07 September, 2011

The Insecure Writer's Support Group

***In case you are looking for today's book review for Terry Pratchett Month, please see below post!***

As you've probably heard or seen or read somewhere, Alex J. Cavanaugh has started the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Now, I almost didn't sign up for it. Reasons?

1. I've got Terry Pratchett Month (co-hosted by me and Deepali at Evolving Books), the Third Writer's Platform-Building Campaign (which I shall be posting my entry for on Friday!), Alex's Worst Movies Ever Blogfest later this month, and other miscellaneous things that pop up now and then. I'm posting twice today for the first time since 2010 (I used to do it all the time . . . be glad I don't anymore :P) and it was just going to be a lot of content.

2. I wasn't sure what exactly I would post on. I don't have much writing experience, and I haven't gone through the mill at all compared to some of you (amazing) bloggers. My submissions stand at zero, as do rejections, and writing and being published is not the goal I've been trying to achieve for years and years (only for the past couple/one and a half or so have I seriously considered the idea I might see my book on the shelf).

But I decided I would post anyway. And part of the above paragraph would be a nice opener, I just realized.

Because I haven't submitted anything or received rejections, or even handed my writing over to a beta reader or critique partner. Which is a bit of a source of insecurity for me, since I don't know if my writing is good or bad, or if I should chuck it completely and try something else since my style just doesn't work.

Then again, sending my work off to people I don't know really well (I read so many posts on finding CPs/BRs online) and having it read by new eyes is also a source of insecurity. For while it is a small risk at having my work plagiarized or stolen, or otherwise distastefully handled, it all comes down the people factor:

As far as I understand how it works, you don't know the person at the other end of the line. It's a leap of faith that they'll be reasonable and honest and offer good feedback.

And I don't really like leaps of faith. Especially when it comes to things that are close to me (like my writing), and things that are uncertain (people) and things that are of personal concern (Internet security).

So I have to ask you:

How do you feel about sending your work off to someone you don't know beforehand?


*****If I disappear and don't get around to your posts, it's probably because we lost electricity again or something. It's been raining steadily all day long, and there's some serious flooding outside (in fact, the neighbors' yards are covered in water right now which makes me even more glad the house is on a small hill). They're even saying it could get worse, so . . . I might be absentee. I'll do my best to catch up later.*****

-----The Golden Eagle


Sarah Pearson said...

Wow! You're in the same position as me as regards where you are, (except you've been at it slightly longer). I never realised.

I wouldn't send my work off to someone I didn't know at all. I have built up a bit of a relationship with a couple of people I've met on my blog, emails back and forth, that sort of thing. I'm hoping that one of them will be my crit partner, but I'll be reading hers whilst she reads mine.

Sarah said...

When I send my work off, I feel nervous, but mostly I feel really, really excited. I put so much time into crafting my stories and the idea of having someone else experience them is super-exciting. Of course, then the emotions swing back to nervousness, then excitement, then nervousness... etc.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

This is tricky. I totally understand being terrified to send stuff off to a stranger, which is why it often works well when there's an exchange. That way, you're pretty sure the person isn't stealing your work (because they already have their own) and you know you're dealing with a serious writer. Both things are a definite plus.
Crit partners are definitely good things to have. If you're worried about a stranger reading your work, you could ask for crit partners here on the blog. That way you know them a little. :)
And P.S. You're a good writer. I can't say more than that because I haven't read your story, obviously, but even from your blog posts I can tell you definitely have talent. And also, this is a quote that helped me so much when I was looking at trying to get published...
A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort.
- Sydney Smith

E.R. King said...

Eagle, I think it's a matter of picking the right people to hand your baby over to. If you're just looking for feedback, anyone will do. But if you're seeking specific critiques, you need a specific critiquer. I hand my writing over to the people I know well and love the most first. I do this because I know they love me and would never hurt my feelings. I also do this because I'll be able to tell if you're lying about what they have to say about my work.
I find the most damaging critiques I've obtained have come from strangers or people who don't know me. They've also been the most objective.
I guess you have to decide whether or not you're ready to take the plunge. Once you do, I promise you that you'll wonder what took you so long. Critiques help improve your writing. They hold a mirror up to it and tell you what's beautiful about it and what needs work. It hurts, but it also forces growth and acceptance. I found my voice because of the critiques I received. Not all of them were easy to hear, but I'm a better writer because of them.

Brenda Drake said...

Good luck with your leap of faith! I'm sure you will not regret it. I think I began to grow the most as a writer when I let others critique my stuff. I was scared they'd think I wasn't any good, but because of their thoughts on my writing, I improved immensely. I hope the same for you! <3

Summer Ross said...

Honestly I have had some bad experience with critique groups in my earlier years, but have found if I keep trying I eventually find what I'm looking for. CP's or betas are a good source for errors, but its hard to give up something you are close to. I'd suggest talking to people get to know who they are online or go to a writers workshop and meet someone face to face.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Not sure how I'd feel about sending it to someone I didn't know. All three of my critique partners are blogging buddies, although Rusty was a very new follower at the time he offered to critique my work. I guess I was still playing it safe, because all three had read the first book, so they knew my style and the main character.
Hope you don't get flooded out!
And glad you joined the group. Doesn't matter where you are on the path - you are still a writer.

M Pax said...

Hope your weather improves that way. We're having the hottest day of the year today. Come dry out. :)

When you're ready, you will go seeking cp's. CP's can point out your strengths as well as what you need to improve on.

Worse than waiting on a cp's feedback is reader reviews.

Old Kitty said...

OH Golden Eagle!! These days I always send my stories to very carefully chosen strangers willing to give me critical feedback - I'd never think twice about doing so because it truly is the only way for me to see if my story works or not. I think my initial problem was that I loved my stories so much I just thought everyone must love them but got the shock of my life when of course hardly anyone did! LOL! But that was then and this is now!

I've read one or two of your short pieces of fiction here and I really really really enjoyed them!!!

Take care

C D Meetens said...

The first submission I made, I was terrified. I had to completely occupy my mind after I'd sent it to avoid overthinking and worrying about it. It was easier the second time.

With critique partners, I felt the same as you - unsure about the plagiarism aspect, etc. I found a really good group, though, and it's always an exchange of writing. I crit something of theirs and they crit something of mine.

Nicki Elson said...

It's a scary thing sending it off. I held my writing very closely for a long, long time before I shared it. When I did, it was anonymously at an on-line story site---and getting those first comments was AMAZING. But there's no rush, wait until you're ready.

As far as plagiarism goes, it does happen, but I only know of one case personally and I know a ton of people who trust their writing with someone they've never met in real life.

lindy said...

It's nerve wracking, isn't it? I only just found a CP I'm willing to trust with my work. I figure two minds are better than one, and it's a risk worth taking.

Jenna Blake Morris said...

I know what you mean. I haven't found crit partners yet, either, but I don't think I'd be okay with sending it off to someone I didn't know at all. Just because of the type of trustworthy issues you mentioned.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I was part of a critique site called Urbis many years ago, and it was tough getting critiques from total strangers. Some were constructive, some were just blunt and mean. I'm a sensitive type of person, so I didn't remain there for long.

Alleged Author said...

I used to be soooo paranoid about giving my work to a CP (bad experience in the past...don't ask). But now I'm happy to do so because CPs find things you missed the 1st to the 78th time around!

Marlena Cassidy said...

I didn't like posting my stuff on my blog originally for that same reason, but I eventually came around and realized that if anyone tried to steal it, I have the proof of originals.

If you really want to publish eventually, sending stuff out now will lessen the anxiety when you start sending to editors and publishers. Ask a few of your blogging friends to be beta readers for you, if you want people you know you can trust.

Sananora said...

I know what you mean about showing your work to other people. It is so much a part of me.

M.J. Fifield said...

It's a very scary thing to send work off to someone you don't know well. It's also scary to send your stuff to people you do know.

I have a terrific friend who has read every draft of everything I've written (and still considers me a friend. But other friends of mine have not worked out so well. It's been a bit of a crap shoot.

The leap of faith is the hardest thing.

But I'd also like to say that I've only read your blog but I think you have a great writing style.

Michelle Fayard said...

These are all valid concerns and questions. What I've done is asked to see a sample of my potential critiquer's writing as well as a sample of the critiquing they've done for someone else in my genre.

That way I'll know whether their suggestions will be constructive and valid as opposed to poison-filled and not very helpful--and this goes for comments that are too praise filled and don't have enough suggestions for improvement.

BTW, I have a feeling, just from reading your blog, that you will make the right decision as well as succeed very nicely. :)

Christine Rains said...

I understand how you feel. Yet I've had very good luck with the people I've let read my stories. A leap of faith is difficult, but once you do it, it feels good... along with all the other feelings that we have when people read our work!

Lynda R Young said...

I won't send anything off to random unknowns. I will send it off to people I've gotten to know through the blogsphere. It's best to send it to people who write similar genres too. I'm still nervous about it, though the more I do it, the easier it gets.

L'Aussie said...

Hey Golden we all share many of your concerns, although I hadn't thought to be so worried about a CP. I haven't found that amazing CP authors rave about, but mainly because I feel shy in asking someone to spend time looking at what may be iffy writing. But I think unless we're writing geniusus we need to find ourselves a CP who we relate to and trust. Rachael Harrie is offering this service again this campaign so that may be helpful.

Maybe we'll both be successful in finding that perfect CP. Nice thought.


Rusty Webb said...

How do I feel about sending something off to someone I don't know? I feel sick about it. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I'd rather never do it, ever.

But when I send something off to someone I know I have to worry about all the things they might want to say that they don't... critique groups can sometimes turn into a circle of praise. Very supportive, but maybe not terribly helpful when it comes to improving. Strangers might be better, since they might be more likely to be honest. I don't know.

I guess what really matters to me is whether or not I feel like what the person on the other end is making valid points when critiquing my stuff. If they do that then they are worth all that fear.

Emily Rose said...

I would be very hesitant to do so. Your writing is very personal, and it receives lots of criticism when other eyes read it. Sometimes it better to get that criticism from someone you know, rather than a complete stranger. Then again, they would have no qualms about giving you true and constructive criticism, because they don't know you personally.
(Stay safe in the storm! Hope your basement doesn't get flooded...)

Charles Gramlich said...

It never bothers me. IN fact, I think when I started I preferred sending my stuff to folks I didn't know than to folks I did. I didn't really care if someone I didn't know didn't like it.

ali cross said...

Man! Sorry about the flooding!

I totally get your concern about sending your work off to "just anybody". And especially the first time. That's so hard!

I don't worry about the safety of my work per se (My hubby is a computer security expert and there are lots of ways to validate the original owner/creator of a document, etc.), but it IS hard to trust a person to critique your work if you've never read anything of THEIRS. Because, how do you know that you're on the same page?

Anyway . . . I'm glad you posted! I think you brought up a concern we've all had at one point or another.

Damyanti said...

I've sent my work off to perfect strangers,and have received excellent feedback in return. Have always trusted my instinct on this.

Greetings from a fellow-campaigner!

Deborah Walker said...

I was on critiquecircle.com for my first year where my work got critted by strangers. And slowly I got to know them. It was wonderful. It really built up my confidence.

When you're ready, you should give them a try.

Murees Dupé said...

This is probably why I don't belong to a critique group. But I would never send my work to someone I don't know, unless it is a legitimate literary agent.

But to put yourself at ease, you can print out a copy of your work, date it by hand and a sign it. Also keep detailed notes about your story and plot. Also date those. At least that is what I do.

This is just to help prove whoever that you wrote the story. Someone else might try and steal your stuff, but they should be able to prove how they came up with it. Or at least that is how I think about it.

Naina Gupta said...

I do feel nervous. That is why I am writing my book in secret, so no-one I know knows that I am writing the book, and won't associate it with me.

Simon Kewin said...

I know : so many blogfests and community events! I'm afraid I haven't jumped in on the Pratchett event despite having read (I think) every book he's ever written.

To answer your question : It used to fill me with terror. Now I'm used to it and it doesn't worry me. You just have to start doing it ...

Tony Benson said...

The whole matter of critique partners is tricky. Nobody teaches us how to offer critique and sending it is rather scary. I try to balance honesty with being supportive. One problem is that the critique is offered in writing, so tone of voice isn't defined for the recipient. To be honest I'd be more comfortable doing the whole thing face to face, but we live out in rural North Devon, and finding local critique partners is pretty much impossible.

One thing my critique partners and I did before we got started was we told eachother what our expectations were. I think that's a big part of getting it right.

Also remember, whatever a critique partner says is only their opinion. It doesn't make them right. I certainly hope my critiques are taken in that way.

Tara Tyler said...

it is necessary. you have to go with your gut. i took an offer a while back and he flaked out. but recently got one thru my blog and it's great!
do it when you're ready, but You have to do it!
and it doesnt ave to be a stranger, but it should be an impartial person with industry knowledge!

BornStoryteller said...

Before I submit anything, I only will let someone I actually know read it. I expect them to critique it honestly and with any suggestions that they feel is proper. I never ask for someone to edit my work: I'll do the edits, then ask them to read one more time before submitting.

I like a real partnership. I'll do the same for the other.

Angela Ackerman said...

It was tough the first time, but ultimately I knew that i wanted this, I wanted to get better, and the only way to do that was to have help. I needed others to see what I could not, or help me fix the things wrong that I saw but didn't know what to do about.

Everything changed once I embraced critiquing. :) I encourage everyone to take the leap when they feel the time is right. :)

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Shirley Wells said...

I much prefer sending my work to someone I don't know than someone I do. If someone I don't know says it's the biggest pile of horse dung ever, I can curse them for hours and then pretend I've never heard of them. Easy.
Having said that, I hate letting anyone see my work. Until my editor's said it's okay, no one is allowed to look at it. :)

Crystal Collier said...

I spend a good 3 to 5 emails (long, solid emails) building a relationship with someone before handing off my work to them--unless they come from a group like this Insecure Writer's one. Key for me is making sure we are a match personality wise, communication wise, and by sense of humor. More especially, if someone is invested in the relationship, they're not going to mutilate my work.

The Golden Eagle said...

Sarah: So I'm not alone? Whew. I was a bit worried I was the only one with critique partner/beta reader issues. :)

If I do ever look for a critique partner, I'll probably do it through blogs, if I can.

Sarah: I'm sure I'd be!

Bethany: Good points--and I'll have to keep exchanging in mind.

Thank you! And thanks for sharing that quote; I hadn't read it before. :)

E.R.: The objectivity is part of it--on the one hand, if it's someone unknown, they won't know the story behind the writing and what you've put into the project. On the other hand, that's also the same reason critiques worry me. They don't know you, and vice versa.

Brenda: Thank you! Though I don't think I'll be taking it within the next few months, based on the way things stand now.

Summer: I sort of like the idea of trying a writer workshop; just to meet other writers in person (I don't actually know anyone else who writes, other than in the blogosphere).

Alex: It does seem like it would be more of a sure thing if they had read a book of yours previously.

Thanks! The water's going down, since they opened the flood gates; but it was getting awfully high for a while there.

I'm glad I joined! :)

M: Sounds good to me! Want some of our water while we're at it? :P

I know I'd be chewing my nails (or at least failing to drag my mind away from them) if I was waiting on reader reviews . . .

Old Kitty: I expect that if I sent my work out people wouldn't like all of it--or, well, any of it, in some cases. :P It would still be a blow, though, I'm sure.

I'm so glad you've enjoyed them!

C D: It sounds like a great group. :) I'm just worried about finding the right one . . . without stepping into a pit of snakes first.

Nicki: ONE case? Call me paranoid, but even that makes me nervous. :P I suppose the odds are pretty slim--but I'm just don't want to run the risk. Then again, I guess there's a risk in even posting excerpts or pieces on blogs.

Lindy: That's what I think--it's just finding the right partner that holds me up (also the fact I need to finish and polish a project before showing it to another human being . . .)

Jenna: It's so uncertain, isn't it?

L. Diane: I probably would have left, too. I don't really don't like that kind of environment.

Alleged: It's so easy to miss things--plot holes, typos, grammar problems. :P

Liza said...

I have had articles and essays published but I am about where you are as it stands to a book. Novel #1 sits in a folder on my desk and #2 is in progress. I hope when I'm done with #2 I might find someone to give it a read so that I can get some objective feedback. I did join a writers group this spring...it helped so much to know someone was finally going to see my work. It was a leap though and I was scared. Kept me honest with my writing though!

The Golden Eagle said...

Marlena: I figure short flash fiction pieces or small excerpts that don't give away a lot about plot or characters is okay--even if someone did try to steal it, if they tried to expand on it, it would probably be a lot different from my work.

I'd like to have at least one other person see my work before I submit to a publisher or something like that (assuming I do).

Sananora: Same here.

M.J.: Sometimes the latter more so, I would think; since you know something about their personality.

I'm sorry to hear they haven't worked out. That must have been painful to experience. :(

Thank you! That means a lot to me.

Michelle: I will keep that in mind; it is some proof that they're in it to actually get/give critiques, and that they're not going to tear things down for the sake of it.

Thanks! I hope things work out if I ever try critiques . . .

Christine: I'm always nervous about letting people read my work; but it does give you satisfaction when someone likes it, doesn't it? :)

Lynda: I would try to get a partner who's in the same or similar genre; seems like it'd be harder if you had, say, a Literary Fiction author critiquing Thriller.

L'Aussie: I agree. :) Here's to finding the right critique partner!

Rusty: It would be worth the anxiety if the critique really helped my writing--it's just finding one that I'm more nervous about.

Emily: That's the quandary. :P

It did flood--but thankfully it's gone down by now (though the sump pump in the basement is still churning out a lot of water, and the furnace floated a bit and got wedged into a corner).

Charles: I wish I had such tough skin. I'm much more sensitive to what other people think . . .

Ali: It's gone down--thankfully there weren't evacuations in the town or anything!

Or even the same book? :P

It makes me glad I'm a blogger; where else would I get this kind of support? :)

Damyanti: Hello!

It worries me--I don't know of a huge number of horror stories, but it still makes me nervous.

The Golden Eagle said...

Deborah: I'll have to remember that link. :) Thanks for letting me know!

Murees: Sounds like a safe plan to me--though even then there are a lot of non-legitimate literary agents out there.

Good point. It would be rather easier to prove you're the original creator if you had a document with the date and your name!

Naina: Wow. I didn't know you were writing your book in secret before! I hope the day comes when you feel you can show your work to others you know.

Simon: All of them? Those are a lot of books! :)

I know--but I'm still worried about that initial plunge.

Tony: Similar issue here. We live in a rural area, and even in the city (20-some miles away) I don't believe there's much of a writing community . . . that I know of. Maybe they're all hiding. :P

I'll have to keep those points in mind.

Tara: Congrats on your critique. :)

I would want someone who knows the industry well; they'd be more likely to offer good feedback that would really help my writing.

Stuart: I would want to do the editing myself, if (when) I reach that point.

Angela: I'm not sure the time is right for me, at the moment; though I probably will go hunting for critique partners sometime in the future.

Shirley: I'd fuss and brood over negative comments for a while . . . and THEN start cursing them. :P

I don't let anyone look at my work until it's gone through rewrites and revisions, and then a final once-through; which means I really haven't shown anyone my current work at all.

Crystal: I like the idea of exchanging emails first, just to get to the know the person. It seems more surefire that way--or at least as much as it can be.

Liza: Hope you find just the right person to look over your novel. :)

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

I always feel nervous/excited to send my work off to readers. I don't generally give it to people I don't know, though, because usually I'm looking for specific feedback.

Great post! (I'm in your campaign group stopping by to say hello.) :)

julie fedderson said...

The first time I sent stuff out to be critted to someone I didn't know, I was so worried--but now she's my best beta. I find it a little scarier to let people I know read my stuff--worried to have them see me in a different light, I guess.

The Golden Eagle said...

Julie: Thanks! :)

It's nice to meet you. Welcome to The Eagle's Aerial Perspective!

Julie: I feel the same worry when I show people I know what I've written--or they ask to see it. You work on something like a story for so long it's hard to tell what people might interpret from small things you're used to.

Rekha said...

I guess one can always check out with writer friends/ fellow bloggers who critique works...Its a leap of faith sending the book out into the world anyway...why not start somewhere trust worthy?

Memzie said...

To be honest, I am in the same boat as you. It is scary to think about strangers reading your work.