Monday, 23 December 2013

How the Ubergroup works, for n00bs

What is this "Ubergroup" thing you keep rambling about, Jerry? Why, thank you for asking!

The principles of the Ubergroup are work ethic, positive attitude, teamwork and helping each other becoming better writers. The main benefits of the Ubergroup are a rigorous structure that provides motivation; devoted moderators that intensively monitor consistency, quality, and tone of critiques to ensure everyone gets a large amount of useful feedback; and friendly, active members that create a positive but not sycophantic environment that constantly challenges us to grow. The work emphasis is not on individual critiques but on round-table, conceptual discussion by multiple people who have read the entirety of each work.

Basic Ubergroup Structure: Everyone is assigned a team of 4-6 members. You will crit them every week and receive crits from them, then discuss everyone’s work. Your posted work is checked each Monday and your promised crits are checked each Friday. Please make your work visible to the entire Ubergroup—we can’t verify the quality of crits you receive if we can’t see them. Cycles are six weeks long, with an "off week" in between. You can join, drop out, or switch teams between cycles. Teams can also elect to continue uninterrupted through multiple cycles.

The Master Thread: Each week, I will post a master thread by Monday morning entitled "Cycle X, Week Y" with announcements and info for the week. Each team captain will reply to the thread with the status of every teammate and the links to relevant works. Your captain will create a team-specific deadline (usually Sunday night) to enable them to have the full roster prepared by Monday.

The master thread is an attendance sheet used to determine that the whole Ubergroup is meeting standards and to award Awesome Points for participation, teamwork, promptness, etc. It is every member’s responsibility to be accounted for by the team-specific deadline set by their captain, and the captain’s responsibility to account for the whole team by the master deadline.

There is only one rule: Don’t be an a**hole. You may be political, be politically incorrect, swear like a sailor, discuss adult subjects, discuss the contents of critiques, or whatever you like, PROVIDED you are respectful and mature about it. “Being an a**hole” will result in summary removal with no appeal. Every one of you is an adult, and no time will be wasted debating or delineating the basics of behaviour we all learned in kindergarten.

If you take any issue with another member, bring up it up privately to your captains, the mods, or me. We will do our best to handle it with equal discretion. The only time anyone’s behaviour may be called out in public is as in official final warning from me directly, after all other channels have been exhausted.

Your resources:

Your first resource is your team captain, a veteran member who is used to how things work. They’ll answer your questions and let you know if you’re missing anything. They also organise any customised plans of action for the team. If anything seems to be going amiss, your captain will do their best to head it off before it becomes a problem.

Your second resource are the moderators. Mods are all veteran members, chosen for neutrality and fair-mindedness, who keep an eye on teams besides their own. They’ll also gladly answer questions, but they specifically look out for failure to participate or comply with Ubergroup standards. If they see something, they will ask you (privately, via pm) to fix it, and report it to the other mods and your captain.

The final resource is me. I will also gladly answer questions, especially ones you can’t ask your captain—such as if you don’t get along with them, or want to switch teams without offending anyone. I also serve as the final level of enforcement. If participation or behaviour issues cannot be rectified by any other method, I am the final word.

Enforcement methods and timing:

Your captain will do their best to keep things running smoothly before there is a problem. If you are running late, need to skip a week, etc—tell your captain BEFORE the deadline. If you think you violated a social convention by accident—tell your captain BEFORE it comes back to bite you. Things handled pro-actively at this level are not considered real problems.

After a violation or missed deadline, the issue goes to the mods, who will contact you and your captain to try to get things sorted. The problem will be recorded and resolution attempts tracked in the mod group to ensure fairness—no penalty will be dispensed until a problem has been verified as consistent over time. There are fourteen mods, including myself, who can see and discuss all records, to ensure neutrality. If you need a special arrangement, just ask us! Almost all policies are flexible. The important part is spirit of the idea: work as hard as you can, communicate your needs clearly, and be respectful, considerate, and supportive. Almost anything else is possible within that, as long as you communicate.

At a minimum, you are always guaranteed at least one moderator attempt to contact you and at least one week to respond before a penalty is enacted. Depending on the circumstance, additional efforts may be offered, such as the contact attempts from multiple mods, an extended deadline, or a final public warning. If a problem appears unresolvable, or if you fail to respond, you will be removed from the Ubergroup.

There is one hard penalty for the one hard rule: A**holish behaviour is subject to immediate removal without appeal or explanation.

Team Types / working speeds:

“Draft team” – the default Ubergroup team. They post and exchange critiques on one chapter or short story (approximately 2-4k) per person, per week. This style of team is designed for people who are actively writing rough drafts and need encouragement to produce a minimum number of words per week. It is TOTALLY OKAY to post un-proofread raw material to a draft team. We are here to support you getting your work out consistently. We do not want you stuck in a rut because you are afraid to post.

“Fast track” - team exchanges critiques in the same manner, on a larger quantity (usually 2-4 chapters or 6-10k words) per week. This style of team is for people who have most of their first draft written and are able to take on a larger critique load in order to complete everyone’s manuscripts sooner. Basic self-proofreading before posting requested.

“Over-achievers” – intimate team of three members with complete first drafts. Members take turns being “featured” each week. The featured member posts approximately ¼ of their manuscript (20-40k words) and the other two members read the whole section and offer gestalt feedback. In turns, this enables all members to receive 2 complete reads of their manuscripts over the course of 12 weeks, or two cycles. Basic self-proofreading and self-editing before posting required.

“The Beta Team” – rotating team of 4-5 members per cycle. Members take turns being featured each week, and post their entire manuscript. The whole team reads a single entire manuscript in one week, like a published book, to facilitate round-table discussion. Manuscripts must be at least on their third draft – as in, must have been completely critiqued and gut-rewritten at least twice, proofread (by a copyeditor or service such as prowritingaid) and ready to send to agents. They must be of a standard marketable length (Under 90k, less for YA/MG. Fantasy, historical and scifi of exceptionally high polish may apply for a merit-based exemption up to 130k.) for their genre and age bracket. There is only one “main beta spotlight” manuscript for the entire Ubergroup per week. Although only the other 3-4 members of the current team are required to beta read, many manuscripts receive additional voluntary beta reads (if your pitch is particularly catchy or if you have built good relationships by voluntarily beta reading others.) You MUST complete at least one cycle in the Ubergroup on any other kind of team in good standing, or at least three voluntary out-of-team betas to be eligible for the beta team.

“The Query Team” – a rotating team that focuses on the submission package of query, synopsis, and first three chapters. You may apply directly for the query team with a complete, submission-ready manuscript. Incomplete manuscripts must have put through at least one cycle of the Ubergroup (so the opening chapters are not on a first draft.)

Special statuses:

Crit only - Members may take a week off from posting at any time with no penalty as long as the intent is communicated before the weekly deadline. Members may also be crit only for entire cycles.

Reserve – Part-time members who have completed at least one cycle in good standing and need to lower their workload, but wish to maintain affiliation with their team. They are required to remain in contact with their team. Each team has the right to decide individually how much reading/critting/discussion is required to maintain reserve status with them, and may elect to drop a reserve member if they feel participation has been inadequate.

Unaffiliated – Members who have completed several cycles in good standing and need to take a hiatus, but intend to return. An unaffiliated member has no team affiliation and no critique or discussion requirements. This is granted on a case-by-case basis and must be re-applied for by speaking directly to me once per cycle. All beta members are automatically eligible for one unaffiliated cycle immediately after completing beta.

Awesome Points are a game rewarding work ethic, positive attitude, teamwork, and helping each other become better writers. It's a hybrid between Hogwarts house points, "Who's Line is it Anyway: where the rules are made up and the points don't matter," and Calvinball. Points are awarded for things like being all in on time with submissions or crits and excellent discussion threads on writing relevant subject, but don't get too hung up on exactly what is worth what - it's variable, subjective, and meant in good fun. The unifying principle is that any time I see a team demonstrating mutual support and constrictive behaviour, you'll probably get points. The winning team receives their choice of books on writing craft, cookies, or anything similarly motivational.

Minor Housekeeping Things:
Please make your work visible to the entire Ubergroup. This is so mods can keep an eye on the quality of your crits. We cannot regulate what we cannot see. Similarly, we suggest keeping your discussions in-group and visible. We are not responsible for disagreements had in private venues such as other private scrib groups or skype chats.

Please turn off your reaction notifications. In the settings tab, under “When I react to a forums post,” select “allow no one to see.” With such a large and active group, the “group activity” tab is rapidly flooded otherwise.

If you have or need spare karma, contact Jennifer Todhunter. If you’d like to be part of the off-scrib contact list, contact Dawn Chapman.

The Ubergroup is not a democracy. Officially, I am the Tyrannical Uberlord of Everything. That being said, 99.98% of requests will be accommodated (switching teams, posting/critting at different rates, working or not working with other specific members, giving your team a goofy name, etc) so long as it is in the general spirit of improving as writers, good work ethic, and generally playing nice with each other. I only reserve the final word for cases of indecision or needing to break up disagreements.

Interested? Ping me on scrib with your genre, preferred workin speed, and elevator pitch to be waitlisted for the next cycle. We welcome all genres and formats. You will be contacted as spots open up on teams.

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