Saturday, May 17, 2014

Posting your work for online crits?

My queries are rejected by literary agents and I was wondering if it's OK to publish my manuscript on the instead. I just want people to read it (if they'll want to, of course) and comments could help me to improve, to evolve as a writer. I'm an avid reader of your blog, so I trust you. What do you think: is it a good or bad idea?

I think it's a terrible idea.  Here's why:

You always want to be in the bottom third of a crit group. You want to be getting crits from writers with sharper skills and more tricks of the trade than you currently have.

It's the same with learning any new skill. Right now you're the apprentice: you need to hang out with people who are journeymen.  When you improve, you'll want to hang out with the masters.

The trouble with many of these "post your fiction and we'll comment on it is" is the writing is just awful.  So awful the writers don't even know how awful it is.  You don't want comments or crits from bad writers.

When I zipped over to it was a slew of swill. There may be good writing hidden away there but I sure didn't see it.

You're probably querying too soon, and without seeing it I'm guessing your query is a mess (I could be wrong)

Get to a crit group. Get to a writing conference. Get to an online class or workshop.  Find someone who will give you some straight answers. {ChumBucket queriers get very straight answers} Publishing your work is not the way to get better. Practicing your craft is the way to get better.

I'm sure some of the comments on this blog post will offer other ideas (probably better ideas too, since the commenters skew toward writers) that will help you.


Anonymous said...

great advice.......this writer should read Self-editing For Fiction Writers. Renni Browne will teach him/her more in her excellent $15 book than any random writer on FictionPress

AJ Blythe said...

As well as following Ms Shark's words of wisdom you could try contests. They are a great way to get feedback on your writing (and you can pick contests where the final judge is an editor/agent you want to read your ms).

If you aren't familiar with writing contests Stephie Smith has a list on her website ( to get you started.

Can't comment on the Chumbucket yet as I still have to work out the time difference between Oz and Ms Shark!

Ardenwolfe said...

I must agree. A lot of wannabes will lead you wrong. Either get a critique group or post samples on noted writers' forums.

Even then, be wary of the advice and compare it to noted sources in the business.

Seek out those sources.

Publishing your work to get feedback to improve your work isn't the way the business works at all.

Susan Bonifant said...

It's tough to find an all-in-one critic who can scrutinize both the structure and general appeal of your writing.

If they're well read and discriminating, and not related to me of course, I find readers better critics than other writers.

Cara M. said...

Get thee to a crit group! and are not called the pit of voles for no reason. It's wonderful to get comments and feedback, but the normal etiquette for these sights is to give positive feedback only, unless, of course, you make someone angry by dissing their favorite character or doing something they don't expect and don't like. Then you get flames. None of these things are constructive criticism.

The Absolute Write forums, however, are a place where you can get feedback on things like query letters, from other writers, where people are actually trying to help. But better, reach out, maybe to the local Nano group, or do some googling, and find some people, preferably strangers, who want to crit because they want to get better. Other ways are to find CP matchmaking posts, where people working in your genre pitch their manuscript looking for someone who might want to read theirs and are willing to read yours in return. I got some really great advice from my wonderful CPs, and I hope I was able to help them as well. And really, the more feedback you're getting the better. You don't want to shape your writing to suit one other person, you want to make it the best version of your own image of it that you can. So CPs disagreeing is great ground to exercise your own judgment. And that is a skill that is without doubt essential.

mhleader said...

If you have a FEW dollars to spend, head over to and check out their Novel Writing Program.
Total cost is $500, it gives you a structure for planning and writing your ms.
Everything is done online at your own pace. You get feedback (once you have your first 100 or more pages written and have completed the exercises) from bestselling novelists, NYC Editor, AND one or more agents.
AND you get to revise and resubmit after you get their recommendations.
AND...if the final version is good enough, they'll help you market your ms. by helping you create a marketing plan and then either by offering direct representation, OR by introducing you to an agent who might want to represent your work, OR by helping you write a boffo query letter and other stuff to get you sold.
Total cost: $499. Seriously. This is the best bargain out there and way cheaper than almost any conference.
Check it out at:

Another GREAT (though expensive!) option is NY agent Donald Maass's BREAKOUT NOVEL INTENSIVE workshops, offered via FreeExpressions (an editorial service).
They run about $1900 for a full week (includes private room in a nice hotel or resort and all meals) and are offered twice a year, usually in Oregon in the spring and someplace east or midwest in September.
You submit first 50 pages (plus other stuff) about a month in advance of the workshop start.
The Donald himself reads and gives you a one-on-one 30-minute personal critique of those first 50 pages.
You also get similar sessions with usually 3 other editors, plus morning classes led by Donald Maass, plus opportunities for critique groups, private writing time, etc. etc.
You can get details on this at:

(One caveat: These are called INTENSIVE programs for a reason...not fun sightseeing trips.
Bring your ms. and your computer. You'll need them.
And the feedback you'll get will be honest, not necessarily fun to hear. Don't expect to be told everyone loves your stuff.
They're there to make your work better, not to feed your ego.)

Kitty said...

These are really great ideas!

I'd like to add to the list reading Elmore Leonard's 10 rules.

Good luck!

Kitty said...

I broke Leonard's Rule #5 in my comment above.

B. DuBois said...

I can vouch that Janet gave excellent (i.e. specific) feedback on my Chum Bucket query that helped me to really focus my revision efforts in the right direction. BUT, be sure that in choosing to query now, you aren't putting the cart before the horse. You MUST be sure your ms is your best possible work (hint: it will never be, because someone will always be able to show you something that could be better. This will, at first, get your back up. Then, you'll see they're probably right. But make it the best work you're capable of).
There are no short cuts.
Repeat after me:
There are no short cuts.

But don't worry--the long way 'round has its rewards, both at journey's end, and along the way.

DLM said...

@BlancheDuBois, your comment goes as well for the $20,000 agent bribe question we had this week too!

Elissa M said...

If you write speculative fiction the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror is a great place for feedback and learning the craft. It has various pricing plans, but is basically $49 for a year.

You're expected to critique other writers' work (and the site has pointers for how to do that). I personally have found that critiquing others has taught me as much (or more) about writing as receiving critiques. The site is moderated and every month the workshop's professional editors pick several members' submissions to critique in the newsletter.

E.D. Martin said...

Not all crit sites are equal. Consider checking out Scribophile, a site that offers much higher quality feedback than other sites. In order to post your work, you have to critique others' works, and the more indepth the critique, the more points you earn, so you can post more. There's very little of the empty feedback you get on most crit cites. It's for people serious about writing, and many of the pieces workshopped there go on to be published, because the feedback is useful (not the "Hey this is great will you like my story too?" stuff you hear on a lot of sites) and much of it is given by people who know what they're talking about when it comes to writing.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

I came up in a sheltered little speshul snowflake online workshop site that cosseted and petted writers. It was a total hug fest.

Now, it got me writing . . . badly.

A pro level crit at a writers conference, shall we say, realigned my expectations. That novel was beyond redemption, it is now trunked.

All the suggestions here are good ones.

AW is a good place to start and you give to get. Be prepped to help others and pack your asbestos underwear.

For a cost-effective real world smack upside the head, I know two freelance editors who do 10K assessments for very reasonable rates. It's a good way to know if you are on track.

You are at the stage where you need to play tennis with players that are better than you. You should get trounced most of the time. As your skills improve, you will move up the ranks and get trounced by a whole new level of skilled players.


Susan Bonifant said...

I'm not sure what is worse: unskilled editors telling you your work is great, or unskilled editors telling you your work is dreck. Either way, Terri Lynn Coup is right. It's time to play up.

Anonymous said...

A real critique group, in-person or online, is essential. There are several of them out there, either general or tailored to certain genres or audiences.

IME, you learn as much by giving critiques as you do by getting them. Sometimes, it's just easier to see a problem in somebody else's ms. :)

Adib Khorram said...

@Anita Joy: New York is UTC-5:00, and Australia's mainland varies from UTC+8:00 to UTC+10:00, it seems. So your time difference is 13-15 hours ahead of The Shark, unless you live in one of the outlying islands or other weird time zones...

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said... is also a good place to look for local, in person writing groups.

You know you're in the right group (online or IRL) when most of the other writers find a lot to improve in your work, and you can't find much in theirs, but when the other writers give them critique it makes sense to you.

Writer of Wrongs said...

Consider genre specific groups. Sisters in Crime has the GUPPY (the Great Unpublished) group that shares information, subsidizes writing classes, and connects beta readers. I'm certain that other genre groups have similar support. There are many resources...and much to learn. This is a humbling business. Don't forget that there are many micro successes along the way to celebrate.
Good luck!

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Ditto the Online Writing Workshop. Very useful place.

If you're into speculative fiction but can't afford a membership, you could also try

Anonymous said...

Go to a writer's conference and get connected with EVERY WRITER YOU MEET.

I highly recommend the Pike's Peak Writers' Conference ( I made friends there who are serious about writing; we started a critique group; and my writing has improved by leaps and bounds.

Laina said...

...okay but at what point did 500 dollars become affordable? That's almost 2 weeks wages at minimum wage. That's literally my rent.

Sorry, I'm sure it's a great program and everything, but that is not cheap.