Writer's Workshop/Open Read & Critique

Workshops provide an opportunity to get your work critiqued by writers, editors, and other professionals that can assist you in putting the polish on your work that can make the difference between accept and reject.

Submissions should be sent to orc@westercon69.orgNOTE: orc@westercon69.org is for submissions ONLY. Please contact writersworkshop@westercon69.org with any questions.

Submissions will open on February 1, 2016 and remain open until April 1, 2016.

What Can Be Submitted
We will accept electronic submissions of short stories or novel excerpts in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. Please no scripts or erotica. We are looking for manuscripts that you feel are your best work. If you have taken it as far as you can, and need outside review to move your writing forward, send it to us.

For 2015, you may submit up to two pieces per author, totaling no more than 10,000 words only one of which may be a novel excerpt, and which together total no more than 10,000 words. Whenever feasible, we accept all submissions that meet our guidelines. However, we reserve the right to reduce the number of long submissions accepted into the workshop, or the total number of manuscripts. We will reject manuscripts that don’t meet our guidelines. Second manuscripts will placed into sessions to best match the reading preferences and availability of our critiquers and rooms. In all cases our goal is to workshop as many manuscripts from as many authors as possible.

Submission Format
We will accept manuscripts in .doc, .rtf and .txt. Please, no .docx files or PDFs.

Name your file with your last name, the title of your work, and the word “short” or “novel,” as follows:

  • Short stories: Lastname_Title_short
  • Novel excerpts: Lastname_Title_novel
  • If the title of your work is more than a couple words long, feel free to abbreviate.

All submissions must be in proper manuscript format. Please note, since manuscript format is an important part of the process of submitting fiction to markets, your manuscript format will be considered when your story is read for the workshop. You can find excellent examples of proper manuscript format online at SFWA’s Information Center and here.

General format should include:

  • 1-inch margins on all sides
  • Type must be double-spaced
  • Font no smaller than 12-point size (Courier 12-pt or Courier New 12-pt preferred; Times New Roman 14-pt is also acceptable)
  • Use underlining instead of italics
  • Do not use boldface

First page must include:

  • Author’s name and address in upper left corner
  • Approximate word count in upper right corner
  • Story title and byline (start halfway down page)
  • Story starts double-spaced (at least) under byline

Upper right corner of second page (and all following pages) must include:

  • Story title (shortened, if necessary)
  • Author’s last name
  • Page number

Include a Cover Letter with Submission
Please include a brief cover letter as the body of your submissions email. Please do not attach your cover letter as a separate file. The cover letter should include:

  • Contact information: Your name, email address, street address, and a phone number where we can reach you, if necessary.
  • Attendance: The days you plan to attend the convention and are available for critique.
  • Submission information: Title, genre, and format (short story or novel excerpt) of your piece(s). Please let us know if your manuscript is intended for a YA audience or could fall within any other genre (i.e., paranormal romance).
  • Manuscript priority: If you’re submitting more than one manuscript, which manuscript would you prefer that we include in the workshop if we have space for only one?
  • A short paragraph about the project
  • Any key elements you would want the reviewers to consider.

Novel Excerpts
Novels must be submitted only in part. We will accept only one novel excerpt per writer. Along with your chapter(s), please submit a novel synopsis of the entire novel, totaling no more than 1,000 words. Please include the novel synopsis in the same file as your novel excerpt. It may be included either before or after your excerpt, but it must cover the full scope of the novel: beginning, middle and end. 

You can find a number of excellent articles about synopsis writing on the Web, including:

We will accept up to the first three chapters, or about 9,500 words, whichever is shorter. Please do not send chapters from the middle of your novel. Our critiquers want to start reading where your story starts. The novel excerpt and synopsis together must total no more than 10,000 words.

Short Fiction
Short fiction must be complete. To be considered for the short fiction category, a manuscript must be complete the 10,000-word limit and must stand on its own. Excerpts of longer works don’t belong in this category, even if they appear self-contained (such as flashbacks). Short fiction must total at least 1,000 words per piece. Short fiction must total no more than 10,000 words per piece. But the shorter your work, the greater your opportunities to workshop!

How the Workshop Works
All manuscripts submitted on time will be scheduled for critique by up to four professional guests attending the convention. Most “pros” are professional writers, but we may opt to include other professionals, such as scientists or editors, as appropriate. All workshop participants must purchase a convention membership. If you are planning to purchase a day membership only, plan to arrive at the convention early enough to pick up your badge before attending your critique. In individual critique sessions, workshop participants meet with up to four pros who have read their manuscript. Participants receive feedback from each pro.

How to Submit
E-mail your cover letter and manuscript submission(s) to the workshop at writers@westercon69.org NOTE: This address is for submissions ONLY.

  • Whenever possible, please send only one email with all submissions included as file attachments.
  • Your cover letter should be the body of your submission email. You do not need to attach your cover letter as a separate file.
  • Attach each work as a separate file. If you are submitting a novel excerpt, include your synopsis in the same file.
  • Please use the file naming convention and file format listed in the “Manuscript Format” section of the guidelines.
  • You will receive an email confirming that we have received your manuscript. Please query if you do not receive a confirmation within 3 days.

We reserve the right to reject submissions which are clearly outside the scope of the workshop due to genre, quality, length, or extreme objectionable content.

After You Submit
We will be working with the convention’s programming department to finalize our available will make a final decision as to which manuscripts we can include in the workshop. We expect to notify all authors of their manuscripts’ status by April 15, 2016. Please query if you don’t hear from us by May 20, 2016. If you have any questions or just want to talk about writing, please contact the writer's workshop.

Open Read & Critique (ORC)
Want fast feedback on your writing? Try an Open Read & Critique (ORC) session! Read the opening portion of your short story or novel aloud and receive instant, Clarion-style critiques. This is an opportunity to receive peer feedback on your manuscript before you send it to agents or editors. You must sign up ahead of time to participate, sign ups will be available at the convention.

In an Open Read & Critique, authors read aloud from their material to a group of peers in an informal, round-table setting. We use a model similar to Clarion: one brief critique per attendee, and no questions asked of the author--nor any response from the author--until all critiques have been given. 
Attendees are encouraged to jot down notes as they listen. After the reading, they give verbal feedback on the piece. Any written notes should be given to the author to keep. 

If you sign up for an ORC session, please make sure you can stay for the full session. If you read your work, also give critiques to the other writers present. 
See the "ORC Rules" for complete details.

ORC Rules

  • Each writer reads the first 750 words of their work. This is approximately three (3) manuscript pages (double-spaced, 12 point Courier font, 1-inch margins). There is a strictly enforced five (5) minute time limit for each reading.
  • Attendees will have up to two (2) minutes to critique the work.
  • The authors may then ask questions of the attendees. Session leaders may revise these rules as necessary.