Internet community where I can get feedback on my prose and storytelling
April 28, 2014 4:27 PM   Subscribe

I am about 15,000 words into my first novel, and I'm finding it difficult to get feedback from my old English major friends. I'd like to know how the pace, grammar, syntax, etc. of my story strike various experienced readers, but I certainly don't want to put my manuscript online in an unsecured environment. Any thoughts? BTW, I live in the Maine woods; no, there are no local meet-ups. I really wish there were.
posted by jwhite1979 to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I've found the NaNoWriMo Forums quite helpful.
posted by divabat at 4:47 PM on April 28, 2014

I really don't think friends tell the truth. You could hire a copy editor or proof-reader, and have them sign an NDA. I'd just keep writing and worry about grammar, etc. when I was done.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:00 PM on April 28, 2014

Copy editor here. No, don't hire a copy editor or a proofreader. If you want to, hire a story editor. Copy editing and proofreading come last. And if you're dealing with a pro, an NDA is overkill. Only my most amateur clients ever ask me to sign one and I roll my eyes every time.

What's the genre? You may have an easier time finding online writing buddies if you concentrate on your niche. It's not an easy thing, finding sympatico writing pals with whom to exchange pages, but if you don't have anybody in your neck of the woods online is the way to go.

You may want to consider a paying class. University extensions often offer quality writing classes and programs. UCLA is one I've experienced firsthand. This may be a way of meeting writers, too, who you may want to team up with.

Also, it's good to understand where you are in your novel at 15,000 words. What's your estimated word count? So are you...25% done? More or less? It may not be time to assess your story, frankly. In my experience, as a writer and an editor, the first 15,000 are the easy ones.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:19 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hire a developmental editor. I'm a freelance editor (after a bunch of years working as an acquiring editor for a publisher) and this is a relatively small chunk of what I do, but one that I find enjoyable. I assume that many other editors feel the same way.
posted by MeghanC at 5:30 PM on April 28, 2014

I certainly don't want to put my manuscript online in an unsecured environment

Why not? I mean, what do you think the outcome of that would be? People post their novels online all the time.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:39 PM on April 28, 2014

no, there are no local meet-ups. I really wish there were.

If possible, I'd still seek out a physical writers group in the nearest big city, and see if you can participate via email/skpye/whatever. It shouldn't be a huge issue with all the tech available.

I have found feedback from a trusted group immensely helpful in my writing, but I would never throw myself on the mercy of some random forum. In my experience the advice ends up being either demoralizingly cruel or just plain amateurish. Even if it's over the internet, a long-term relationship with people who have a vested interest in maintaining a helpful, constructive group is what you want. Getting sniped at by random assholes on forums will drive you crazy.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:52 PM on April 28, 2014

Response by poster: I didn't know developmental editing was a thing. I'm glad to know this. Any recommendations?
BlahLaLa, I think the genre is Gothic suspense. It takes place in 14th c. Sussex after plague has wiped out half a village and the parish clergy. My word count goal is 80,000, so I'm just under 20% of the way there. At an average of 300 words a day it's quite slow-going, but at least I know where the story is headed and how to get there. I'm quite confident in my plot, but my rather periodic prose and the somewhat nonlinear storytelling--sometimes I wonder if I've been reading too much Marcel Proust and not enough Stephen King.
posted by jwhite1979 at 5:54 PM on April 28, 2014

What you need is a workshop group. People at your own level or slightly above who want to review manuscripts and offer advice for how to improve them. It can be hard to form a group. I cobbled mine together out of a writing class I took.
posted by deathpanels at 6:06 PM on April 28, 2014

I've half written a bunch of novels and I'd be wary of seeking detailed criticism - it's never really helped me to finish. Get it done first, no matter how clunky, then maybe get some feedback and then do an editing re-write.

However if you want some brief thoughts on what you've done so far then memail me.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:41 PM on April 28, 2014

Response by poster: I have taken you up on the offer, Sebmojo. Thank you.
posted by jwhite1979 at 6:59 PM on April 28, 2014

I don't know if something like this mentorship-by-correspondence program might also be of interest; I don't know anyone who's gone through it, but some big names have been affiliated:
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:12 PM on April 28, 2014

Response by poster: That's terrific, cotton. If I can talk my wife into setting a few grand aside...

Meanwhile, perhaps I should ask a related question: any MeFites want to start a writing group? I'm thinking it would be comprised of people trying to become serious writers (or perhaps serious writers? heh). People would have to have, I don't know, maybe 10,000 words written in order to join the conversation?
posted by jwhite1979 at 10:22 PM on April 28, 2014

I've had good luck with Absolute Write. It's divided up into several forums, including forums for finding people to trade 'crits' with -- that is, you agree to review their writing if they agree to review yours. The forums vary in how much they are organized -- iirc, some have specific formats that crits must be provided in, etc -- but go and look at the forum titles to see if any match up with what you're writing, and read some entries.
posted by Mogur at 7:23 AM on April 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm usually open to a quick read and non-pro critique, too. seems like the same kind of place as AW (I don't have much experience on either, but AW seems more populated and active)
posted by Jacen at 11:31 AM on April 29, 2014

i know you've kind of gotten your answers, but i'm here, so...

i would say look for a developmental editor. and look for that type of editor after you're done with the first draft. then they have the whole picture in front of them and can work with that. workshopping is the way to go when you're still working on the book.

i do a lot of publishing related things, but one of the things i do, and would like to do more of, is developmental editing. you want to look for a DE who generally enjoys your niche genre because you will get better feedback from that person. you would still hopefully get decent feedback from a DE who hates gothic horror, but why go that route if you don't have to?

a DE will help you with story development, plot holes, continuity, things like that. if they notice typos along the way they'll point them out (at least i do) but they are NOT your copy editor or proof reader.

when you're contracting you'll want to decide how many passes the DE will do. will you get hard copy comments or track changes in word. will you do a phone call to go over comments, or just email? things like that.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:56 PM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

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