one thing you love in the world, but not everyone is going to like it. Check your emotions at the door and work on growing as a writer.
          6. A common mistake is to upload what you consider your best work for your first submission. This isn’t a contest; we aren’t reading your work and saying, “oh, shit, this dude’s fantastic.” We want to review and critique. You’re going to have to write at least five “Very Helpful” reviews to earn the points to submit again. Do you want to waste your free submission on something you don’t think needs work?
Related Links: Workshop Whoring Thread

Final Suggestions:

If you haven’t, introduce yourself in the forum’s “introduction” category so you can meet all of us personally. You get personal attention and encouragement. There are a lot of us willing to help you improve as a writer or just talk to you as a person. There are threads for promoting your Twitter, your blog, your new book, whatever it is you have. Get involved. The easiest way to become attached to the site is to invest yourself in it; we’ll help you with any questions about writing, coax you out of writer’s block, and there’s a ton of socializing you can do here. There are threads dedicated to home improvement and pets. There are other threads dedicated to famous writers, to great links, to stupid stories. Don’t be afraid to jump in. Like I said, we only bite if you express an interest.
Related Links: Discussion Category: "Introductions"

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 19, 2012 - 6:31pm

Everything in the first post should be working now.

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 19, 2012 - 3:02pm

The attachment doesn't work.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 19, 2012 - 3:05pm

I thought I saved it as .doc, but it's saying .docx so hang on.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 19, 2012 - 6:13pm

I included the .doc and .docx formats in the second post that includes the full text of it.

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 19, 2012 - 3:10pm

The only issue, is that it will get swarmed over by new posts. If possible I would suggesting bumping it each day.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 19, 2012 - 6:11pm

I'll try to bump it every day, but I also thought about posting it in introduction threads or PMing it to people I think it could help. I'm not sure exactly how it'll go, but I'd like to get people to read it if they'd invest the time. It could save all of us, including the new comers, a lot of grief.

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 19, 2012 - 6:56pm

I think it's good.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 19, 2012 - 7:49pm

Fantastic.  Bloody brilliant.

Bill Tucker's picture
Bill Tucker from Austin, Texas is reading Grimm's Fairy Tales (1st Edition) April 19, 2012 - 8:58pm

Well done, Courtney! Thumbs high!

AlexHand's picture
AlexHand from Rhode Island is reading Moby Dick April 19, 2012 - 9:13pm

Thanks! I just did my introduction because of this post!

Matt's picture
Matt from New Zealand is reading This is how you lose her by Junot Diaz April 19, 2012 - 10:45pm

This is cool. Nice work, Courtney.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 20, 2012 - 2:10am

This thread is win. 

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 20, 2012 - 4:03am

Thanks, everyone!

Typewriter Demigod's picture
Typewriter Demigod from London is reading "White Noise" by DeLilo, "Moby-Dick" by Hermann Mellivile and "Uylsses" by Joyce April 20, 2012 - 9:03am

courtney, this is fucking excellent. well done.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 20, 2012 - 9:10am

Thanks! I get really awkward and nervous when I get compliments, so if this was real life, I'd be hiding my face. I'm blushing as it is. I'm going to stop rambling now.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 21, 2012 - 2:13am

Bump, seriously needs to be sticky

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 21, 2012 - 7:27am

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 21, 2012 - 8:30am

Howie, you sound like you'd make a horrible wrestler.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 21, 2012 - 8:36am

But a fantastic lover!

or at least... an easy one.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 22, 2012 - 3:59am

Bump until it is a sticky

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry April 22, 2012 - 5:51am

Fine.  Now it's sticky.

Good post, Courtney.  Excellent job.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 22, 2012 - 9:50am

And that's coming from a guy with a skull for a face!

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 22, 2012 - 5:53pm

Thanks for pinning this! I'm glad the post got so many compliments.

.'s picture
. April 22, 2012 - 7:18pm

Awesome, thanks for writing that out Courtney.

Bobby Detrick's picture
Bobby Detrick from Bakersfield CA is reading World War Z and The Hunger Games April 22, 2012 - 8:17pm

Great job Courtney, Howie, Matt, Typewriter.... Mostly Courtney.... ;)

Thanks for inclouding my like and I,m glad to see this was added to the top for all to see. 

 

 

Meredith_103's picture
Meredith_103 April 22, 2012 - 8:38pm

This is great--very helpful.

I'm not the most experienced writer, so I just try to write my reviews from the perspective of a reader. With my own submissions, I've learned a lot from the very experienced crowd...but it's also just nice in general to get any reader's reaction to what I've written. The process of reviewing other people's work can feel a little weird at first, but I guess I like to think we all have *something* valuable to add.

Chris Davis's picture
Chris Davis from Indiana is reading A Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews April 23, 2012 - 2:58am

Great job on this. I feel like you just wrote our equivalent to the 10 commandment.

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff April 23, 2012 - 3:13am

Good job!!!

Now this

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 24, 2012 - 6:34pm

This is cool. Bravo. And good job pinning it in the pole position. Courtney is like that cute guide on your first day of school that makes the halls feel inviting.

Cris, that is great needlepoint.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 24, 2012 - 7:14pm

Am I the annoying, perky cheerleader guide or the "Hi, I'm going to be your stand-in mom!" smart-kid guide? I feel like the latter. Am I LitReactor's adoptive mom or something?

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 24, 2012 - 7:16pm

You said your biological clock was ticking.  Well, surprise.... It's a boy, and a boy, and a boy, and a girl, and a boy, and a girl, and a punk rocker, and a boy/girl, and Batman, and a girl, and a boy and a girl and a boy and a girl and a....

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 25, 2012 - 6:53am

I've been busy, apparently.

Stephen's picture
Stephen from Boston is reading A Clash of Kings April 25, 2012 - 10:57am

Hi guys, I'm new to this place and I wanted to say hello. I look forward to joining the community!

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 25, 2012 - 10:59am

We're excited to have you! Have you set up a personal thread in the introductions thread yet? You'll get more personal welcomes there.

Stephen's picture
Stephen from Boston is reading A Clash of Kings April 25, 2012 - 11:15am

Oh not yet. I'm still kinda figuring this place out. I'll do that now tho. Thanks!

Amcii Cullum's picture
Amcii Cullum from Columbia, SC; now living in Atlanta, GA is reading currently, several source materials for JavaScript and JQuery April 25, 2012 - 12:08pm

This has been so helpful for me, as a newbee.  I really appreciated this post.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 25, 2012 - 1:24pm

Glad I could help! Let me know if I can help you out with anything else!

jennydecki's picture
jennydecki from Chicagoland is reading The Foreigners April 29, 2012 - 11:11am

I've been flailing around for a while now and this is really helpful. Thank you!

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks April 29, 2012 - 1:15pm

I'm getting redundant now, but I'm glad to have helped!

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 29, 2012 - 10:07pm

In depth is the only thing that matters.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz May 1, 2012 - 8:49pm

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Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry May 2, 2012 - 4:47am

@Chester:  Why?

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner May 2, 2012 - 5:30am

Can someone explain....

 

Forget it, I'm tired of asking. 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. May 2, 2012 - 8:41am

murderrepym?

Mike Mckay's picture
Mike Mckay is reading God's Ashtray May 2, 2012 - 11:21am

@Chester

Tell me your secrets...

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks May 2, 2012 - 7:22pm

I just... I don't understand.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest May 5, 2012 - 12:50pm

Courtney, this was greatly needed and you did an excellent job. I thank you for mentioning my name. Kudos, girl!

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks May 5, 2012 - 2:32pm

You were brought up many times in the original "How to Review" thread; credit is given where credit is due. Thanks!

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest May 5, 2012 - 2:36pm

That's what I heard. Someone tipped me off and I was curious what was said. :) Is that original one still up?