Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Critique Circle

My favorite online workshop is Critique Circle. I've gotten to know people there, well enough to feel bad when I'm absent for several months, well enough to know their work and look forward to it. I'm shy and not good at getting to know people through chit chat, but reading someone's book give you a glimpse of their hopes and dreams - like reading their blog.

All you have to do to earn credits is to write a review of at least 300 words for a story that is at the front of the queue. When you've done several of those, you have enough credits to upload your own story. It will probably get reviewed, since your first three stories go in the newbie queue, and the workshop is structured to encourage people to review the stories at the front of the queues, which pays more credits.

It might seem it doesn't matter much if your review is good or bad, as long as it's over 300 words. There's an informal system inside the formal one though. Anyone can write useless reviews - but if you write a very helpful one the recipient is likely to review you in turn. They might even go back and review your older chapters, though they get fewer upload credits for doing so than they would for reviewing the most recent material.

If you subscribe you can create your own queue with your own rules. So far I haven't done this yet - I'm saving my money to publicize my book after it gets published. They've placed limits on the personalized queues, so as not to make the free users feel too frustrated. The large user base is one of the major assets of this workshop, because it makes it much easier to find someone who is helpful to you, and considers your critiques helpful to them as well.

What's your favorite online workshop? What do you like about it?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Querying Your Query

I guess you've started writing seriously when you expose your writing to a workshop. You're well along the path to a first novel when you workshop your query. And you're a veteran when you workshop your procrastination techniques.

I've been at phase two for awhile, and Evil Editor is the first and most unique query workshop I found.

Usually you help other people polish their work in exchange for having your own polished. Oddly enough, that's not necessarily expected on Evil Editor's blog. You receive free and unreciprocated (unless you feel like it) help in exchange for accepting the fact that other people are going to make fun of your query letter, and first pages if you submit them. There are several games to this end. Each submission is used for an episode of Guess The Plot, where Evil Editor tells people your title, and makes up outrageous plots that might fit it. It would be easier if he weren't so cunning at slanting his brief description of your real plot.

If you submit the first hundred fifty words of your book, you may receive helpful advice on the all important hook. On the other hand, people will write satirical continuations of your opening, and Evil Editor will publish the one(s) he considers funniest.

The frequent writing exercises may be helpful, although after a short time I had to decide my time was better spent on my own writing. The exercises do offer opportunities to take vengeful digs at Evil Editor.

I like to think Evil Editor is what he seems - someone frustrated by the bland unhelpful politeness that is most prudent for an agent or editor rejecting work. Under the cloak of anonymity he could be both helpful and rude. Or not - who knows?

I'm going to give this blog two thumbs up. A good query letter and a thick skin are both important for a novelist. I'm glad I started polishing my query here, and even met one of the first people to actually find the premise of my novel intriguing.

Have you workshopped any queries yet? Are you planning to? Do you know of any writer's workshop you'd prefer to a special query workshop for this?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Google reader recommended sources just introduced me to A Walk in My Shoes. This is a blog about writing and shoes, blended in an amazing way. If Susan Mills does as good a job branding her novels as she does her blog, she has an awesome career ahead of her!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Choosing an Online Writer's Workshop

My current manuscript and I have been in three online writers workshops together. All have had good and bad points. First was the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. The name may have been a little different back then, but the website looks much the same. The experience is worth sharing with other writers - I'll do the same for the other workshops I've tried soon.

The most important this is being able to find active members, and this is easy at OWW. Start by looking at the most recently published stories - though just reviewing these isn't your best bet if you want helpful critiques. Look for stories with at least a couple of critiques. One might be an accident, but if a story has several, probably the author critiques other people in turn. You could critique this story - but better yet, read the critiques already there, and when you find one you like, see what that person has written.

Unfortunately, OWW isn't ideal for a novel. To keep things fresh, you can only have three stories or chapters up at a time. Given the erratic schedules of those of us who love to write but have to work at something else to make a living, its hard enough critiquing partners on the same schedule to make this work. I did benefit from this workshop though - I received a lot of help with my first few chapters. If chapter one is confusing, you can't blame the fact that somebody missed previous chapters.

Also, you have to pay - $6 a month, unless you go for a longer plan. We all know how that is - you think you're going to stop for a few weeks, then it turns into months, automatically deducted from your credit card while you don't have time to log on. Its a good workshop, and they have to pay the bills, but I always find that racket annoying. I like workshops with a free option, even if they have to charge for premium. You can find a greater variety of critique partners - although I never had a problem with this in practice.

I'll post a few more details if they come to me, but its been quite awhile since me and OWW were together.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A New Plan to Rule the World!

A big thank you to Fairyhedgehog in the comments for asking when I would blog again. Its more fun when someone actually notices. I've been concentrating on polishing my manuscript, but I'll need to learn to multitask. Soon I'll be writing a new novel while submitting my finished one, and fulfilling rewrite requests (hopefully) first from an agent then from a publisher.

Its a good thing I've found time to blog, since the publishing industry has clearly missed the ideal way to handle e-readers, and now I can tell them. One of the problems is that people who have spent so much money on e-readers are reluctant to spend more on e-books.

So e-readers should be given away free.

No, really. Like cell phones. Of course you have to sign a contract.

So, if you sign a contract to pay $40 a month for two years, what do you get besides a free e-reader?

Well, you get one new bestseller a month at no extra charge - at least sort of. Like cell phone minutes, the credits don't necessarily roll over if you don't use them in time, depending on your plan. But if you're careful and have some McMillan favorites, that's probably $14 or $16 of your $40 monthly fee right there.

OK, so you'll have to pay for new bestsellers for the rest of the month - but here's the publishers' chance to push the books not in bookstores anymore. You get free unlimited first chapters of novels. When you just have to read the next chapter, you get one click ordering - and you probably get credits for five or ten non best selling authors not widely back listed. You may not use them every month, but their nominal value is probably above $40 without the new book or anything. Too bad a few new books are so widely advertised that you just have to order them even if your one credit is used up, so people tend to go over their $40 frequently.

Maybe you could get a magazine subscription or two with that.

Just for fun, how about 1 genuine collectible autographed hardcover, or a few paperbacks a year to carry around when you don't want to worry about having your e-reader stolen?

A set of steak knives?

Now the hard questions - who decides how to divy your $40? And are these 'free' e-readers handled by distributors, who are the only people who actually deal directly with all major publishers? Ironic to discover that far from being cut out by e-readers, distributors are now front and center.

That's enough, I'm getting over a cold, and am still light headed. You couldn't tell - could you?