I haven't an Inklings
May 4, 2012 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find some hapless slob (of the discerning, lettered variety) upon whom to foist my amateur fiction writing for the purpose of obtaining constructive feedback?

Recently I decided to try my hand at writing a Victorian fantasy children's novel (sort of aspiring to the style and tone of E. Nesbit and Edward Eager). I'm really enjoying the process and I think, a few chapters in, that I have the makings of a good story.

What I really want at this point is objective feedback. For some reason this hasn't been an easy thing to come by, and thus I am turning to you, Writers of MetaFilter, for advice. Are there online forums whose communities are good at this kind of thing? Which ones? Is this a service one pays for? Or do writers simply have friends with good writerly sensibilities? (Which I don't. Have friends, that is. Er, with good writerly sensibilities, I mean.)

Or am I going about this all wrong, cart before the horse and all that? Please tell me! Your advice is much appreciated.
posted by Trespassers William to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Absolutewrite.com has a great community, a Share Your Work section, and ways to find beta readers. Highly recommended.
posted by mynameisluka at 6:47 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you work or go to school or hang out in a park where you see people you don't necessarily know as well as good friends, but you know their taste in reading materials? I think that's an invaluable resource. If you see someone in your work cafeteria reading YA fantasy, you may be able to get some non-"workshoppy" feedback from some people who just like to read.

Basic, "I didn't get what was happening to X character" can be sometimes better than a full critique, I've found.
posted by xingcat at 6:54 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

You want SFF OWW. It's an online writer's workshop where people earn the right to post their own fiction by posting substantial constructive feedback of other stories at a 1:3 ratio. The result being that each story gets an average of three responses.

You have to pay to join, $49 a year, but I can't really think of money better spent.
posted by 256 at 7:11 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Where do you live? Most cities have adult education programs that often include writing workshops. There you can not only get feedback from more than one person, but you can also learn how to fix what isn't working. They may want you to have more of a full story draft though, so this might be a second step for you.

Best of luck and happy writing!
posted by Calicatt at 9:08 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you willing to pay? I know of a real live genuine multiply-published author who offers exactly this service. Memail for details.
posted by KathrynT at 9:59 PM on May 4, 2012

256 - buh? Critters.org is free and is pretty much the same thing.

The reason it's never worked very well for me is the requirement to submit a lot of critiques, not because I get bad responses when I've put stuff out there.
posted by kavasa at 10:25 PM on May 4, 2012

Dude, I'll read it. You'll find my slob credentials impeccable; in addition I have a whole degree in reading and I even spent a semester with an emphasis on Victorian literature and the period's novel introduction of literature especially for children -- not to be confused with the same period's rather disturbing literature about children . . .

The icing on the cupcake is that I'm a veritable geyser of opinions, feedback and criticism (constructive upon request).

I also would just be mighty pleased to help you out, for free, pinky promise not to steal anything and you have to read all the drafts of my Great American Novel when I get to it .

Maybe others feel the same and askme is the answer to your askme -- we could start a draft fiction critiquing group!
posted by mibo at 5:41 AM on May 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Kavasa: Yes, there is Critters as well, but I found their process less forgiving and the reviews in general less helpful. I stand by my recommendation of SFF OWW. The cost is really trivial. Also, I'm actually a strong proponent of the idea that writing critical reviews of others' works does a lot to help make one a better writer.
posted by 256 at 6:06 AM on May 5, 2012

mibo: that sounds like a great idea. I have the feeling that the mods would frown on a spate of "What do you think of my story?" AskMes, but I bet that a MeTa post looking to start a Mefi Writing Critique Circle would meet a positive response. From my own experience, I can attest that MeFites are excellent writing partners.
posted by 256 at 6:09 AM on May 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I do developmental editing as well as writing. I've been in CRITTERS and yeah, it requires a lot of investment of time on your part. YMMV on what you get back... part of the deal there may be that being a good critiquer and being a good writer are two different things. It may be the sort of thing that works better in a "real" writers group; you know, the face-to-face kind. Or not, as I have been in good ones and bad ones. You pays your money...

Absolute Write is good. I have not been on SFF OWW. These days I have several trusted beta readers (and I act as a beta reader for them). Once you get a couple-three, hang onto 'em. I just this week sold a story that my betas helped shepherd into its final form.

I am, like you, a big fan of Eager and Nesbit. I'd say that you'd want to reach out primarily to readers who know something about the genre in which you are working. You might also consider joining the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators -- you need not be published to become a member.

Good luck!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:34 AM on May 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another possibility is for you to look for an IRL writing group. Ones open to new members sometimes advertise with a craigslist community groups ad, or in a local alternative paper classified section, or with fliers at artsy coffee shops, or you could just google "writers group + [your location]". This is a way to develop local writery friends! Just be upfront about what project you are working on as some groups might be a better or worse fit for a children's literature project.

Also many cities will have an organization that hosts writing conferences, where you would go for a weekend and there would be critique sessions where you share your work, talks about the publishing industry and aspects of the writing craft, etc. It is another way to meet a lot of writers, make some friends, and learn about the whole process. As an example I have attended the Southern California Writers Conference and enjoyed it. These are generally open to anyone who wants to attend (and pays to register) so it's a large group. There are also formal workshops which you must apply for with a writing sample and are more like intensive workshop classes. These are usually a week or longer, and there are ones that focus on more literary work, ones specifically for science fiction/fantasy, for children's literature, etc. If you want to research these, one place to start is the Writers' Conferences & Centers website.
posted by unsub at 10:22 AM on May 5, 2012

These suggestions are oh-so-helpful. I'll be checking out all of these sites right away. Thanks everyone!

mibo, that's a very kind offer, and one I'm tempted to take you up on...You may get a message from me in the next week or so.

And I like your idea to start a MetaFilter critique group--I'm surprised there isn't one already!
posted by Trespassers William at 10:58 AM on May 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actually there have been MeFi writing groups in the past - I remember someone posting to MetaTalk about it last year, trying to get a new one going, but I'm not sure if it's still happening. Okay, here is that thread.
posted by unsub at 1:03 PM on May 5, 2012

(I second SFF OWW. I haven't used it in a few years, but they have several Big Name alumni, and they can be really great if you put effort into. Although the internet is full of free things, sometimes -- like with MeFi -- paying for things can be good.)
posted by wintersweet at 1:47 PM on May 5, 2012

Hi there - I'd also be up for reading / critiquing. I like Victorian fantasy stuff and Nesbit / Eager and have experience in writing groups and a bit of experience teaching creative writing. MeMail me if you're interested. I was also the OP for the MeTa post abut the writing group, which was fairly active for a couple of months. It is not now active as far as I know but there's a link to the current administrator on my profile if you want to contact him.
posted by paduasoy at 2:36 AM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

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