You get a visit from the muses and your story cup runneth over. You type feverishly.
Urgently recording a dream, a whisper, the evaporating trails of legend. You stand back and you admire your masterpiece. Truly, it is a thing for the world to behold. You realize that it is not enough for the story to be written; your runes must be read.
Crud. Now, I don’t know about you but I have no friends. I’m your garden variety asthma pump-inhaling, glasses-wearing, Firefly-loving, LoTR-quoting dork and I’m awesome. Yes, the “no friends” thing is a mystery of puzzling proportions.
The first person I showed my work to was my computer-geek husband who mostly reads books about cricket and military battles. My story revolved around food and the supernatural; not his usual cup of tea. Actually, he doesn’t drink tea of any kind but I digress.
Yes. He loved it!
But wait—my billowing bosom and hair flicking can easily sway this man.
He is not an unbiased source.
I knew on the spot that I needed constructive feedback and that asking friends and family was not a good idea. Why? Let me put it this way: it’s like posting “highly recommended from my loved ones” under accomplishments on LinkedIn.
I quickly researched the subject and what I found scared me shitless, what came next told me the exact opposite.
- Many unpublished writers were afraid of their work being stolen.
My research on copyrights advised me that once you put pen to paper, you have full ownership of the book.
- Why would anyone want to post half-baked, unpolished work online?
First drafts are rarely publisher ready and I’m a novice, my expertise is clearly limited. Feedback will help me revise and refine my work. This is critical to the development of my writing.
- You could lose valuable publishing rights.
At a quick glance, I found that while posting short excerpts online is acceptable, anything else makes your work “previously published”.
- Why would a publisher buy something a consumer can get for free online?
This is a good point if you plan to sell your book. It seems to me that the real issue here is quantity: if you are posting your work online, don’t post the story in full.
- Test marketing by using a subset of individuals to estimate characteristics of the whole population.
Statistically speaking, most new writers do not have a large enough following for accurate market testing.
- People can be meanies:
We all know that the online anonymity can turn people into ass-hats who revel in trolling and tearing things down. Are you emotionally prepared for this?
Yes, I am. You do not survive the harsh lab environment with a soft underbelly. My best advice is to separate yourself from your work and not take the feedback personally. Use the criticism to make your writing robust. Ignore the ass-hats where possible.
Feedback makes us better writers but not all feedback is insightful. What you really want is an experienced reader of your genre or someone who at the very least is honest with you. “ I like it” is useless to me, I want actionable feedback that improves my writing.
These were my options:
- Hide my work in my mind palace and wait for a professional to critique my work for free. ( What? Kind people don’t exist in your realm?)
- Post my work online and accept the consequences.
I like to pretend that I gave it more thought than this but in the end I figured:
Don’t look at me; I’m an unpublished nobody.
You’ve got to decide for yourself.