Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Contests, Comments, and Cloaks

“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.”

- Mark Twain

Sometimes I wonder if I put too much out there. I don’t mean sharing my personal life. I mean sharing my work.

I’m not concerned someone will steal my brilliant ideas.

I’m concerned about the value of sharing queries and snippets of pieces.

Do you worry about this?

I’ve read the advice to enter contests. Success stories float around as proof. I even won a Secret Agent contest last spring. (Although said agent later rejected the pages she requested.)

If I’ve benefited, why am I now wary of putting my work out there?

1) The more I blab titles and plots and first lines, the less anonymous I am when I post on other blogs.

If I didn’t talk specifics of my work and decided to enter an agent contest, it would be okay. But I have this blog, and 2nd blog, and Facebook. While I don’t talk about my work all the time, I’ve mentioned it enough.

2) Anyone can comment. Last March, someone was so mean, I cried. (She seemed to be a serial negative commenter.) But it’s more than worrying about hurt feelings. When we choose people to read our manuscripts, we do so with care. We need to respect the critiquer in order to respect the comments. I do think most people comment to help. But if there’s no filter over who comments, how much weight should we assign to their comments?

Stephen King has 3 people read his manuscripts. That’s it. Yes, I know, he’s Stephen King. But there’s logic behind his method. Too many critiquers mean a variety of opinions. The “correct” answer becomes muddled. So if 1 out of 3 tell him to change something, he knows it’s an opinion. He leaves it. If 2 out of 3 tells him to change it, he knows it’s a flaw. He changes it.

3) I feel less professional. Those with 2nd and 3rd books coming out probably don’t enter contests. Maybe it’s good for someone trying to get an agent for a 1st book to hold back a little.

4) What am I supposed to do with all this conflicting advice? Most of these agents are secret until after the comments from the agent have been given. A recent comment I received from an agent made me question the agent’s familiarity with my genre.

The next comments about my query were all over the place. This was after I’d just tightened it based on recommendations from a well-known query expert and a NYT Bestselling author. Those two respected individuals warned me against subplots and bringing up too many characters. Everyone at the contest wanted me to add subplots and characters.

How can I be objective about subjective comments?

It made me regret the few contests I’ve recently entered.

Let me say, none of the comments were mean-spirited. The advice suggested minor tweaking. I’m not reacting over bad critiques -- just baffling ones.

It makes me ask,

What am I getting out of this?

From now on, I’m going to be less forthright about the content of my writing. This way, if I want to enter a contest, I’ve got an invisibility cloak.

And I’m going to be choosy about the contests I enter. I may not enter a secret agent contest on a blog that doesn’t do this consistently. When I do, I will have to give less weight to the comments. While I think they’ve sometimes been helpful in the past, sometimes the multitude of advice makes my brain buzz like a bee.

I’ll concentrate my energies for my critique partners and beta buddies. They’re the ones I trust. They’re the ones who help me make my manuscript shine. They’re the ones I’ll put in my acknowledgements one day.

The more choices in front of me, the more I struggle to make a choice.

To keep my instinct sharp, I need to limit the voices.

I need to take back control.

Writers, do you share your work on the Internet?

If you haven’t, why not?

If you have, has it helped you?

P.S. Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.

by Medeia Sharif is available on Amazon NOW!

To celebrate, anyone who comments on this post

has a chance to win a signed bookmark

from Medeia Sharif. Good luck!


  1. -looks left and right- Is my computer malfunctioning? Am I really the first to comment or is this just an illusion?

    I'm one step behing you. I'm still worrying over how to find and decide on CPs and Beta readers.

    I like Stephen King's method. Very logical.

    I've been wondering what the Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. was. Now I realize it's a book. XD

  2. I don't usually put anything unpublished online, except I did enter my first 250 words of my YA for a first page critique by an agent. There's no guarantee I'll get any feedback, but I once heard that you shouldn't put your stuff online, so I haven't. Only some poems that I don't plan to publish. I don't know enough about poetry to submit them. When people are able to leave comments anonymously, they can be so mean. I haven't had that happen yet, but I know it would really get to me. I'd say only sharing with your crit partners and beta readers is the best way to go, and you know you can trust them.

  3. Every time I've put my writing out there to get LOTS of feedback it makes my brain hurt. I have a few people's opinions that I REALLY trust, and so I weigh EVERY suggestion they have, because I trust their judgment. Sometimes, in contests I've seen BRILLIANT writing (not mine) be totally torn apart, and part of me wonders if people did it on purpose, make sense??

    So, yeah. I'm BARELY past that point, but my agent's reading my second book and I've been chewing on my nails all weekend. Fortunately, she's really nice and sent me a brief email to say she loved it as much as the first thing I sent her (whew)


    My basic comment is this: find people you trust. Listen to them. The rest is just... stuff...

  4. I was very relieved to read this post, as I have been thinking similar thoughts. I posted my query letter last week. BIG mistake. I'll never post my work online again. It's not that the advice I received wasn't good, it's that it was inconsistent. In the end, I learned little about my query letter. From now on I'll stick to talking about writing, not sharing my writing on my blog. Reading my work will be reserved for a special few!

  5. Good choices all around. I don't enter much either, only if prompted for a very particular reason. And you can't put stock in lots and lots of opinions - better to know the people first, then get their opinion.

    Queries are treachery anyway. Too much advice can easily ruin something that works.

  6. I think about this a lot too! The only thing I put on the internet is one sentence - the pitch. Once I put the first sentence for an annual contest and only because it's so reputable and doesn't invite a bazillion responses.

    I'm very wary of sharing my work, of inviting too much random opinion, and yes, of plagiarism on a subconscious level. I've recently become aware of overediting as well, so I try to preserve my voice as much as possible.

  7. I like your approach in trying to avoid having too many readers for a draft work Theresa. With so many styles and approaches, it can be frustrating for the writer and result in a busy final product when their are too many drivers.

  8. Nevah put your stuff online. I can't tell you the importance of this. Learned it long ago from my crit partner, Beth. So I listened. Only betas and CP's can see my stuff.

    And you are right not to expose your work to all of the contests that are out there. Look, girlfriend. You can have way too many eyes looking at your writing/query. You only need a handful. That's it.

    Talk about your writing, but don't put it out in the public domain. Someday soon it will be in the library/bookstore, then we will all be able to read it. But until then, mums the word. :-)

  9. I didn't share my work online!! I wanted to see it in print not on my blog!!

    Well, about advises, I would give them a thought but won't take everything very very serious!!

    Sorry that you found someone who hurt you with his negativism!!

    Just do listen to your heart!!

    with warm regards
    Another Author

  10. I have the first five percent of my book available for free from Kindle and Smashwords. So yes, I do share my work on the Internet. I have to think it helps as it gives potential buyers a chance to review your work. I think people apppreciate that.

  11. The conflicting advice would make a head spin. I think it is a good idea to pull back a bit. You have critique partners and beta readers that you trust. Oh and don't let the nastiest bring you down. Trust your instincts.

  12. This is a profound and deep post you've created here Theresa. First off, that person that made you cry in the comments is just nasty because I know you are extremely talented and I stand behind you and would definitely buy your book if it were made available.

    I have no advice to give on agents but I don't think you should be afraid of putting your work out there. The thing that you need to fear is self-doubt. There are so many people in this world that tell other people that they suck in so many different ways I find it appalling. I think there is beauty in just about everyone that I meet, especially in those that are humble and who haven't had the breaks that other people have gotten.

  13. Hi Theresa .. you've got some good advice from your fellow authors ..

    I wonder if perhaps a memoir book on subbing .. might be a thought - just keeping it under wraps while you write these thoughts .. that get bashed up by people with no apparent knowledge of you or who you are: you know your world, and funnily enough you know you!

    Do you belong to a local writing group? If you can find a few local friends .. that would help too ..

    Cheers and good luck Hilary

  14. Theresa Milstein! I am so sorry for all the confusion thrown up at you for your querying and stories. Sometimes too much information is not good!

    I think that's why I confine my writerly endeavours to creative writing groups. So I join a creative writers' course for a few weeks - it's disciplined, it's focused and you have one teacher and classmates in the same boat. There are no egos (well of course there are but they are kept in check by the structure of the lessons), no-one trying to sell their books, no-one trying to gain publicity, no-one thinking they know any better. So far I've been really lucky with the classes I've joined. I've learned more from these classes than with anyone. Also I do have two published writerly friends (both went the traditional route of being agented and finding really big publishers, one fiction writer, the other non-fiction) and I learn more from their experiences than with anything else. And it ain't a bed of roses. I appreciate all that the writerly blogworld has to offer but for me - it's what I experience and go through that matters in my haphazard writerly career with these friends and classes who continue to shape my writing rather than anything that goes on in the internet. I think the most positive aspects of the writerly blogworld are the many links to writing opportunities and competitions and the sense of community. Being a writer (or in my case, trying to be one! LOL!) is very lonely and the blogworld has comforted me no end. But for me, if I am to be serious about my writing, I need to distance myself from here simply because there is much too much non-peer reviewed info. for a silly mind like mine!

    I'm rambling! Sorry! take care

  15. I used to share my stuff with a lot of people in the beginning because I was trying to find some sort of validation for my work. But I didn't get that. I just got so many conflicting opinions that in the end I lost my OWN voice. Then my publisher came along and squeezed the real me out again. Now I only share with the people who know and appreciate my style, who know what my goals are in my writing, and who understand my intentions. This way I know that the advice I'm getting is definitely focused on making MY work better, rather than turning the work into something that it's not.

    I think it's best to stay away from contests and put your energy into getting published CREDITS. They are more valuable I find. If there is another editor out there who likes your work, then the chances of an agent liking your work is greater. AND it's cheaper for you in the long run :o)

  16. I've been in a similar situation. I've put my first page up, first line.. And the feedback I get varies widely. It's difficult to please everyone and I know it's merely a subjective thing. Trisha Leaver posted on this very thing the other day. Be careful which advice you take. I really think Stephen King knows what he's talking about.

  17. The only work I share on my blog and website is work that's already been published, and it's not really open to critique. Only a few very trusted people see my writing before that.

  18. I was briefly in an online critique group, and I didn't care for it. Sometimes I got no response, and other times I'd get varied responses. I've never posted anything online since then.

    If I wasn't agented and published, then perhaps I'd be entering online contests now. Things have changed since I started querying, and these online opportunities weren't available before.

    I've emailed people my manuscript for a beta read, and that's different. I like the one-on-one interaction. And like Stephen King, I want a small number of readers.

    My in-person critique group also does wonders. Getting a critique for one chapter gives me ideas on how to change other chapters.

    Don't get upset by what people say since things are subjective. Despite what people think, keep working hard and honing your skill until you hear your first yes.

    Thanks for giving away my bookmark. :)

  19. can always count on you for a juicy post!
    the problem is, they are all right, for them!

    anyone offering advice as a published author tells what worked for them, as an agent tells what they like, as unpublished tells what they have read or been told or just what they like as a reader - consider the source

    as for putting work out there and feedback from the public, i enter short stories or small pieces of my wip ms. i dont trust strangers w/ my baby, but i listen to advice and use what i choose to. it's still my stuff and i know some won't like it and we can't please all =)

  20. Marcy Hatch and I offer first page critiques every month on our blogs. Sometimes we give opposite advice. So yes, it's hard to weed through the suggestions sometimes.

    I share snippets of my work on my blog -- but only WIPs. Anything that has already gone to my agent, I clam up on. Sure, you can go back in my archives and read about it when it was still in progress, but that's fine with me.

    I think, in your heart, you can weed out the good advice from the bad. As you said in your post, you know that you're supposed to keep subplots and extra characters out of your query -- unless there's a compelling reason to hint at them. The people who told you otherwise were, of course, trying to be helpful. But if you know the advice is wrong, then just thank them politely and move on.

    As for people who are just mean -- I haven't encountered that on blogs, but I certainly have in other online realms: Amazon discussion groups, LibraryThing, etc. I don't stick around any place where people are regularly mean. And serial negative commenters are basically trolls, trying to stir up trouble for their own amusement. Best to see it for what it is and ignore it. (or delete it, if it is your blog)

  21. I don't share my work on the internet. I do value my critique partners. I have two and am looking at a possible third.

  22. Yeah I have to say I wouldn't share any part of my novel on the Internet. Not the title, not the first line, nothing...

    Short stories and silly blogfests are different. Nothing wrong with those.

  23. Nope, I do not share my work on the internet. And I don't enter contests for agents, etc because I have a publisher that I'm happy with. My problem is writing fast enough, and getting to the real work of writing. So I have to limit what I do online or it can suck my creativity dry. A little bit is great but when I go over the edge, it takes away from the real work of writing.

  24. Wow, what a loaded post! (And just scrolling down the comments here, you've provoked a great deal of thought.) As I was reading your post, it reminded me of a pet peeve: I loathe unsolicited advice. And so, I suppose, comments that contain advice and have not been requested are in that category. When I want feedback on my writing, I seek it directly from specific people, and I tell them exactly what I'm looking for in terms of that feedback. I also agree with the Stephen King approach -- not necessarily limiting reviewers to 3, but unless a comment is corroborated, it's not valid. Subjectivity will always be part of a person's feedback, and so one person (who isn't the author) should not be the "decider." I've shared excerpts of my already-published novel on the web, but I don't think I'd share a work-in-progress. "Too many cooks spoil the broth," and the Internet has... how many cooks?

  25. @ Brooke, you have the "honor" of being my first commenter of the post!

    You should follow Medeia's blog. She's a prolific reader like you.

    If you think you want to exchange with someone, I'd suggest sharing a chapter first to see if you're a good fit.

    @ LynNerd, I think the danger of people stealing your work is slim. I've heard the opposite - it's okay to post work. Not a whole book, but a bit. But I'm more concerned about whether I'm really getting much out of it.

    You're right, beta readers and critique partners is a much better way to go.

    @ Jolene, EXACTLY! You should've written the post for me. Nobody can just say, "Good job." It's their aim to pick it apart. And if the feedback is all over the place, what purpose does it serve?

    Thanks for the advice.

    I'm glad your agent is enjoying your book!

    @ Emily, funny that I helped you and all of you guys helped me. It's nice to know many people feel the same way.

    I've had feedback telling me to do everything under the sun. It's too much!

    @ Susan, yes, too much advice is like none at all. Better to have people whom we trust.

    And that's how I feel about queries! After having two expert people give me feedback, only to have people I didn't know telling me to change it was confusing.

    @ Sophia, you make excellent points. Just doing pitch contests or ones where you e-mail the agent or editor is fine. The rest, I'm going to stop.

    And the danger of losing our voice by listening to too much feedback is a big possibility.

    @ Slamdunk, I love your driving analogy. Yeah, how many backseat drivers do I need?

    @ Robyn, didn't Beth put up stuff anonymously on the Authoress's blog? But if you don't blab about titles and first 250 words and queries, you can do that without anyone knowing it's you.

    Wish I'd done that. Next manuscript...

    @ AllMyPosts, I think you have a good philosophy about not posting on-line. I got swept up in the "opportunities".

    Luckily, my only harsh comment was over a year ago, and the agent + other writers defended me. A month later, I submitted on the same blog and won a 10-page agent critique.

    @ Stephen, I think that makes sense. Sample chapters are up for buyers now, just like readers can leaf through a book at the store. But for unpublished people like me, I'm worried I'm losing more than I'm gaining.

  26. I think you are on the right track. Remember feedback is subjective, so do what you feel is best for your story.

    I've had similar feelings sending my work out there and getting conflicting feedback. I'm on a third rewrite of one of my stories. It got so bad after the second rewrite that it wasn't even the same story. It's hard to know sometimes what to do. But I try to tell myself to stay true to the story I originally intended to write.

    Good luck.

  27. Interesting post -
    I'm overly cautious about my work, (and probably have no reason to be!) I dont share anything unpublished on the web. Some published short stories are available to read on my blog but my unpublished shorts and my novel work won't ever be, as long as they remain unpublished :)

    I write short stories so for magpie writing prompts on the blog - I write poems, firstly because I want to work on improving at that form and secondly because I don't consider it my field of expertise so to speak...I would worry too much about any short stories being plagerised.
    I've no experience of the competitions you mention, and maybe I should dip my toe in that water, but then I wouldnt have any time for writing - as I said i hold back!

  28. @ Ann, thanks for the advice. I'll trust my instincts.

    @ Michael, thanks for the nice words. A month after that mean comment, I won a critique from my entry, so I was able to move on.

    I think the problem with some of the contests is that people want to look for problems. And it goes to show by the conflicting "problems" they find, how subject the feedback can be. But sometimes advice helps steer me in the right direction too.

    @ Hilary, thanks for the advice. I have people to read my work, so I'm all set there. I've been entering the contests in order to have agents read my work, but then there's all the other stuff involved that I'm not crazy about.

    I've thought about writing a memoir about subbing. But as my own protagonist, I have to have an ending to my story. So far, I haven't gotten a new job to get me out of it.

    @ Old Kitty, you are a writer! You're even a PUBLISHED author.

    I'm impressed that you join creative writing classes and have groups with which to share feedback. I like that you've always been private about your work. I think I'll exercise some privacy from now on.

    If only I knew what you looked like...

    Love your rambles. Long comments are my favorite kind!

    @ Jessica, you're right - voice is more important than validation. While I've gotten some good opportunities and feedback, it's sifting through a lot of other stuff to get there.

    And then if I get Naked Eye published, people will say, haven't I heard about this story for 3 years already? I'm going to pull back a bit.

    I agree, I want to pile up some publishing credits instead.

    @ Miranda, I agree with everything you say. I've noticed that on these contests, the most popular entries are the ones that go right into action. But plenty of books get published that are about raising interest and making first character impressions interesting. Agents seem to get this in their comments but often the other commenters look for action to pull them in.

    @ Joanne, that's wise. I'm going to consider pitch contests for this manuscript, but nothing else.

    @ Medeia, I like the one-on-one relationships with other critique partners too.

    I'm happy to give away the bookmark. I look forward to reading your book!

  29. I'm so excited for Medeia's book! I can't wait :)

    I know exactly what you mean about conflicting advice. I don't often enter those contests. Partially it's due to my own lack of self-confidence, but part of it is exactly what you said: too much conflicting advice, and the possibility that the agent doesn't know the genre. I once got back a critique on a YA telling me my sentences were too long. I combed through what I had sent it and found nothing overly complex (which she had also mentioned) or too long. It made me wonder if she never dealt with anything but adult literature, and thought YA meant for 3rd graders or something. *sigh*

  30. I did use a site to help me with my queries, and it was worth it to have a chance to see what the formula is and how other people perceive what you write. But, in the end, it is all about your style and sometimes being too formula takes away the voice of the original submission. At the end of the day, it's your butt in the chair writing the thing, so the ability to self-edit is crucial.

    I rely on a few trusted crit partners to look at my other stuff. We know each other enough to really be blunt but not hurtful. I also think it's wise to have someone you're invested in as a partner--makes you care about them as a whole and their success and you'll look at their stuff with a better eye, and vice versa.

  31. It looks like you struck a nerve.

    Feedback is good, but too much can be too much. At some point, you have to figure out what is right for you. Consider the source. Trust your instincts. And if you feel the feedback is useful, use it.

    I don't put much on the internet. I did upload a couple short stories that I had given up on, but otherwise, I don't even talk about my WIPs.

  32. I don't share my work on the internet for a few reasons...okay, other than certain contests. The reasons:

    1) I am overly scared of putting it out there (other than my critique group) and getting dogged.

    2)I have heard people don't really want to read others works until they have proved they are worth reading. I HAVE NOT proved that yet

    3)I guess I get a little scared my idea will be taken and some great book will come from it but not from me.

    I know, I'm strange. WHat can I say.

  33. These are FABULOUS questions! You really gave me something to think about.
    The responses have been good too.
    I wish I could give you some sage advice but for now all I can say is, thanks for the question.

  34. Oh and I wanted to say I'm sorry that you had to come in contact with those dreaded naysayers. It's like some people don't even care to give constructive critisim, they just want to bash. It's horrible.

  35. I don't often share my work on the internet. I might enter the occasional contest that requires short snippet or a logline, but otherwise, I'm pretty cautious.

  36. I've got tiny excerpts of some of my WIPs on my website (had an editor request after she'd perused them). But in general, I only share my work with people I know and trust.

  37. 'the multitude of advice makes my brain buzz like a bee' awesome line and me too. I've decided to take everything online with a pinch of salt and lighten up a little.

  38. I don't share my work in a public forum--not before publication, anyway. I've heard many people benefit from contests but I think I'd be highly selective with which contests I entered.

  39. Well right now my writing is going no where but in a file. But I have worried about the out-in-public aspect. Any who...

    Just wanted to say hi and let you know I'm still off schedule. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  40. I agree with you, Theresa; things get too confusing, too quickly. I hardly ever share until I'm many drafts ahead, and comfortable with my work. And even then... I rarely ever contests. Sometimes I get desperate for feedback [g] and then I'll usually share on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, where everyone understands the need for feedback and dishes it out objectively and in detail :-)

  41. I’m careful about whom I let critique my work—not because I want all the crits I receive to be glowing ones but because I want them all to be constructive ones. First, I want to read some manuscripts or books the critiquer has written. Sometimes you’ll run across a person who crits better than they write, but usually if their writing isn’t of the highest caliber, neither will their critique be especially helpful.

    I view poison-filled comments for what they are—someone who isn’t happy with themselves. No, I don’t enjoy receiving them, but it’s definitely in the category of more to be pitied than censured. You said it perfectly, Theresa, when you said we need to respect the critiquer in order to respect the comments.

    I once attended a conference where, at the end of the day, names were drawn lottery style for first-page critiques. The session was open to all genres and all age levels, yet in the panel of three editors/agents, one consistently dissed every PB ms that came before her. In my opinion, she wasn’t being respectful, especially in light of who she was and where she was and what she said she was going to do—give fair, constructive advice. Instead she not only came right out and said she disliked PBs but had the temerity to then tear each and every one of them up, even though she doesn’t rep or apparently understand them, e.g. she’d says things such as, “Your sentences are too short, and your words are so kindergartenish.”

    I have the same philosophy as Stephen King. One comment is an opinion. Two similar comments is a trend, and my gut will tell me whether it’s a valid one—and it usually is.

    I think contests are good in that they help us move from having words live only on our computers to going before others. But you’re correct: Be selective in what you enter and remember that everyone has an opinion and not all of them are valid. In the beginning it will feel as if you’ll change something to suit X and Y will ask how come you did that. With time I believe we as authors—and we are authors, just either published or pre-published—develop a confidence and instinct to know what advice to keep and what to toss. It all starts with believing in yourself. Then you’ll never need to don a cloak of invisibility again.

    I believe this advice is true whether you’re sharing you work online or otherwise, but the Internet does make it easier for those who enjoy tearing others down hoping to build themselves up.


  42. I haven't done the contest thing. But I do have a friend who got her book published as a direct result of a contest she won.

    There are so many opinions out there and so many ways to get our writing out there now-- just do what feels right for you. (=

    As far as mean commenters-- they are pathetic and cowardly. There is always a kind way to give honest feedback.

  43. I haven't shared my work on the Internet because up until I started blogging last year I was too shy to show my work to most people. I don't include my fiction writing on my blog; several of the literary magazines I want to submit to state in their guidelines that even stories that are posted online (like on blogs) can't be submitted to the magazines.
    I think you're right to prefer sharing your writing with people you know and trust. As for the mean commenters, like that serial negative commenter, I've noticed that they're all over the blogosphere. On one of the other blogs I follow, there are at least two other followers who always post nasty/critical comments in response to the blogger's posts, no matter what she writes. And yet they don't have blogs of their own.

  44. This is a tricky subject. People seem to have very different opinions about it. But I've always been very careful about sharing my work. I don't put any of my writing up online. Only my blog posts and status updates. My fiction is locked up pretty tight for many of the same reasons you've stated. I have one critiquer who gives me extensive feedback. And a handful of betas who give me general feedback and first impressions. Aside from that, just my agent. I'm naturally very protective with my work, especially my unfinished stuff. Too many cooks in the kitchen and all that jazz...

  45. I've put up snippets and entered some of the same contests. Yeah, there is always conflicting or negative advice. So, it's kind of tricky! Not sure what the best advice is.

  46. No one else will ever care about your manuscript as much as you do. That's the truth of it.

    I no longer feel uncomfortable sending my MS via internet. Of course, I'm still cautious about where I post it, mostly sticking to my blog, professional sites, and publishing companies/agents.

    Always use judgment, but you have to put yourself out there. The largest reactions I've ever gotten while blogging have been about personal things, like reading my sperm donor's medical file for the first time, getting rejected from Inkubate, and dealing with Outdoor School closing on me.

  47. Although I'm sure it is a constant struggle to get exposure and an agent, I think it wise not to put too much of your original writings online for all to see. I think being a part of a writing group where you verbally share ideas and critiques is a much better, and safer idea.

  48. I used to think it would be a good idea to let whoever was willing to read my work to read it because I thought the more feedback the better. But now I only let a few people read my stuff: my critique group and my husband. And the reason for this is that their critiques make sense to me. I've found that friends and family tend to project a lot of their stuff onto the writing and are not actually seeing what's on the page.

  49. I totally agree!

    There's a fine line. It's hard to see where it is, but a really fine line between too much and not enough. Make sure you put yourself out there enough to be noticed, but not too much to be stepped on. I think we have to figure this out just from experience.

    Great blog.


  50. Lol I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw my own face staring back at me. ;-)

    No, I tend not to share my work in public for two reasons:

    1) I can't control who reads what I wrote.
    2) If someone decided to steal ideas from my book, I have no way to prove he/she didn't think of it by some weird coincidence.

    If I do share scenes, I make sure that 1) it isn't vital to my story idea and 2) It will probably be edited beyond recognition later.

    I have (so far) six crit partners and two Betas (and am screening for more). If their advice conflicts, I look at what they say, ask for motivations as well as suggestions for improvement.

    And the I THINK WHAT I BELIEVE WORKS. Sometimes I will disregard the advice entirely.

    That, I suspect it something that you're struggling with (from reading this post). You're believing that other people will automatically know better than you what makes your story work. They don't.

    Follow your instincts and make consistent decisions about what makes your story better.

    Good luck!

  51. @ Tara, you're spot on here:

    "anyone offering advice as a published author tells what worked for them, as an agent tells what they like, as unpublished tells what they have read or been told or just what they like as a reader - consider the source"

    @ Dianne, I think your blog provides an important service. I've gotten a lot of help from posting in the past. Yes, it's important to weed out the comments that don't resonate and go with my instinct.

    For some reason, a slew of opportunities have come up lately. Entering so many just became too much!

    Yes, serial hater commenters are trolls. Love that!

    @ Carol, sounds like you know what you want!

    @ LR, short stories are probably fine, along with the occasional blogfest. I always get the sense that people don't like reading fiction much over 250 words on the Internet, so many of these blogfest entries wind up being skimmed.

    @ KarenG, time is a big factor. I'm so happy it's summer because I'm getting much more writing and editing accomplished. I've got more creativity to spare!

    @ Katie, yes, the Internet has countless cooks! I put it out there, so I should know that I'll get suggestions all over the place. I'm at the point where I am confident enough with my work that I don't think I need lots of comments on a piece I've written. The ones we trust know best.

    @ Shari, too much advice can make it hard to know what to do next. I like your philosophy about staying true to the story.

    @ Words A Day, you and Brigid regularly do the Magpie Tales, which I love reading. Those picture prompts inspire such interesting pieces, and usually you both write completely different stories/poems from them.

    When I first blogged, I figure people should know my writing a little, so I'd periodically put snippets. I've noticed people are more likely to just say what they like on your own blog and say what they don't like when I post anonymously on other blogs.

    @ Rosie C, how funny that the agent expected short sentences. Periodically, I'll hear "experts" mention how the children and teens all have ADHD because of video games, don't read, and possess a limited vocabulary. Then my daughter reads for hours on end and uses this complex vocabulary when she speaks to me. And I laugh.

    @ Julie, yes, we need our butts in the chair and the ability to self-edit. Maybe that's where I'm at now. I can get a little direction, but I really know what to do after that. If I just keep entering contests, but already have the instincts to do what the piece needs, I'm getting less out of them.

    @ Liz, I noticed until recently you never talked about writing at all. I'm taking a lesson from writers like you, so I'm going to post less of my fiction and queries.

  52. @ Deana, I used to think of it as a way to get honest feedback. I soon learned that while that's true to a degree, there's a lot of conflicting advice to sort through. And then there are those negative people...

    I'm not worried about anything being stolen. We writers are a pretty decent bunch. I think the inspiration we provide one another is more subtle.

    @ Small Town Shelley Brown, thanks for reading the post.

    @ Andrea, I'm going to be more cautious from now on too.

    @ Angelina, that's wonderful. A couple of stories like that is why I set up a 2nd blog with my queries and snippets posted. But no agents or editors have contacted me because of it. So far.

    @ Catherinemjohnson, I'll also take the advice with a pinch of salt. Great philosophy!

    @ Lynda, I feel the same way at this point.

    @ Jules, I hope you're enjoying your off-schedule time! Thanks for visiting.

    There's something said for being private about one's writing until it's published.

    @ Deniz, I've never used those forums. I'll have to check them out. Thanks!

    @ Michelle, I agree when we get random comments, rarely do we know the quality of the writing of the commenters. And people have different strengths as critiquers. Some are excellent in grammar. Some plot. And some character. Even when I wasn't as good of a writer as I am now, I think I always offered good advice about how to make characters better and more believable.

    There's nothing worse than someone in the industry who belittles writers. We all have to start somewhere. And if one isn't familiar with a genre, they probably shouldn't let themselves critique. The kindergartner comment cracked me up!

    I'll definitely be more selective from now on.

  53. @ Jo, I know one or two success stories too. So there's definitely some value if one is willing to weed to find the good stuff.

    I hope I've always given kind feedback.

    @ Neurotic Workaholic, good to know that posting short stories on the Internet can prevent them from being published.

    Those bloggers should block the serial negative commenters. Who needs their feedback?!

    @ Carolina, while I've benefitted in the past, I'm at the point where I feel like you do.

    @ Alexia, I guess we have to do what's right for us at any given time.

    @ McKenzie McCann, I share plenty of personal stories on my blog. But sharing fiction and queries feels different. When I share something about myself, I don't expect my words to be critiqued, and they usually aren't.

    There's a lot of value in participating in some of these opportunities to share work, but it's not for everyone.

    @ Pat, I agree with you at this point. I feel my manuscript is overexposed, and I haven't even queried it yet!

    @ Missed Periods, the projecting onto the writing is definitely a problem. We need to trust the people who are reading our work in order to properly digest the feedback. When anyone is commenting, it's impossible.

    @ Laura, it is a fine line. And sometimes we don't know what it is until we've stepped over and it's too late.

    @ Misha, I like your picture!

    You have a big group of readers. Controlling our work is important. I'm realizing that now.

  54. Nas put a comment, which is in my e-mail, but disappeared. I'm adding it here:

    Nas Dean has left a new comment on your post "Contests, Comments, and Cloaks":

    Hi Theresa,

    I did put up a first chapter on my blog but later took it off as I felt shy about my friends reading it!

    @ Nas, I used to feel like that too. One of the reasons I entered contests is to stop the shyness. It worked!

  55. I think you have to do what's right for you. I've posted query blurbs on Verla Kay and have been pleased with the help. I've also done a First Page contest that did help. That said, I can see how it could turn ugly and that could be unfortunate.

    I also would never put something on-line that I didn't think was close to right and had a few eyes on it already.

    JMHO. Peace.

  56. I share my poetry online, but more because it gets my work out there, not because I'm looking for advice.

    As for work I want critiqued. I prefer to do that one on one, otherwise things get overly confusing.

  57. I'm not brave enough to share my work on the internet! I have my reliable CP's and Betas (like you), and that's good enough for me.

    You are very brave! Take the comments you like and throw away the other ones. If a lot of people say the same thing, then maybe consider it.

    Hope this helps.

  58. I wish I had some wisdom to leave you, but I have many of the same questions you do. I don't share a lot on the internet, not because I'm afraid people will steal, but because I'm insecure about my writing. I have beta readers that critique privately.

    Yet I post my query publicly to be critiqued, which I'm starting to regret. I like constructive criticism, but some people are rude for the sake of being rude. I wish I could find a balance -- we need constructive help, but how much sharing is too much?

  59. Wow, lots of opinions! I probably have put too much writing on the internet. I'm too trusting. i did have one experience when I got too many differing opinions on a rhyming picture book. It drove me crazy-I finally just gave up on the book. I guess that's the danger. Now I have a great crit group I trust. I'd say be careful too.

  60. Other than on my blog, I haven't shared much of my writing elsewhere. I've thought about contests, but haven't done it yet. The way I see it any critique can have some value so long as there is a hint of sincerity in it. If it is praise intended to boost my ego for some eventual gain of the praiser (such as trying to get me to pay for something) then that is not helpful or if it is malicious attack with an intent to make me look bad, then I don't need it. But anything that I can learn something from is okay with me.
    Three initial critiques make good sense if you are looking for opinions before you put your work out there for everyone.

    Tossing It Out

  61. I haven't shared my work on the internet simply because I don't thinks it's the most beneficial means of receiving feedback that will move my WIP forward.
    I think when it comes to getting critiques it's important to either have an experienced mentor or join a group that is comprised of more than just beginners. You need people who are familiar with the nuts and bolts specific to your genre and you need people who are fully converse with what the rules are!

  62. I've experienced that same frustration with conflicting input. It's a hair pulling, beat-my-head-against the wall kind of frustration. But I'm learning to take things differently now. I stew over things and bounce ideas off with a good friend who is not a critiquer nor a writer. She just likes to read. She was the very first person who read anything I wrote. She helps to balance suggestions. She frequently will say about a suggestion, "Yeah, you could probably do that, but I don't think it would make it a better story." I love her. Like I said, balance.

    I share online but within my critique group, friends, and family.

  63. When you enter contests and receive a bunch of feedback from other authors, it can sometimes be really frustrating. Too many opinions are no good. Just like too many cooks spoil dinner. It's the same principle.

    For the most part, when I've posted my query letter asking for help, everyone has been helpful and for the most part, considerate. There was one message board, however, that was downright mean. I haven't posted there for feedback ever since.

  64. @ JRo - Jaye Robin Brown, there are definitely benefits to critique. Yes, having a few eyes on a piece first is important!

    @ Angela, I love reading your poetry. Putting work on our own blogs is different than on places for open critique. I prefer having more control.

    @ Aubrie, you've posted short stories, which I've enjoyed. Glad to be your critique partner!

    @ Shelley, private critiques are better in the long run.

    Sorry you received unkind critique. I've regretted posting a few things as well. Live and learn.

    @ Kathy, I'm sorry you gave up on the book. This business is subjective. There's not one book that everyone loves universally. Everyone has an opinion about how to change things. That's the problem with too many critiquers. Remember, there are people who passed on Harry Potter.

    @ Arlee, once you post and get feedback, then you can decide if it's worth it. While I like the idea of having an agent look at my work for free, the jumble of opinions and people with different agendas has soured me at this point.

    @ Vicky, I agree wholeheartedly. That's why I'm not doing contests anymore. Having my readers has been fine, and I'd like to focus on their feedback.

    @ Donna, I like your method. That's why I'm sticking with from now on.

    @ Nicole, I've gotten so much help from posting query letters on my 2nd blog. But I think I'm going to be private about all the details of my next manuscript. I feel like I'm out there too much.

  65. You always seem to come around to the answer on your own. I think you're right - it's a delicate balance. Critiques and contests can be helpful, to a point. The bottom line is that you have to trust yourself and do what works for you.

  66. @ Vicki, I'm sorry I didn't reply sooner. I love your advice: trust yourself and do what works for you. Thanks!