Monday, February 9, 2009

Review & Get Feedback

The web is a great, big ocean in which you can find an amazing critique site or online workshop that fits your needs and gets you the feedback you need to grow as a writer and polish up your MS.

Getting a book ready for publication is not a solitary endeavor. Once your book is written and has been edited by you and some of your close buds, it's time to bring it to a table with strangers. The revision process should be a group effort. Many writers make the mistake of thinking that a spit and polish is good enough and the manuscript is ready to shop. Nope. I know it's soul-baring and scary to put your work out there for scrutiny, but if you're serious about having a writing career, you need to get a little uncomfortable and realize outside critique is your next step.

Here are some pitstops to consider.

If you write novels and are unpublished or self-published, you can post your novels and get critiqued for free at Authonomy, which is run by HarperCollins. The site brings writers, readers and publishers together in a community that celebrates and recognizes good writing. Editors read the most popular manuscripts each month in search of the best, undiscovered writers out there, so this is a good way to polish your work while getting your foot in the door at the same time. With the pickiness over first publication rights, I'm leery about posting at Authonomy. But I thought I'd through the option out there since many writers use it.

If you write YA, you can post to Inkpop, which is similar to Authonomy.

Some people have gotten a lot of followers and feedback for their work at Wattpad. I wouldn't post my whole work there, but that's just me.

I've belonged to TheNextBigWriter for almost three years, and I've been extremely happy with the feedback I've received. My work is sooo much stronger because of the awesome people who've taken the time to read my book. Even if I become a famous author, as long as publishers don't lock me in a closet, I'll still be in need of feedback, and hopefully I'll be allowed to get it here. TNBW has a yearly membership fee of $49.95.

FanStory is also a read and review site for poems, short stories, novels, other books and scripts that has a membership fee of $48 for a yearly subscription or $69 for two years. You can also use it to advertise books that are in print and sold on Amazon. It's worth the fee just for that and the frequent contests it runs, most offering $100 prizes. For instance, here are the two Valentine contests:

Valentines Love Poem

Write a poem where the first letter of each line spells out a word. Your love poem can be fictional or non-fictional. It can be humorous or a serious love poem. The choice is yours. $100 prize for the winner of this contest for poets.

Deadline: Feb. 14th

Valentines Story

For our Valentines Story Writing Contest we are looking for stories that have Valentines Day playing a clear role in the storyline. Creative approaches welcomed. $100 prize for the winner of this writing contest.

Deadline: Feb. 14th

I signed up as a reviewer at FanStory to check out the lay of the land. So far, this site seems to be busier than TheNextBigWriter, as it claims over 4400 reviews have been received so far today, but I'll have to check out the quality of the feedback.

Some of the most popular free critique sites are the Share Your Work section at AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler, Writing Forums, Scribes, Christian Writers, Critters [for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror]. Critters looked pretty good and professional if you write in those genres.

I don't really think critique forums are a great place for posting entire works because of their disorganization, but if you're looking for feedback on your first few pages, first three chapters or a clumsy section, it could be very beneficial. The pay sites seem to attract more serious writers and readers, rather than just cheerleaders.

Many writers have a fear of their work being stolen when it's online. While that is somewhat valid, the possibility is way overblown. You have a much bigger threat of never being published, especially if you don't have a good product. If you're a writer who fears plagarsim, you'll have to balance the slim risk of theft versus the benefits of receiving the type of feedback that can help you make your work more marketable. For me, it's worth the risk. You can always stagger your work to so it's not all up at the same time.

When looking for an online writing community, look for these important characteristics to get the most out of your membership:
Encouragement and tough love
An excellent writer/reader perspective
A good review exchange
Privacy - only use a workshop on a password protected site, which keeps your First Publication Rights intact.

It's impossible to please every reader. Someone will have issue with your work, especially once it's published, that's reality, but with a well-written, finely polished product, at least you can say you put out your best.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Stubborn Characters

While working on a novel, have you ever had your characters insist your story take certain turns or that you must bow to their desires and needs? Yeah I know. I DO know they're not real, but they often feel very real, and I swear my characters have demanded directions and traits that I never anticpated or wanted to use in the story. These loud, bossy creations really seem to exist on another plane or in a different dimension and are aiming to break into this one. That's a definite mark of good character development I suppose.

In my book Kings & Queens, there's a town rumor about a girl disappearing. Originally, I had put it in merely to add some texture and history to Cedar Creek, the main setting for my story, and give some pre-existing fear of the woods. Children avoid it. When I got into the thick of my story, two of my characters wanted me to make them responsible for what happened to the girl. I never intended on making that a bigger part of my story, but they practically shoved me into affixing the urban legend to them. Maybe they thought it would make them look cooler or something. I don't know. So I did as they asked and my work became stronger, adding one more mystery for readers to uncover.

Then in my sequel, Sapphire Reign, my main character has a little brother, who's ten. For some reason, he wanted to be called Brighton. Sorry if that's your name, but I'm not a fan of it. It's ALL British. No way around it. It's very stuffy and pretentious. My MC is Majesty and her sister is Skye and the name "Brighton" doesn't really fit with them. A name like Adonis or something more exotic would match better. Well, maybe not Adonis, but you know what I mean. I tried to brainstorm and come up with another more suitable name to complete the set, but I could not ditch the name Brighton. That's who he wanted to be. Not Bryton or Bryten. Brighton. It fit him. He liked it. End of story. Sure. Who am I but the lowly author, subject to characters' demands.

So, I thought, well maybe that name has some great meaning I'm unaware of, like strong defender or something. Nope. It just means a Brit or a place in Britain. I think he likes the bright part of it, as he aims to be an encourager. And he's brilliant, hence bright. Maybe he just has a quirky sense of humor or a dash of conceit.

I know every writer sees and feels their character steering their work, but do your characters ever take control of your story and make demands you cannot ignore or omit? That stubborn insistence is annoying, but those dimension busters are usually dead on right. So I tend to cave and give in.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.