Sunday, June 19, 2011

Keeping Your Work: Be Writing Group Savvy

Today, I have Alyx discussing posting your fiction online for critiques. I have loved my online author communities and believe the critiques I've received have helped me to become published. However, like Alyx, I'm really concerned by the large amount of openly posted fiction that I've seeing online asking for critiques.

I personally recommend only ever sharing your work in password-protected, small communities. I currently work within a small online writing group that is invite-only. Even when I belonged to a large community, I only posted my work within the invite-only private areas with just a few people at a time.

Keeping Your Work, by Alyx J Shaw

I’m going to address an issue that is becoming more prevalent in recent years, and one that is an easily-avoidable and innocent-looking trap that can cost a new author a story. I’m talking about on-line author’s communities.

The idea behind these groups is a good one and is something I actually approve of. Someone sets up a moderated community, usually in a place like Live Journal or Dreamwidth, new unpublished authors join, and together they support one another, discuss their work, show stories in progress for feed-back, exchange ideas, and form a place in which to nurture each other in the hopes of being the next J K Rowling or Stephen King. It’s a great idea, but there is one very sad and obvious flaw in this – namely some people cannot be trusted with a burned-out match, let alone your work.

Posting any work in a community such as a writer's group or in Live Journal is simply not a wise idea, as I personally learned the hard way. The community “mods” may have the very best of intentions and would never steal from you, but they do not live in the heads of their members. All it takes is one jackass with a severe case of Entitlement to copy and paste your stuff and it is gone.

“F-Locking”, which is using tools provided in on-line journals to limit who has access to your work, is a good idea, but not 100% either. All it takes is one well-intentioned friend who just wants to share the uber-awesome thing you wrote with their BFF, who then bounces it to someone else, who bounces it to another buddy, who bounces it to that guy they sorta know in English Lit and guess what - all your hard work has someone else's name on it.

People do not have to be bad to help someone steal from you. They don't even have to intend to do it in order to help someone else steal it. But none of us are in control of other people, and it is hard enough to know who to trust in the real world, let alone the internet where that nice lady you chat with daily could easily be a convicted felon working you for your credit card number. So just keep your original fiction private. It’s your work. You put in the time and effort and research. Do not lose it because of an innocent mistake. On-line author’s communities are great places to learn and meet other people in your shoes, but never post anything you have even the slightest intention of publishing. It might end up in somebody else’s portfolio.

Bio: Alyx J Shaw is an irritable rantaholic who enjoys writing, making medieval honey wine, smoking, tarantulas, (not smoking tarantulas) and raising strange and toxic plants. She has been a practicing Wiccan for ten years, and is one of the few people in VancouverBritish Columbia who actually enjoys the rain

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