How Round Robin Works
The RR is an exchange of daily, timed writings with one partner. Your partner will change every week.
Some reasons for partnering are:
1. To get in the habit of writing every day — that is, to PRACTICE writing.
2. To continually generate new ideas for your writing. Many ideas come
while you are in the process of writing.
3. To feel the difference between writing only for yourself and writing
for someone else (an audience), and to notice how your writing may change,
depending upon who your audience is.
4. To practice (and risk) being open and honest for an audience
5. To get an immediate, daily “response” to your writing (so that you feel less like you are writing into a void)
6. To indirectly learn about your own writing through the process of responding to someone else’s. It is often much easier to see what works or what doesn’t work when you are scrutinizing a piece of writing that isn’t your own. You will begin to develop a more “objective” eye, and eventually you can learn to use that objectivity when assessing your own writing.
7. To capture your “natural” voice (innate tone, style, personality) before you have a chance to: snuff it out, smother it, tidy it up, hide it, correct it, polish it, soften it, or otherwise stomp the life out of it, all in the name of “improving” it.
1) On Mondays (sometimes Sundays if I am on a roll), I will email you with:
1) Your daily writing prompts for the week (seven prompts)
2) The name and email address of your new “partner” for the week. (Partnering is explained below.)
You will send daily writes (seven writes) to your partner and also to me. Each week, I will pair everyone with a new partner and give you a new set of prompts). Each RR week begins on Tuesday and continues through the following Monday.
Beginning the second week of class, I will send out a daily “compilation” consisting of anywhere from four to eight of your daily writes. I’ll select these writes — one write per class member — from the past week’s writes. So, for example, if there are 28 people in the class, then I’ll send out 28 writes total, broken down into four writes per day. If there are 42 people in the class, I’ll send 42 writes total, broken down into six writes per day.
**Sometimes, instead of selecting the writes myself, I will instead ask each of you to select one of your own or one of your partner’s writes, and I’ll use YOUR selections for the daily compilations.
Time Required for this Class:
You will write for 10 to 12 minutes. You will spend roughly the same amount of time reading and responding to your partner’s write. It may take you a few more minutes to prepare to write, ie. take a few deep breaths, get your tea or coffee, set your timer, etc. So figure an average of 30 minutes a day.
1. Subject Lines:
Put the EXACT prompt in the Subject Line. By exact, I mean exact. Put nothing but the prompt as I wrote it. This is a SIMPLE rule, so please follow it. EXACT MEANS EXACT. I have good reasons for asking you to do this. It makes me nuts when people ignore it, and I will become very testy.
2. No attachments:
Put your daily write in the body of a NEW email. Repeat: NEW. Don’t add it to the top of the write you received from your partner, as a Reply. Create a separate email to send to your partner and CC: it to me
at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Only daily writes go to this email address.
Any other emails that you send to me, i.e. asking for a sub, go to: email@example.com. This is my primary email address, the one I check all day long.
Daily Writes Explained:
How Long to Write:
10 to 12 minutes. NO MORE. I MEAN IT. NO MORE. Of course, you can continue to write after your time is up, but you must not send all of it to your partner — send them (and me) only what you wrote in the first 10 to 12 minutes.
When to Write:
Every day of the week. You cannot skip three days and then send three writes to your partner and me all at once.
You can do your write at any time of the day, up until midnight. Do NOT send it late (after midnight) because after midnight is a DIFFERENT DAY. If you are supposed to send your write on Tuesday, that means Tuesday. 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning IS NOT TUESDAY, it is Wednesday.
Excuses such as “I was too tired to write!” or “I had to work late,” or “I felt uninspired,” or “I hated the prompt” or “I had a shitty day” etc. are not acceptable.
You do TWO things every day: 1. Write and send your daily write, and 2. Respond to your partner’s write.
When to Respond:
You respond to each write the day after you get it. So: On Tuesday you respond to your partner’s Monday write. On Wednesday yourespond to your partner’s Tuesday write. On Thursday you respond to your partner’s Wednesday write.
It usually works best if you do your own write before reading your partner’s write, because that way you are less likely to be influenced by what your partner has written.
How to Respond to Your Partner’s Write (positive responses only):
I love discussing craft, but critiquing craft is not the purpose of the Round Robin.
Basically, the idea is to respond in a positive and encouraging way. Tell your partners what you liked. Say what your favorite parts are. Point out strengths not weaknesses. Comment on what is actually there, not on what you wish was there. “Responding” does not mean “critiquing” craft or saying how you think the write could be improved. It makes no sense to critique raw, unedited writes that were done in 10 to 12 minutes.
Even if you don’t love the write, even if you have a hard time finding something that you like about it, you can find something. The aim is to help your partner feel good about their writing, to feel hopeful, excited and increasingly confident. When people feel encouraged, they will continue. If they continue, they will make progress, and they will learn more and more about craft as they go along.
Besides, when you give a positive response, sometimes you actually are commenting on craft. For example, if you say, “I love all the great verbs you used in the last paragraph!” you are saying something about craft. If you say, “Wow, I loved that third sentence. It was so vivid. I was right there,” then you are saying something about craft. But in both cases, you are doing so in a positive way.
Other Ways to Respond:
“I loved the energy of this write!”
“This is a fascinating topic. It really made me think.”
“I love how the narrator is willing to be so open and vulnerable in this write.”
“Oh my god I laughed so hard I peed in my pants!”
Also: You don’t have to always respond in words. For example: You can put your favorite parts in bold. Or underline them. ***Or put asteriks around them.***
When you do respond in words, you don’t have to use complete sentences. Phrases are fine:
“ESPECIALLY LIKED THIS GRAPH.”
“Very moving, esp. the last line.”
“Brought tears to my eyes.”
You can even come up with abbreviations that the you and your partner both understand, to save time.
No Negative Responses or “How to Improve It” Responses:
1. Do not offer editing suggestions, and do not tell your partner what didn’t work for you, or where you think they can “improve” or add to the write (or subtract from it).
Examples of how NOT to respond:
* “Suggest Delete”
* “How about using more active verbs rather than passive verbs?”
* “This is a bit of a cliché”
* “Run-on Sentence”
* “What if you put this sentence first and moved that one to the end?”
* “You’re telling but not showing me, here.”
* ” How about some dialogue instead of paraphrasing?”
* “This is really hard to follow, and you are contradicting yourself.
* “You could cut this whole paragraph and it would flow much better.”
* “You’re jumping around; I think your best bet would be to focus on
your father, not your mother.”
* “You need to get consistent with your tenses.”
* “I’m not sure what this is really about. Focus?”
* “I know you’re into writing fiction, but this would be a great poem,
or even a wonderful essay!”
TIP: Whenever a negative critique pops into your mind, focus on something else that is more positive.
Example: You think that they are “telling” too much, as opposed to showing. You are longing for details, concrete images, specifics, colorful details. But there aren’t any! So: Find something else to comment on: i.e. “You are incredibly brave to attempt writing about this topic. I admire that.” Or: “This is hilarious. I almost peed in my pants I was laughing so hard!”
On some other day, when that partner does use concrete images and specific details, then praise the hell out of them! This is called POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT.
2. Do not offer your personal opinions about the content of the writing and/or about your partner’s personal life. In fact, do not assume that the content is true or is about your partners’ real life; maybe they are writing fiction. Maybe it’s a combination of truth and fiction. You don’t know.
It’s best to think of the writer as “the narrator.”
Avoid asking questions or making side comments such as:
“What if you tried talking to your boss in person and explaining about your allergies?”
“Your boyfriend sounds like a real jerk! Dump the guy. You deserve so much more. We all do.”
“Have you ever considered quitting your job and becoming a freelance consultant?”
“My ex-husband did that all the time! Don’t believe him.”
“If you’re having trouble being honest in your essays, maybe you should try switching to fiction.”
What Do You Write About?
I will give you jumpstarts (prompts), not “writing exercises.” The difference is that writing exercises are usually designed to highlight some aspect of craft. Prompts, on the other hand, are designed to get you writing, period.
You can write about ANYTHING SUBJECT WANT TO WRITE ABOUT, IN ANY GENRE.
How to Write from Prompts:
Prompts are not meant to be your subject. You are not being asked to write ABOUT the prompt. It is meant to “jumpstart” your writing. If you don’t need the prompt, then don’t use it. The point isn’t for you to cleverly use or write about the prompt. The point is to write about what you care about and want to write about. If the prompt is helpful, great! If it gives you a fun or interesting or unexpected “in” to a subject you want to write about, great. But if you don’t need it, ignore it.
Daily writes are not meant to be pure stream-of-consciousness. Pure stream of consciousness means that you write down every single thing that comes into your head, non-stop, even if it makes no sense and you compose no actual sentences and you repeat the same word twenty times because that’s all you have in your head. Try to go one or two steps beyond that.
Try to make some sense, achieve some focus. Take a minute to center yourself before you start to write, and try to see what rises to the top. What subjects or topics or thoughts or feelings have ENERGY for you at that moment? If you feel a strong energy, follow it. You don’t have to know where you are going, but the energy is a clue that you are on the right track. Energy without any strong content can sometimes be more compelling (and fun to play with) than content that doesn’t have any strong energy behind it!
This is a class for grown-ups. So I ask politely but firmly ask that you do not email questions to me that I have already answered at the first class or in this email (which you should save for future reference). For example, don’t send me an email asking what day you are supposed to respond to your partner’s write. I have given you that information already. Or don’t ask me what to do if your partner gets flaky. I have given you that information already (see below). Etcetera.
Will it take you longer than you like to read through this handout to find the answer? Maybe. But that’s life. You are one of many students in this class. I am not going to spend my time answering half a dozen emails every day from people asking the same questions over and over. That is why you have this handout, and why we have the first meeting.
Or: Ask your partner. Or another class member.
What to Do If You are Unable to Write or Respond:
What if you are sick? Or what if you are going camping or traveling where you won’t have Internet access? Or what if you have a true emergency, such as a death in the family, or you are up all night long with a sick child? In those cases, you can put in a request for a sub to take your place until you can return. I have several “oldie” Round Robins who, if they are not enrolled this session, have volunteered to be subs.
What if Your Partner is Being Flakey?
What if you don’t get a write from your partner? Or what if your partner sends a write but not a response to your write? Or vice versa? Or what if the responses they give are not positive?
1. First, check your spam/junk folder. Make sure it’s not there.
2. If it’s not there, then immediately write to your partner (and CC: me). DO NOT WAIT TWO OR THREE OR FOUR DAYS. Say: “Hi, I didn’t get your write for yesterday (or “Hi, I got your write yesterday, but not a response to my write.” Is there a problem?”). Hopefully you will get a quick reply and an acceptable explanation and/or apology, plus and a promise that they won’t be late again, in which case you can both just continue on.
If you don’t get a timely reply (within a few hours), let me know. I will email them myself; it may be that I will need to step in and get a sub to take their place.
Note: You are not being a tattle-tale if you “report” a flaky partner to me. You have paid for this class. It’s not fair to you if your partner isn’t holding up their end of the bargain. So contact your partner right away. If you wait, the week will be half over before you know it, and your RR rhythm will be thrown off. So don’t be a martyr. (Also, keep in mind that if you allow your partner to be flaky, they will be more likely to continue being flaky with their next partner. That makes you an “enabler!”)
THAT’S ALL, FOLKS!
And the funny thing is, even though this handout is long, the Round Robin is SO SIMPLE! It becomes complicated only when you make it complicated by not following the rules
Although I may sound like a cruel dominatrix who holds a whip over all of your heads, I swear to you that I am a nice person! I am strict about the class rules only because I care about you and about creating the best possible experience for everyone. When the Round Robin class runs smoothly, it is one of the BEST THINGS EVER!