Site contents copyright 2004-2017 Michelle Hakala except where otherwise noted.

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FAQ

The Desk Drawer Frequently Asked Questions, Web site version 17 revised: 10/5/2014

Included:
What are The Desk Drawer's guidelines?
What is The Desk Drawer's privacy policy?
Do I have to post to all exercises?
Can I post more than once to an exercise?
If I post something, do I retain the copyright?
What if my submission is erotic, violent or contains profanity?
How closely do I have to follow an exercise?
What if I have an idea for an exercise?
What if my work isn't good enough for me to send it in?
What if I can't critique?
Why do we use specific subject lines?
What are the subject line formats?
What do the abbreviations stand for?
Is there a word limit on XSUBs?
How do I tell a friend to subscribe?
How do I unsubscribe?
Is it okay to post thanks for critiques to the list?
What if a critique is wrong?
Why is The Desk Drawer a text-only list?
How does The Desk Drawer being text-only affect my email?
What if I’m having trouble with plain text?
How much email volume does the list produce?
Does The Desk Drawer have a Web site?
What if I find an error on the Web site?
Does The Desk Drawer have message archives?
What about listmembers emailing each other?
I hear something about Training classes. Can I attend those?

 


What are The Desk Drawer's guidelines?

We will post one writing exercise per week -- some for fun, some for learning the writing craft, and some for learning about yourself or the world around you. To respond, write to that exercise. To stay on the list, you are required to submit at least 3 exercise-related posts per month. You may choose to post 1 submission and 2 critiques or 3 critiques. We prefer a ratio of 2 or more CRITs for each SUB but we realize that you have a life, too (but if we see your ratio strongly leaning toward the SUB side, you may get a personal reminder about the preferred ratio guideline). You may choose to post non-exercise work under the XSUB category, but these will not be counted toward list participation. If you post an XSUB, please add a note at the top explaining why you’re posting it. We can help better if we know the purpose of your piece, especially if it’s for a contest or you are targeting a specific market. If it’s from a prompt you found elsewhere, please include the prompt directions.

Please note you must participate every month. If you need to miss a month, notify the listowner before the month ends. Toggling yourself into “vacation” mode does not relieve you of the participation requirements as the listowner is not notified when you do this.

We ask that you spellcheck your work -- repeated SUBs or XSUBs that have not been spellchecked will be grounds for removal from the group.

To accommodate those on the list who cannot access HTML mail, all posts to the list must be in plain text. Also, no attachments are allowed.

Since most of us sort our e-mail by subject, you must follow the subject criteria:
        SUB: exercise #/your name      
        CRIT: exercise #/originator's name
        XSUB: identifier/your name
        XCRIT: identifier/originator's name    
        STYLE: (discussion of writing style, and questions about how others do things)
        MISC: (everything that's not a submission or a critique)

In addition, the list administrator will use two more subject prefixes:
        ADMIN: for notices to all members
        EXERCISE #xxx: for the writing exercises

A few other subject tags show up from time to time, and will be explained when they appear.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: What we write is our personal property. It is shared with others on the list for learning purposes, and may not be passed along to anyone who is not a current member of The Desk Drawer or copied in any way without the author's express permission.
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What is The Desk Drawer's privacy policy?

The Desk Drawer is very firm about its privacy policy and will never sell, rent, lease, or otherwise give out members' email addresses, or any other information gathered from this site or the list. I dislike spam as much as you do!
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Do I have to post to all exercises?

No, you don't. You can write to any or all exercises or none, as long as you post three times per month. Your required posts can all be CRITs.
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Can I post more than once to an exercise?

Yes, you can. If an exercise inspires you that much, go for it! You should differentiate the second (or third or fourth) posting in some way in the subject line so you can tell which CRITs are for which piece. Perhaps a (2) behind your name, or (Second Time). You may also choose to refine a SUB and post it as a rewrite, using (Rewrite) added to the subject line.

You may not critique someone’s work twice. If you find you need to add a comment after you’ve sent your CRIT, use the MISC subject tag.
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If I post something, do I retain the copyright?

You do. The Desk Drawer holds no copyright on its members’ work. On the list, your SUBs are your property, and having submitted it on a certain date is proof that you had it first, should it appear somewhere else later on.

One of the list rules is not using someone else's work without express permission, but rules, like laws, are only as good as the paper they're written on. There aren't any guarantees in life. Once your words are out there, anywhere, there is a remote chance someone will swipe them. Remember, though, that theft requires a ready market, and we all know how hard it is to get published. It’s unlikely that a thief would have any better luck.
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What if my submission is erotic, violent, or contains profanity?

The Desk Drawer doesn't limit your work here. However, I do ask that you clearly label your piece at the beginning if there is anything in it which might cause someone else to be offended (or give them nightmares). If you’re unsure whether your piece might offend someone, put a warning on it. Better to warn for no reason than not to warn when you should.

If you are afraid you'll give away something about your story, you may use a generic warning. Something like "WARNING: Read at your own risk." This tells your audience your SUB may contain sensitive material, but not exactly what it might be.

Readers, if you encounter such a warning, you truly do read it at your own risk. I will not follow up on complaints about content if the SUB in question has a warning.

As writers, we aim at a publishing market. As humans, we often aim at different publishing markets. What offends one person doesn't offend another and graphic violence that keeps me up nights is what my neighbor's six-year-old watches. If you don't like it, don't read it. And don't critique it, either, because you cannot give an unbiased critique.

The only caveat: If I see that you're using all your submissions as a platform for your political views, as advertising, or as something else which is clearly not writing to the exercises for the purposes of writing and/or possibly submitting to a market, I will warn you privately. Repeated warnings will lead to your dismissal from the list.
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How closely do I have to follow an exercise?

As closely as you like. They're suggestions, only. Some people may include in their CRIT of your piece whether you followed the exercise or not, but it's up to you. Sometimes the exercise strikes a chord, and sometimes one word in an exercise can get you started and the piece goes somewhere totally different. Either way is fine, because either way it was the exercise that started it.
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What if I have an idea for an exercise?

Email me privately at DeskDrawer-list-owner@winebird.com with your idea. If I use it on the list, I'll give you credit for thinking of it.
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What if my work isn't good enough for me to send it in?

There are two answers to this one. First, sending your work in and receiving critiques is the best way to learn, practice, and improve the writing craft. Remember critiques are always in the “eye of the beholder” and two people can easily critique the same piece with opposite viewpoints. Take suggestions from CRITs which you think are helpful, and trash the rest. Ultimately, it’s your work.

Second, if you still feel you can’t share your work, you can stay on the list by only critiquing others’ work. Three CRITs per month will keep your subscription open.
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What if I can't critique?

Everyone who can read can critique. While we ask that you not just send in “I liked it” as a CRIT, that can be the starting point. You liked it. Why? What worked for you? What were the points that really stood out? Did anything not work for you or seem out of place? What and why? You read it, you formed an opinion on whether you liked it or not, and that qualifies you to critique it. As writers, we need to know what the audience thinks and feels while reading our work. For critiquing guidelines, check out http://www.otherworlds.net/critbase.htm, read through Chas’ CRITique Training, our Critique Techniques and Tips page, or browse the web for ‘critique tips.”
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Why do we use specific subject lines?

Many people (including the listowner) filter their email by keywords or by list or both. With filters, you can direct Desk Drawer mail into its own folder, and even sort out just your pieces. If you need help with filters, email the list under the MISC topic and ask someone. Remember to include the name and version of the program with which you get email.

Also, I keep track of the posts so I know when members have met the list participation requirement. Posts which are incorrectly labeled are harder to count and I might miss them.
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What are the subject line formats?

        SUB: exercise #/your name      
        CRIT: exercise #/originator's name
        XSUB: identifier/your name
        XCRIT: identifier/originator's name    
        STYLE:
        MISC:

Two subject line tags occur only occasionally:
        ROBIN: for posts relating to a ROUND ROBIN currently in progress
        TRAINING: for posts relating to an ongoing Desk Drawer course, or questions/suggestions for one.

In addition, the list administrator will use two more subject prefixes:
        ADMIN: for notices to all members
        EXERCISE #xxx: for the writing exercises

And there may be special ones used for special occasions. These will be defined when they begin to be used.
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What do the abbreviations stand for?

       SUB and XSUB: submission of your work (SUB for exercise-based writing and XSUB for non-exercise writing)
       CRIT and XCRIT: critique of submissions (CRIT for exercise-based writing and XCRIT for non-exercise writing)
       STYLE: discussion of writing style, and questions about how others do things
        MISC: everything else
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Is there a word limit on XSUBs?

XSUBs have no word limit but the longer a piece is, the less likely you are to receive critiques. You can break a piece up into sections, but remember to label each one so it can be distinguished from the others when you receive XCRITs.
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How do I tell a friend to subscribe?

Tell them to send a writing sample to DeskDrawer-on@winebird.com based on this exercise:
“Everyone's heard no two snowflakes are the same. No two people are the same, either. What is it that makes you different from the people around you?”
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How do I unsubscribe?

You can send email to DeskDrawer-off@winebird.com or there is an unsubscribe link at the bottom of every post you receive from the list. If you unsubscribe, consider sending me a note at DeskDrawer-list-owner@winebird.com to let me know you have and why.
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Is it okay to post thanks for critiques to the list?

We ask that you not post “thanks” or “me, too” messages to the list. Please send thank you messages for critiques privately to the person who did the critiquing. If you have a point to clarify in one of your subs that you think might be of interest to the group, then yes, by all means post it to the list, but change the subject tag from Re: CRIT to MISC so we all know it’s on purpose.
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What if a critique is wrong?

If the critiquer has misunderstood your intent, or has a question about something in your submission, you may choose to email them privately to clarify or answer. If the question was one most of the list might be interested in, you may choose to answer it on the list, by replying to the CRIT (change the Re: CRIT to MISC) or starting a new MISC message. Please don't defend what you've written to the list. It’s likely only one person’s viewpoint and not the entire list’s. Flame wars (email arguments) can start in just this way, and such a war will not be tolerated on The Desk Drawer. If a critiquer has totally missed your point, thank them privately for the critique and delete it.
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Why is The Desk Drawer a text-only list?

The Desk Drawer is a text-only list for several reasons. First, the listowner’s email program cannot read HTML mail. :-) Second, email messages take up much less space as text only. Those fancy backgrounds to your message and cute pictures in your signature lines make getting email for those of us on a dial-up connection even slower. And third, some places on the Web where we want to publish our work are text-only. The Desk Drawer is a good place to work out text-only kinks before submitting your work to such a place. As a bonus, being text-only weeds out any harmful code or attachments, so the risk of getting a virus is minimized.
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How does being text-only affect my email?

Font attributes won’t show. For instance, if you do a CRIT and change your comments to red, bold text, no one will see the difference between your text and the original text. Any background frills, such as color or pictures, will be removed. There are three “standards” we use on the list. To show text is bolded, enclose it in asterisks, like *this.* To show italics, use underline characters, like _this_. For critiques, we often enclose our comments in either number signs (### text between two sets ###) or slashes (///this way///).

One of our members suggests using Notepad for writing your submissions, since Notepad uses only plain text and comes with Windows. To find it, click Start, Programs, Accessories, Notepad.
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What if I’m having trouble with plain text?

All word processors add invisible symbols that mean things to it (bold this, space here, carriage return after this word). Some word processors use symbols the plain text reader can see but cannot translate. Voila, Greek symbols in your “plain text” email!

Try this:
Check your email program settings to see if there's a place to tell it you want plain text. (Often this is under Tools, Options, Preferences, or Formatting.)

Or this:
Write your piece. Save it as plain text only (.txt). Close it. Open it again, telling the program to keep it in plain text if it asks you. Then copy/paste it to email.

An easy way to check if what you see is plain text, is whether quotation marks and apostrophes are slanted or vertical. Slanted ones (opening and closing quotes look different) are not plain text.

I am also always willing to play guinea pig; my email program is very picky about plain text and I can usually tell if what you send me will end up with oddities or not. Feel free to contact me for help.
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How much email volume does the list produce?

Sometimes, quite a bit. This is a list for writers, and writers write. The volume of email can get quite high, especially around the end of the month. Use of email filters is suggested, and you can get the list in digest format if you prefer.
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Email volumes history:

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2003

 

 

 

 

95

121

82

76

93

186

133

146

2004

151

115

143

230

196

269

208

233

192

249

239

256

2005

193

168

197

229

192

207

432

318

514

467

420

358

2006

698

422

441

341

251

353

914

682

709

741

512

501

2007

647

472

530

427

313

393

459

410

446

383

325

335

2008

542

426

423

384

400

325

377

421

333

396

364

603

2009

651

574

389

263

303

326

335

265

246

225

261

232

2010

229

200

225

247

183

184

221

202

181

234

177

271

2011

219

195

188

143

135

144

138

157

137

144

131

147

2012

151

172

194

228

154

187

216

205

201

171

148

118

2013

144

115

160

145

141

145

128

147

114

106

122

130

2014

153

97

177

113

59

123

263

293

332

324

241

232

2015

300

245

186

205

118

167

173

184

120

128

133

172

2016

157

141

104

161

81

113

149

112

101

102

88

108

2017

141

121

106

67

47

82

88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does The Desk Drawer have a Web site?

We do, and you’re here!
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What if I find an error on the Web site?

Notify me! Not only will I fix the error ASAP, you’ll also get a count for the find in the monthly stats.
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Does The Desk Drawer have message archives?

We do. To access The Desk Drawer archives, you must be a member of The Desk Drawer. Sign up, and then ask me how to get there.

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What about listmembers emailing each other?

You are, of course, all free people. You have the technology to contact each other privately; in fact, I encourage it when thanking someone for a CRIT. However, please respect each other and your power: don’t send anything to someone else privately unless you’re sure they want to receive it. Don’t add their email to your personal joke distribution unless you’ve asked their permission. Don’t forward them the link to the latest great political spoof. Most especially, don’t include their email where anyone else can see it: don’t post it to another list, don’t include it on the CC: line of a great joke, don’t include it ANYWHERE it can be seen by others. Participation on this list is not an invitation to scrawl their names on the electronic bathroom wall. If I have proof something like this has happened, you may be removed from The Desk Drawer without warning. And so you know my personal standing on it, you may send me anything you like: jokes, pictures, links, etc, but don’t put my email address where others can see it, and don’t add me to any distribution lists.

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I hear something about Training classes. Can I attend those?

Periodically we do have Training classes. If you are a member when a class runs, you receive all the lesson (and homework from your fellow listmembers), but we don’t re-run them. You can find two on our site: Chas’s CRITique Training and winebird’s Write Something Funny.

If you think you might want to run a class, let me know!

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