Writing to Sell – workshop at Conflux

Here is another reason to go to Conflux in April: I’ll be giving a pre-con workshop entitled Writing to Sell.

This will be an afternoon workshop geared towards novice writers who want to take their writing seriously and who may have sold a story or two to a small anthology or magazine and are looking to step up to the next level. The scope of the material will be very broad.

– I will include some technical writing advice gleaned from years in crit groups and thousands of submissions critiqued in these groups and as slush reader at ASIM.
– I will cover critique groups and how you may use them to your advantage. Do you need them? Can you go without?
– What education could make you a better writer? Is it necessary?
– Where should you submit your stories and how do you find out about these venues?
– What about rejection?
– What about your mental resilience and the days you feel like giving up?
– Writing novels and when or how you should submit
– What about self-publishing?

As you can see, this is a workshop that takes a broad approach to writing fiction and your fiction career. This is going to be about how you can persist with the journey, sustain the motivation to keep on going, help yourself and your friends through the low points and start selling your work. It will cover short stories as well as longer work, and I will cover traditional publishing as well as self-publishing, including some warning signs to watch out for in contracts, especially those likely to take on novice writers: semipro and start-up venues.

The formal part of the workshop will be three hours. There will be a fee. Details on the Conflux website.

Since the workshop is held on the opening day, and the night-time schedule is busy, we will have to move the dinner to Saturday night, but we will arrange this on the day.

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Guest post: Nicole Murphy – The Canberra SF/F/H Writing scene

I realised recently that for all the sneering at our national capital, Canberra actually has a pretty awesome SFF writing scene. One of the people instrumental in this group is Nicole Murphy, so I’ve asked her to tell the rest of us what goes on in the national capital, and of course to pimp the events she’s helping to organise.

People who are used to thinking of Canberra only in terms of politics may well be surprised to hear that Canberra has a thriving community of science fiction, fantasy and horror writers.

We’re doing pretty well too. Some of the more notable writers include:

• Jack Heath – author of bestselling action novels for children
• Daniel O’Malley – author of The Rook, one of this years most talked about debuts
• K.T Taylor – her Griffin books have sold internationally
• Maxine McArthur – Aurealis and George Turner award winning author of science fiction
• Kaaron Warren – award winning author of horror and dark fantasy – her most recent achievement was a nomination for a Bram Stoker award.
• Matthew Farrer – Matthew is a superstar in the Warhammer 40k universe.
• Ian McHugh – overall winner of Writers of the Future
• Tracey O’Hara – internationally published author of urban fantasy
• Gillian Polack – Ditmar award winner writer of the fantastical
• Simon Petrie – Sir Julius Vogel award winner for best newcomer

Canberra’s long had a history of connection with science fiction. Acclaimed US writer Cordwainer Smith lived and studied here in the 1960s. Aussie SF royalty Garth Nix and Simon Brown both lived in Canberra for a number of years. The Canberra Science Fiction Society has been running since 1971. I can’t say too much about them since I’m not involved, but they’ve just started up a blog here: http://canberrascifi.wordpress.com/

For me and a lot of writers, the Canberra SFFH writing has two main outlets – the Conflux science fiction conventions and the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild.

The Conflux conventions started in 2004, based on the Canberra Science Fiction Conventions held the two years beforehand. The conventions are generally organised by writers and so there is a definite thrust toward supporting and encouraging writers at the conventions. There are international and national writer guests, editors and multiple workshops that educate and inform. You can find out more at the websites for the two upcoming Conflux conventions – Conflux 8 (2012) and Conflux 9 (2013 Natcon).

The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSFG) began at Aussiecon 3 in 1999, when a group of Canberrans met each other and realised they should take the special feeling of the convention and use it to create a force for writing in Canberra.

Since then, the group has published seven themed anthologies, one special anthology (Gastronomicon – stories and recipes) and a single-author collection (Kaaron Warren’s The Grinding House). There will be a new themed anthology announced any day now. These anthologies are open to non CSFG members as well, but all the editing, proofing, typesetting and so on is done by CSFG members and helps create a great skill set.

The CSFG has four different meetings every month. The main meeting is the general meeting, held on the third Wednesday. We share news, help each other out, and do activities aimed at improving our writing such as story generation, reading aloud and informational nights such as science talks.

The first Wednesday of the month is the short story crit group, which has been running since 2003. Half a dozen people put up a short story, and then all gather at someone’s house and crit it. There’s a range of experience and genres and you get excellent feedback.

The first Tuesday of the month is the novel writing group. This started last year. The members meet up and talk their writing, share things they’ve learnt, and encourage each other to finish the novel.

The final meeting, on the second Wednesday of the month, is the novel crit group. It’s running this year for the third time. Everyone puts up a novel – we read one a month and critique it. Your work gets a thorough going over and while it can be confronting, it helps a lot.

I put Secret Ones through the novel crit group when it was first held in 2007. It was through that group that ideas such as the overaching storyline of Asarlai that held the entire trilogy together were developed.

Both Conflux and the CSFG have been important parts of my development as a writer. It wonderful to have these opportunities to work with other writers, both more experienced and less, and learn from all of them.

You won’t meet all the writers I’ve mentioned at the groups, but over time you will. And the rest that I’ve not mentioned (including myself) are wonderful, warm people who are supportive and encouraging.

So if you find that you’re going to be moving to Canberra, do so with enthusiasm – you’ll find a fabulous group of people. And if you don’t move – come to Conflux so you can catch up with us all.

***

Nicole Murphy has been a primary school teacher, bookstore owner, journalist and checkout chick. She grew up reading Tolkien, Lewis and Le Guin; spent her twenties discovering Quick, Lindsey and Deveraux and lives her love of science fiction and fantasy through her involvement with the Conflux science fiction conventions. Her urban fantasy trilogy Dream of Asarlai is published in Australia/NZ by HarperVoyager. She’s just commenced a new venture, In fabula-divinos (http://thetaletellers.wordpress.com) which is aimed at mentoring up-and-coming writers. She’s recently self-published her fantasy romance novella ‘The Right Connection’, available here She lives with her husband in Queanbeyan, NSW (which is right across the border from Canberra). Visit her website http://nicolermurphy.com

What’s it to you? About writing critiques

This is a post I’ve long thought about to write, about the purpose and consequences of critiques, about critique psychology, if you like.

Like this post? I’ve collated this, and some other posts with other information I’ve gained in more than six years’ extensive membership of critique groups, into a book: Stripped bare – a lighthearted guide to getting the best out of writers’ critique groups. You can get it here

What prompted this post?

I think there is a stream of thought out there that as long as you are crit buddies, you can say ‘anything’ to each other, be as brutal as you can, that with ‘buddies’ you don’t need to observe the critiquer’s creed. I think that is misguided, and content and delivery are two entirely separate things, and probably even more so with people you wish to stay friendly with.

Once, a writer gave me a long piece of critique analysing a few novel chapters. From the critique I came away with a very clear sense as to what I needed to look at. It wasn’t until much later that I realised this writer had told me that the excerpt was a piece of shit.

As soon as I figured that out, my first thought was that giving critique like that is an incredible skill, as skill a writer should have, because above all, a writer should have an inkling of the emotional impact of words.

Another fact is that if you want someone to hear your words and consider them rationally, making them angry is just SO going to be effective (not).

First of all, before you read this, it’s absolutely mandatory that you put your tongue in cheek. Not too far, mind, because some of the below is at least halfway serious. But in order to make a point, you sometimes need to exaggerate it, sometimes a lot.

So: why do give someone a critique?

1. you’ve promised
2. you want to give them a reader reaction
3. you want to help them
4. you want to show them how much more you know
5. you want to make sure they piss off and don’t cross your path again
6. you want to understand why you thought their story worked/didn’t work

Some people say that critiques that are about the writer of the critique are bad. I’d say that this is untenable, holier-than-thou bullshit. Critiques are, per definition, about the writer of the critique. In the process, the critique may do one or more of the above things, but it is my opinion that should never be an intended aim of the critique. As such, I think that point 6 is the only valid point on this list. Hence: a critique is one reader’s analysis of the story.

Well, but some of those other aims sound nice, warm and fuzzy.
You promised? Bad, bad reason. You should write a critique because you think you have a meaningful analysis to make, something that’s not either I adore this story, or I hate this story.

Give a reader reaction? That’s pretty harmless as far as aims go, but your critique will do that anyway.

You want to help the writer? Oh, heavens above, what on all of the freaking earth makes you think you are either qualified to ‘help’, or that the writer is in need of help? Where ‘help’ is synonymous with ‘reader reaction’, OK, but if not, then point 3 becomes synonymous with point 4, which everyone will recognise as an obnoxious aim. This form of ‘help’ assumes a power imbalance, namely, that the writer of the story knows less than the writer of the critique. Bad, bad reason.

Aim number five should be handled with care, obviously, but if anyone tells me they ‘never’ give such a critique, I’ll stick my fingers in my ears and go latidatida, because I won’t believe a word they say. This critique type does not need to be rude in any way. In fact, there is no reason why you should ever be rude or sarcastic in a critique. This is the critique type where you get to add little snooty remarks such as:

You certainly have a story on your hands (meaning: I’m at a loss as to what else to say about this).
You certainly have wonderful ideas (meaning: but your writing is shit)
I have a feeling English is not your first language (never, EVER say this to anyone and expect them not to retaliate, cut out your guts and string them out all over the internet, even if English indeed isn’t their first language).
I would recommend that you read [insert title of writing book] (because obviously you think the person needs it badly)
I couldn’t read more than one page of this (if you really can’t for whatever reason, then don’t comment at all – this is why promising a critique is a bad idea. No single story is ever liked by everyone)
And sign off with:
Don’t give up and keep writing (because, you know, your work is so bad it’s sure as hell going to be a long, long road)

Don’t, however, give any such commentary if you expect the person to be your friend afterwards. But, that said, some writers are incompatible, and no friendly, goopy, slimy critique is ever going to change that.

Next thing: what do you aim to be the result of your critique in terms of your relationship with the writer?

1. the other writer is a crit buddy of yours or you want them to be
2. the other writer is just a contact
3. see how much I know about this subject?
4. stay out of my way, you assassin of language (quote butchered from the Disney version of Dumbo, yes I know, I watched this crap too much when the kids were little)

Again, as above, all these aims are sometimes valid, although 3 and 4 much less often than 1 and 2. This is where the balance of power comes in. Points 1 and 2 assume a more or less equal status of both writers. But sometimes, that’s not necessarily the best situation. Who doesn’t remember that one writer who took the time to tell you, in quite strong language, that your story was overwritten to death, riddled with adverbs, repeated words like shots from a machine-gun and had no POV? And you asked them: WTF is a POV? And they explained. That’s where you stood at the bottom of the slope, staring up at the steep and slippery end of the learning curve. You needed to hear this stuff from someone. At that point, you willingly acknowledged that in the field of writing, that other person had more knowledge than you.

Similarly, if I write something about a subject that’s on the edge of my knowledge, I’m happy if someone comes along and declares him/herself a specialist in that particular subject. In that case, we acknowledge an imbalance in power, and I actively authorise this person to lecture at me. On the other hand, unauthorised and un-asked-for lecturing can be problematic, if you expect/hope the person to be a longer-term contact. You know, that’s why I’m writing this post, because I SO stick to my own rules (not).

Ultimately, a critique is a manifestation of a relationship, unless it’s completely anonymous, and anonymous critique can be useful, although it’s not usually what writers are after. People want to surround themselves with a number of writers who are of the same mould, of roughly the same level, and willing to look at your work without always asking something in return. And especially with these people, with whom you’d like to maintain a relationship, it pays to heed the old adage ‘Don’t do unto others…’

My take on what makes a low-conflict critique of a piece with which you have serious problems: highlight specific concerns, rather than make sweeping statements. Laundry lists tend to sound arrogant, especially when they contain numbered bullet points. Any writer can probably only improve on one or two points at the same time, so I’d limit my commentary to a few points that form units that can be tackled in a concise manner. For example, target POV and dialogue punctuation, never mind there are other points that may need attention. Dialogue punctuation is easy to look up ad fix, while POV needs some thought. Talk about the text, not about the writer. Talk about ‘I think’ and ‘the narrative’ or ‘the dialogue’ rather than ‘this is’ and ‘your writing’. Use the first person in a critique, but avoid the second person. If you find you can’t do this for a particular piece of writing, then don’t comment at all.

I think critiquing has the most value in situations where both writers’ abilities are similar. Don’t be afraid to politely decline and move elsewhere.

reviewing the reviewer: not a good idea

Here is a post about the operations of writing groups or workshops. It’s something that annoys me immensely.

Picture the situation:

There is a group of writers who are critting each other’s work. One particular writers offers a story or a chapter, and the rest comment on it.

Next, this happens:

Reviewer 1 makes a comment about the believability of a situation a character finds himself in

Reviewer 2 comments: OMG has reviewer 1 never heard of … (insert situation). She must have been living on another planet.

I think this situation is destructive. At the moment reviewer 2 starts questioning reviewer 1’s sanity, the discussion becomes about reviewer 1 and reviewer 2 and no longer about the piece of work under consideration.

The author of the work is not a fool. He or she can read and can draw conclusions based on reviews. As reviewer, you should be offering your opinion about the text, and nothing else. The author can count (seven people get it, two don’t), and the author can decide what resonates and what doesn’t (even though two people don’t get it, that may not be a problem, or maybe one of them has said something that might fix this problem). The author doesn’t need bullies to tell him/her which fellow reviewer’s opinion has more or less weight.

Do NOT offer your unwanted and unsolicited opinion on what someone else said about a third person’s work. If you really can’t restrain yourself, do it in private.

/rant

do you have a cocoon of safety?

There have been some noises recently about writers blaming magazine editors for their failure to get published. Apparently, in case you didnt know this yet, and notice my tongue is firmly in cheek, there is a conspiracy that prevents new writers from getting published. On a more serious note, fellow ex-OWW-er Ann Leckie discussed coping mechanisms for writers who suffer lots of rejections and not much success. For obvious reasons, she suggested that lashing out at editors on a public site is probably a bad idea.

I’ve thought about these coping mechanisms, and one of them is the cocoon.

Let me explain.

Do you have a tight-knit group of writers who first joined XX workshop about the same time you did? Do you always/mostly read their work and give them supportive commentary? Do you as a group band together when someone, mostly someone who hasn’t been at the site/workshop for as long as you have, and ‘obviously’ doesn’t know the ‘rules’, gives any of your group an ‘unnecessarily’ harsh review? Do you all agree and chime in that this person is an idiot and excessively rude to boot, and none of you will ever return their reviews?

If you’ve answered yes to most of these questions, then you have a cocoon, a place where you can slip after your confidence has taken a beating, and where everyone will confirm that yes, you are a good writer, and the world out there is just full of idiots.

Cocoons are very useful. Often, these people will be your friends for much of your writing career. They give you safety, and a place to run where you can be sure that people are nice to you. That’s fine, but they’re a coping mechanism, and it’s good to realise what’s happening.

To make progress in your writing, there comes a time you must step outside the cocoon and face the harsh world. Keep the cocoon and take shelter when life is temporarily too hard, but don’t confuse your cocoon with the general readership, or with possible reactions from agents and publishers.

scared to review?

‘But I don’t know how to review!’

Having been around writer’s workshops a bit, this is one sentiment I’ve heard from new members who are new to commenting on other people’s writing.

To which I say: rubbish.

You’re a reader, right? You like or dislike a story, its characters or its world. You have an opinion, therefore you can write a review.

Because that is what the writer most wants to hear: where did you stumble and which characters held or didn’t hold your interest. Where in the story did you start checking your Email? Most importantly: why? Give simple reasons: the character was too nasty. I didn’t believe so-and-so would do such-and-such. I thought the dialogue was too stilted, and made me laugh where I don’t think that was your intention. I think this story sounds too much like [insert name of book]. Stuff like that. You can keep it brief and general, but tell the author WHY you felt a certain way. There is really nothing to it, and you don’t need a degree in literature.

But what about the nitty-gritty details?

If you feel inclined to comment on style and grammar, again, I’d stick to general impressions:
– The dialogue punctuation isn’t always correct.
– Try to vary sentence length
– Re-word some sentences so they don’t all start with the subject
Stuff like that. You’d have to trust that the author can make his or her own decision about doing something about it and finding help to do so, if they need it. It’s not a good idea to quote writing books/blogs at fellow writers

Don’t waste valuable time rewriting other people’s sentences. A writer isn’t so much interested in people who will re-write their prose, even if only for the simple reason that they write in a certain way and the person rewriting their prose… is another person writing in a different way and the two will never happily coincide. They may say ‘thank you’, but rest assured, if you can’t hear the teeth gnashing in the background, you’re not listening.

It’s good to know what stage the draft is at. First drafts are good for overall plot comments, but at that stage, pointing out typos would be a waste of time. In a final draft, those two would be reversed. If in doubt ask or stick to short comments.

There’s really nothing to it. Give your reaction to the piece. Any reaction will do.

Please don’t tell me it’s wonderful

A bit more about workshops and critiqueing here.

There is a lot of talk about reviewers, and what an ideal review should be like. Some people say ‘don’t say anything if you can’t say anything nice’, some people advocate the ‘sandwich method’, in which you put a ‘negative’ comment between two positives.

Personally, I think that is all very well for people who just start out on the crit group circuit, writers who are still feeling their way ahead, who want to be encouraged as much as critted.

There comes a time, though, that the more serious writer will feel like saying ‘just give it to me straight and cut the waffle’.

Ultimately, I think the most damaging critique you can receive in a crit group is one which says the submission is wonderful.

It lulls the writer into a false bubble of comfort, that the story is perfect, that you could never improve it, that every reader is going to like it.

Well, that only sets you up for disappointment.

A thorough crit from a very critical reviewer gives you a valuable window into how another reader experiences the story. The reviewer may something you don’t agree with, but how did the reviewer come to that conclusion? Is the basis for the reviewer’s reaction some point in your story where you neglected to mention something, or did mention something to give the reviewer this idea?

I’ll use a couple of the less-illustrious comments I’ve received as examples. More about them below:

A reviewer said: These are not sentences. This is a problem throughout the submission.
My first reaction: what an idiot. Has he never heard of sentence fragments as stylistic feature in action scenes?
My reaction later: Maybe I’ve used too many fragments.

A reviewer said (free interpretation): the setup in this story suggests that these people were direct descendants of Adam and Eve, but that doesn’t make sense in relation of what happens in this story
My first reaction: [insert on cue swear words]. What sort of cloud is this person living on? I’m an atheist, and there are no religious references in this story. This person is crazy.
Reaction much later, after much mulling: OK, I think I assumed too much of my own mindset, and I need to add some detail to steer readers towards my vision of this world. If the reviewer thought all this, I’ve obviously failed to communicate some worldbuilding.

The point is that no matter how crazy you think a comment is, it’s always made in reaction to something you’ve written, and if a reviewer gives a crazy interpretation, you’ve failed somewhere in your writing, at least for that person. You might also look through your other reviewers’ reports and find the same comment hidden between the lines.

When someone makes a comment on your writing, there are some points to consider:

1. Do you think they have a point? Don’t let anger cloud the response to your reply here.
2. If you think they have a point, does it matter?
3. Do you think you should/can do something about it?

Now you have read all the reviews and you’re considering all the comments, but you still haven’t changed a thing in your story. Here are some more points:

1. Never change anything on the say-so of one reviewer unless it’s a typo or he/she holds a paycheque.
2. A reviewer’s comment is a reaction, a suggestion, but never an order.
3. A reviewer’s comment should make you think (the best ones make you think for days).
4. Nothing is ever set in concrete.
5. If your chosen approach doesn’t work, why not try one of the more outlandish reviewers’ suggestions?
6. Ultimately, a story is yours, and anything you change should be your work.
7. Any stubbornness is your, too.

On writing communities – SF-OWW

A while ago, I posted an entry about getting your work read in a writing workshop. As extension to that post, I thought to give writers the opportunity to write about the writing communities/workshops to which they belong. Below is the first such entry, about the US-based Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy and Horror. I belonged to this group myself for four years, but asked my writing friend, editor of Flash Me Magazine, Jennifer Dawson (who’s been a member for much longer) to write this entry. Her words pretty much speak for themselves, but I can endorse them: this site is worth belonging to, even though it’s not free.

The Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com/) is an online community of writers who help each other improve their work. I have been a member of OWW for more than eight years and have found the workshop invaluable for polishing short stories and novels. It’s the perfect place for new writers who need help making their stories publishable. It’s also a great place for published authors who like feedback before sending stories out into the publishing world. With a wide variety of members with varying degrees of experience, OWW is a huge watering hole where you can develop friendships and connections.
Through the website you can post your writing for reviews, critique interesting work by others, participate in writing-related discussions, and browse their extensive list of resources for writers. They have two yahoo discussion groups available for members to meet and greet, a member directory, and features that allow you to search all posted stories by genre, target audience, and type of post (short stories, chapters, synopses, etc).
Every month their Resident Editors – professionals in the speculative-fiction field with experience and publications to their names – review selected submissions for members to read and learn from. The workshop also thanks their current most active reviewers on the front page of the workshop. Add to that a Reviewer Honor Roll where members nominate top reviewers and thank them publicly, and you’ll see that OWW offers more extras than any other writing workshop.
Many published authors have been or are currently members of OWW; you may recognize some of them: Suzanne McLeod, Ilona Andrews, Ron Leming, C. C. Finlay, Elizabeth Bear, Sherry Thompson, Sarah Prineas, Ian Tregillis, Carlos Cortes, and Joshua Palmatier. Those are just a few that have books out now.
The strengths of this workshop are the available resources, the wide range of submissions available to review, and the multitude of people who participate. It’s a deep well of stories, novels, new authors and published ones. That said, it’s not an intimate workshop. To be reviewed, you’ll need to review others, and try to develop reviewing relationships. The plus side is that you can focus on reviewing authors who write your genre and are on your level of writing so you can both learn from the process. The downside is that you can’t jump in and expect dozens of reviews on your submissions – it takes time to develop relationships and lure new readers in. You get out of the workshop what you put into it. You choose your own level of participation.
OWW offers a free 30-day membership so you can test-drive the workshop. This comes with four review points so you can post your first submission before contributing any reviews. After that, the rest is up to you. If you’re new to writing workshops, there are great articles on the OWW website on how to review, and I’d recommend reading them (and a few reviews) before giving your first reviews. I’d also recommend mentioning that you are a trial member in your first few reviews so those authors can try to return the favor of a review before your trial period is up. Be honest, but constructive, review a wide range of authors, and review posts similar to your post – similar genre and word count.
After a one-month free trial, an annual membership costs a reasonable $49 a year. They also sell smaller memberships for those who prefer shorter commitments. It is well worth the money, and I would recommend the workshop to any writer.

Before you jump – considerations about writing workshops

I first joined a writing workshop in October 2004. At that time, I had published in non-fiction, but I had never shown my fiction to anyone, even though I’d written since I could pick up a pen. Showing a bunch of strangers my writing was the most scary thing I’d ever done.

So – before you join a writing workshop – what it is, what can you expect, and why should you join?

First of all, a definition. By writing workshop I mean a place, online or in real life, where writers post their work and have their peers read and comment. I do not mean writing courses given by experts, or critiqueing services by experts. Writing workshops are free, or if there is a fee, it is to maintain the site, not to pay reviewers.

Why should you join?
I’ll play the question back at you: why shouldn’t you? If you write for an audience, there comes a time that your writing should go out to an audience. Here is your audience, ready to read.

What can you expect?
To learn lots, but in many unquantifyable ways. Your fellow workshop members will also be aspiring writers. They have no great knowledge of marketability, or even of writing techniques, but they are readers, and have valid opinions about what they read. They allow you to see your manuscript through the eyes of a reader. Their opiniions are valuable.

What should you do when you’re in a workshop?

Don’t just sit there! Offer reviews, return reviews, or partake in discussion.

When someone gives you comments: don’t talk back. Don’t explain. Don’t attempt to make them see your point of view. You can’t do this with anonymous readers either. If you buy a book, you don’t get a little version of the author sitting on your shoulder explaining stuff.
Develop some distance form your work. Don’t get defensive. Thicken your skin.
Wait until all comments are in before you decide what to do with your work. Never edit to please one particular reviewer.
Put all ‘this is great’ reviews in a folder, stick them away under the bed for a rainy day, and ignore them.
Never dismiss any review that has ‘negative’ things, not even the wild outliers. In my experience, these comments are often right.
If anyone says ‘you will surely sell this’ for crying out loud, delete it and forget about it. No one in this workshop has sold anything major and no one knows about selling fiction. It will only serve to inflate your head, and that is the last thing you need.

When giving comments:
Remain polite.
Sarcasm is as bad as rudeness.
Always re-read your reviews for anything that could be interpreted in ways you hadn’t intended.
Don’t EVER quote writing books at people, unless you want to come off as a mega-arrogant prick.
Try not to re-write people’s sentences.
Give people you review a bit of space to digest it.

Above all, have fun. Connect with writers and improve your work out of sight.