Thursday, June 25, 2015

S.D. Skye's Hell or High Water 365-Day Blog-athon Day 11 -- Getting Your Unpublished Work Critiqued

A couple of days ago I received an email from one of my readers in my alternate writer life--you know, the shmoopy romance stuff. Anyway, she met me at a writer's guild meeting where I gave a speech about my publishing journey and gave advice to other up and coming writers (even though I still consider myself one). She asked for some advice about where to get her unpublished work-in-progress critiqued, especially since the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is now defunct, and she wanted to do so in a way that she wouldn't "give up her rights." 

I figured I'd share my advice to her here. 

FIRST OF ALL--New writers...you gotta get over the rights concerns. Granted, there are reasons to be concerned and I'm not saying there's no danger of your work getting clipped by another writer...what I will say is that the likelihood of your work getting stolen is roughly the same is the chance that I'll sprout wings--tomorrow. It's not very likely. And what I will also say is that if someone is determined to steal your work, there is very little you can do to PREVENT it, although you have many legal means to rectify it. 

Once you put pen to paper, you own the copyright of your book or any written work. The only way to give up your rights is to literally sign on some dotted line to give them up. Posting your work on a blog doesn't affect your rights. Sending your work for review to literary agents or editors does not impact your rights. Submitting your work for a contest does not impact your rights. You can only give up rights by signing them away with pen and paper (or some equivalent action) and I'm sure you're smart enough not to do anything like that without consulting someone first (an attorney, an agent, etc.)

So, let's just get rid ourselves of that fear. You will never get published or get your work reviewed if you're scared to pass your work to other people. It's a nature of the beast. The likelihood that someone will steal your work (or my work for that matter) out of all the works in the world is slim and one. Don't sweat that. 

Now, with that said, there are many other contests out there in which to submit your completed novel. Writer's Digest hosts a self published novel contest every year...for a small fee. There are tons of indie award in which you can submit your work. 

But for unpublished writers with WIPs -- I have one GREAT suggestion--an online critique group. 

The one I used was called The Next Big Writer (thenextbigwriter.com). You submit your book one chapter at a time and other authors on the site critique it. If you're lucky you get a few regulars who will get so engrossed in your work, they will read it all the way through. I met some of my best and closest writer friends on this site and we stay in touch even today. 

It is a paid membership--$50 a year (at least when I used it) and it is WELL worth the price. 
Your work is only available on the site. No one could pick it up in a google search. To post your work on the site, chapter by chapter, you earn points by reviewing other people's work or you can buy overly expensive credits. Best to review other people's work because that's how you build those quid pro quo relationships. You really have to give to receive there. 

The good thing is everyone is on the site because they have a book or story to publish, they all want great feedback, so they are all motivated to give great feedback. Your book doesn't need to be edited (although some editing helps with the reading). Most of the authors on the site will probably help you find mistakes and offer suggestions on how to correct issues. 

I highly recommend the site. 

I've used it for three or four books. Never had a single copyright issue and two of the books I workshopped there were picked up by Simon & Schuster. I don't believe I could have gotten my books in publish-ready shape without workshopping them on this site. That is the absolute truth. 

I don't use it now because, frankly, it's a slower process than I can bear on my publishing schedule. This site is BEST for NEW writers trying to get helpful critique support in an environment that fosters the writing and editing processes. 

Are there trolls? Not from what I can remember. There are certainly cliques in some circles. And there is bound to be someone who doesn't like your work. BUT there are rules of conduct and they are strictly enforced. 

Hope that is helpful. 

Feed a Writer. Buy a book. :) 


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