Our Forum is Better Than Your Forum

As a member of another writing forum (that belongs to a top 5 publisher) believe me when I tell you the capabilities of this forum are far superior. We’ve been waiting more than nine months into a site “revamp” to be able to do some of the things the Today’s Author Forum can do on day one.

With the click of a button, you can include the quote of the post you’re replying to. You can alter your font style, size and color. You can post a link, photo or video without having to learn computer bracket code. You can even post a photo with a link in it. You can create a specific sign off to appear at the bottom of all your posts. You can subscribe to threads you’re interested in following.

I’m sure there are more, but those are my favorites. Now we just need more forum members to get those conversations going. Writing can be an isolated enterprise. It helps to link up with other writers and trade ideas. That’s what this whole site is about; the forum is just the next level.

Today we’re kicking off a new forum feature: the mini critique.  This is a space to post a short excerpt of your writing and get a reader response. The goal is to remind you to get to work- not be a distraction. That’s why we keep excerpts short. Post the scene you’ve just written. It can be rough and raw. Offer other writers general impressions and encouragement. People who don’t comment on other writing tend to get fewer comments on theirs, promoting participation.

Go ahead. Join us here.

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Learning how to be critiqued

I feel like there’s a lot of advice out there for writers in critique groups on how to give the most helpful, most sensitive, most comprehensive review of someone else’s work. What seems to be lacking is an understanding of how to take and respond to a critique.

I’ve been involved in various writing groups and classes over the last twenty years or so.  I have developed a very thick skin. But I remember when it was new to me and I was easier to crush. So my first bit of advice is to ease into the process. Start with some critique exchanges on a heavily moderated site like scribophile.com. Getting feedback while remaining anonymous can help you toughen up in private.

There are some things to remember whenever someone is telling you what they think of your work. Even if your reviewer doesn’t acknowledge it, their opinion is only as valuable as one reader. You are free to disregard anything they say.  Keep in mind: they may just not be your audience.

Once you’re brave enough to join an in-person or online critique group – and I believe any writer serious about working toward publication needs to get here – the best advice I can give is to say thank you.

If you have submitted your work for review and someone has been kind enough to spend time reading and offering feedback, be grateful. No matter what they say. Even if you think they’re arrogant and wrong and mean. Say thank you. If you think their advice is bunk, disregard it. But say thank you.

If you get a reputation for arguing with reviewers and getting defensive about your work, it will get harder to find people willing to spend time giving you feedback. The harshest critique of all will have value if only to toughen you up.

Writers need to be tough if they’re going to weather the vague rejections of literary agents, the suggested changes of editors and, harshest of all, the reader reviews on Amazon.

The Writers Circle: Advice

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

How do your friends and fellow writers influence your WIP? Do you run sections by them or read out loud to a selected group of nearby writers? Do you ask for critiques from writers outside of your normal writing group?  What guides your decisions about who you choose to trust with their advice?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

 

Do you have an idea you think would be a great topic for a future The Writer’s Circle post?  Do you have a question you’d like to ask our authors?  Fill out this form to submit your ideas and questions:

 

 

 

When Helping Hurts!

The overused knee brace

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years of moderating the National Novel Writing Month forums is the wide variety of skills, talents, and abilities of the participants. From published authors like Brandon Sanderson to the first-time novelist who has never written for fun before, you will find writers who are seeking or offering different things to the community.

One sort of writer that stands out to me, though, is the kind that lacks all trust in their own ability and seems incapable of solving even the most basic of problems on their own. They reach out to the rich community hoping for help and support, but seem to get addicted to that resource. They become hobbled by the easy availability of those who seem to know more than they do. They seem addicted to asking questions about the tiniest details of their work. Nothing is original and all details of their novels are decided by popular consensus.

How do you grow if you never trust in your own abilities? One of the toughest skills a writer must learn is how to make their own decisions. I have seen too many good writers crippled by their constant need for validation and support from others. Writing is generally a solo art; the proliferation of the internet has opened doors to us that our spiritual ancestors could never have dreamed. We have become used to the social nature of the beast.

I have known writers who become absolutely crushed by the feedback of their beta reader. When they get negative feedback, or receive none at all, they are paralyzed by this lack of positive feedback. They become addicted to fan fiction communities (where near-constant feedback is the norm) and abandon their own original work. Like the athlete who uses a brace too often, and weakens the muscles instead of healing an injury, writers must learn not to lean too heavily on their own support systems.

If one ever hopes to succeed at being a writer — whether or not professional publication is your goal — you must find your spine and learn to stand on your own two feet. It’s a fine balancing act– don’t ever be afraid to reach out for help if you need it, but you must understand that your own writing must stand on its own and all that feedback means nothing when it’s time for the editor to look at your precious manuscript. It’s you who has to trust your own instincts and put in the blood, sweat, and tears needed to whip it into shape. Your critique partners, beta readers, and other support people may often have feedback that doesn’t fit with your vision. It’s okay not to include it all! I’ve run my novels through critiques before. Much of the feedback was vital, but some just didn’t fit. I didn’t use it all.

The point is that you must learn to accept some things, and do things without needing your hands held at all times. You will never grow into a writer without understanding how to work through plot problems, how to characterize, or just how to work the audience. Can you learn these things from others? Absolutely! Working with others is a critical part of the growth process.

But when it starts to hold you back, you may need to sequester yourself from all that support for a while. Don’t allow the easy access to support to become your crutch preventing you from learning to walk on your own!

Have you ever become too reliant on feedback? Have you found that the easy availability of support sometimes holds you back, or are you more balanced in your approach to feedback?