As Cheri mentioned yesterday, it is best that the writing process not be tackled alone for the uninitiated and unprepared.
However, I found myself in that exact situation exactly a year and four months ago…
It all started when a goof of a friend (hereafter referred to as Friend) was working on her master’s thesis and was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and we, as awful friends, finally noticed.
We read her work after much cajoling and realized that it reflected her weird logic. The initial conversation amongst ourselves, dubbed ‘alpha readers’ by me, was one that was full of defensive Friend and concerned and confused readers.
I tend to like to understand situations before making judgements about them and I worried about how Friend was taking the critique. So my
brilliant misguided solution was to host a writing contest amongst the alpha readers.
Now, for some background information on my competition: both are published and had English heavily influence their respective degrees. I am a college dropout that had no idea what an adverb was (and never used them — not in the cool Hemingway way — but rather for lack of skills). What I have going for me is a huge imagination and a history of telling stories.
Now the judges: actual, real English majors with BAs or higher.
I, in my blind delusion, was very excited. Unfortunately for me, my competition were much more realistic.
Now, if you’re new around here, I live on an island in the middle of the sea. As far as I knew, there were no immediate casual writing groups that would be open to an overenthusiastic uber noob; so I turned to online writing communities for help editing my already ‘finished’ piece.
The first one that I joined was one another friend recommended to me: Figment.
Chebk’s definition: A conglomerate and glaring example of what the pre-teen, money-spending generation is reading and strives for in their lives and relationships.
I joined a few groups and many of the threads in their forums are very active. That’s the best thing about this site: the users are super active. They host contests and have groups. There is a reviewing aspect called a ‘swap’ where you review each other’s pieces.
The swap is what I engaged in with my first entry. And among this demographic, my dystopian, young girl protag driven story did amazingly well. It was of a different flavor than the first person, present tense, love triangle pieces that they were used to, but they still were able to follow the flow of the writing and gave positive, mainly grammar focused feedback.
I was thrilled. Beyond thrilled that they thought it was dark and moving, philosophical and deep. But they gave no real feedback on how to improve the piece which led me to:
Chebk’s definition: Actual adult and senior writers working at getting published and getting more published.
Looking for something a little more serious, I stumbled upon Scribophile. This is a really intense, text heavy website that is a bit hard to get used to. To sign in at all, you have to be eighteen or older and agree to things just to protect members. In order to post any of your work, you have to first provide quality reviews of other’s pieces which in turn, guarantees you a certain amount of good reviews.
This was a hurdle for me and I was lucky my enthusiasm and friends carried me through. Reviewing other’s work thoroughly is always hard and a time consuming investment. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t know any of the rules of English at all. All I knew was that I passed my English classes in high school and college. So when correcting other people’s work — especially people getting ready to publish said pieces — I was horribly inadequate. My saving grace was my friends volunteering to put in time so that I could post my single piece of work.
My naivete prevented me from seeing that I was out of my depth with some of the critiques I attempted, but eventually I was able to post my work. I got more amazing feedback but this one came with chunks of salt. ‘Well bottom line first: I liked this story. However it has the potential to be a lot more than it is right now.’ is an exact quote of one of the opening to critiques.
My soul cracked and I nearly scrapped my whole piece and quit writing right then and there, but it was time to turn in our finished works to our judges.
To make a long story shorter, I got third out of three. EVERY ONE of the judges hated my piece (granted, in the story I killed swathes of children).
By now I was in literal tears and vowing to quit writing for eternity for this piece was my magnum opus. The only thing that saved me were those positive critiques that I had gotten in both of the writing communities that I had entered previously.
I clung to their words as I forged on, blinded by my hurt. The critiques I had received were valid points and that made them hurt all the more. I eventually got over it by writing more and more often, challenging myself in contests that were hosted by judges unknown (mostly on figment). There were more rejections, but also some wins. Anyway, online writing communities gave me the support and the breadth of interest I needed to keep forging forward.
Chebk’s definition: A niche on the internet where you can find people who are interested in the same things you are.
As I kept writing, I found that writers were everywhere, including the places I already go to. I visit Tumblr somewhat frequently, and the writing community there is largely what improved my grammar and kept me from some problematic writing tropes. They opened my eyes to minority writers and how sought after they were.
On tumblr, you have a split-second to catch a reader’s attention — mostly done with pictures. I was looking for something a bit more personal which led me to:
Chebk’s definition: The blogger’s site where one can find just about anything they google.
And here I am, with my partner in crime, floating in the wide sea of bloggerdom, looking for those who write/read/and wonder the same things we do. Asking similar questions and searching for the answers.
Do you have a favorite writing/reading/book blog? Or perhaps a favorite blog that covers media representation? We know you’re out there and we’re looking desperately for you and hope we can show a different side of things.