Let me set up a scene for you. We’re in a Panera in the heart of Chicago’s south loop. It’s smack dab in the middle of three overlapping college campuses and during that awkward part of the day that’s not-quite-noon and not-quite dinner, when you’re starving but not allowed to admit it. The place is comfortably crowded, there’s still a solid amount of students lingering after the lunch rush with laptops open and plates littered with bits of lettuces and crumbs. Coffee flows freely, the smell of strong brew permeates in the air. There’s one, maybe two tables open with enough room for you and your squad. One of them is small but the other one clearly hasn’t been cleaned yet. Seats are taken, snacks are ordered, pages are out and felt-tip markers of fanciful colors are at the ready.
Now, the simple answer is to pass whatever work you have with you to the right, but writer’s aren’t simple. You’ve brought a couple of pieces, at request. There’s chapter 6 for buddy A-but don’t give it to buddy B because they’re not there yet. You specifically want buddy C’s opinion on this snip it from chapter 11 because you were emulating them while writing it and want to know how you did. You’re not the only one who brought more than one piece, of course not. Arms tangle together and voices combat each other for attention as every piece of paper on the table gets shuffled at least twice. At some point during this frenzy the waitress arrives and drops the food right in the middle of that mess.
At the ends, everyone’s got their own pile to work on. A silence falls over the table as eyes scroll past lines and lines of words.
Buddy A stops mid-read, looks up at buddy B, and slowly shakes their head. Buddy B looks smug. You worry about the pain about to be inflicted on your precious cinnamon roll, whom you’re fairly certain is in the scene that is currently disappointing buddy A. Not even five minutes later, you hear a small gasp from buddy C. Try as you might, you fail to smoother the grin that comes to your face. Buddy B snorts and scribbles a rather passionate note. In the piece sitting in front of you, you find yourself underlining every two or three sentences. You can’t help it. All of the imagery being used, it puts you to shame in all the best ways.
You are the first one to finish reading and, as such, have nothing to do but to stare at your buddies until they are done. You take this opportunity to go to the bathroom/refill your mug/actually eat something. One by one all Buddies finish. Rinse and repeat.
Finally, everyone is finished with all the reading and takes turns commenting on each other’s work. Buddy A’s sensory detail is poetic and beautiful, but they could use a little more inner monologue to connect with the characters. Buddy B’s dialogue is on point, all they need to do is keep writing. Buddy C got the bare bones but needs to expand on a couple of things. And you, as it turned out, nailed the characters. That’s exactly what you were worried about, so it’s a relief to hear that’s it’s not a problem. On the other hand, your plot is in danger of being convoluted, so best to keep an eye on that.
You glance at the pages you’ve received back. It’s stained in many colors, drawings, and witty remarks on what is happening on the page. Many lines are underlined and given an A+. There is are a couple of O_O, denoting all the tenser parts in the scene. On the last page, a Buddy that writes in blue asks “Why? Why? Did your parents not love you enough?”
Outside it’s getting dark. While Panera was once bustling, it is now comfortable sparse. You and the crew put away your pieces and spend an hour talking about classes, work, and things of a nerdy nature. After a while, you excuse yourself and start the trek home.