FIRST CRITIQUE SESSION
On a beautiful Montreal Sunday afternoon, we renounced the sunshine and warmth outside to sit in our windowless conference room and talk about how the first writing assignment went for all of us.
Our members submitted diverse pieces for the first assignment, ranging from short stories to screenplays. Because the assignment was quite open-ended, some of us found it difficult to overcome writer’s block. Others were very glad to have only one constraint (the piece must be an example of genre fiction); they were happy for the opportunity to realize ideas left unexplored for too long.
THE GROUPS: PARAGONS AND RENEGADES
Since our initial labels of “Group A” and “Group B” weren’t exactly thrilling, we decided to give each of our groups of five writers a name: The Renegades are coordinated by Jana, and the Paragons by Elise.
After conducting a round of discussion together, the Paragons and Renegades moved to separate rooms to critique each other’s submissions.
Our critique sessions generally follow the parameters of the Clarion Critique Method, with a few minor adaptations to conform to our Incubator’s needs.
Each member’s writing submission receives a five-minute review from each of the other members. These are followed by a five-minute conversation between the author and the reviewers, bringing the total discussion time for each piece to a maximum of twenty-five minutes. During the review period, the author is not permitted to respond to comments. This is to prevent the discussion from being derailed into an examination of a particular comment, and to give the author time to manage their initial reactions to critiques.
The coordinators ensure that the tone of criticism is always friendly, supportive and thoughtful. Our reviews focus on the larger elements of the pieces, for example, narrative devices, characterizations, and plot structure. Grammar mistakes or minor line edits do not play a large part in our group review; if these are necessary, they can be shared in written form.
An important part of the critique process is to tell the writer what’s working. We all enjoy hearing that our work has moved or pleased a reader!
This first session of critique went very smoothly. We were amazed by the high quality of the submissions, and how diverse everyone’s perspectives on a single piece could be!
WRITING PORTFOLIO PIECES: WORD COUNT
According to the game industry professionals we surveyed, hiring personnel are unlikely to read submissions longer than 2000 words in full, and the best length for a writing sample is 1500 words or fewer. This does not mean that your entire plot needs to fit into 2000 words; the end of a sample doesn’t need to represent the end of the story.
However, you will need to demonstrate your ability to build a narrative arc within those 2000 words, and the more complete a story you can convey within such a limit, the better. In game writing, shortest is best.
Sometimes having a writing prompt makes it easier to start a new piece. Here are some resources for you if you need fresh ideas:
Writing Prompts Subreddit: You don’t need to be a Reddit subscriber to access one of the longest lists of Writing Prompts available!
The Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer: A beautifully illustrated book about creative writing and genre fiction, with tons of tips, advice, and examples from the best — Neil Gaiman, G.R.R Martin etc. It also includes writing prompts and exercises. You’ll find excerpts and some additional exercises on the website.
Insanity Game Idea Generator: This generator may give you some off-the-wall inspiration for your game ideas.
IGDA Writing Samples: A useful collection of game writing samples provided by the IGDA Game Writing SIG.