“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?
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