Spit & Polish
There is just a little less than TWO WEEKS left to submit to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest! If you’re ready, delay no more and submit now. But if you are still polishing your piece, you might find yourself fretting. Is it ready? How will you know if it is ready? How does anyone ever know?
Well, you don’t ever really know (and, probably, there is no such thing as really ready,) but when you’ve done everything you can in your writing pod, the next step is to test the story. That’s right: you send it to readers.
Beta readers, writing groups, and critique swaps are an invaluable part of the writers’ process. You will never see your story the same way a reader will. They will read things into your story that you never dreamed and they will see the holes that you had subconsciously filled in. They provide feedback, even if it’s not as critical – or too critical – as you’d like.
Even experienced writers can always use new first readers. People move on and grow tired, and you can always use a new perspective. But where do you find these readers?
There are a lot of writing forums on the internet. There’s the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror (OWW), SFFWorld.com‘s writing forum, and Codex for more experienced writers – but Critters is the grandmother of them all. Conceived as a hub for getting your work critiqued in exchange for critiquing the work of others, it now does that and more. With (literally) tens of thousands of members, extensive tools, industry information, and codified participation rules, Critters is easy to drop in to, participate in, and use. You are all but guaranteed to get some useful feedback here.
Wattpad is a platform for posting your work and having it made available for free to millions of readers around the world. These readers can then like, favourite, or comment on your work. While the comment system is not designed for (and is not very good for) thorough critical feedback, it will give you a far more personal idea of whether your story is resonating with your readers. Readers are not shy about cheering when they need to cheer and hating when they need to hate! You can get useful information from the site’s metrics as well: have you got five thousand reads on your first scene, and ten reads on the second? You’re losing readers. Something needs to be changed. NOTE that Wattpad and other sites like it (e.g. BookCountry) are public, and so anything posted there counts as “published” in the eyes of other publishers.
Your Local Convention
Fan-run conventions are a great way to network as a new or established writer. Most cons will have programmed events and workshops for writers, but even when they don’t, attending panels dedicated to craft can be helpful. The other bums in the chairs next to you? Those are probably other writers, and probably eager to swap stories! Don’t be shy about “outing” yourself as a new or emerging writer. Those panels and workshops are for your benefit. Likely, most of the attendees would be happy to help you meet the right people in your local scene.
How did you meet your readers? Everyone has a story. A good reading and critiquing relationship is one of the more engaging ways to know a person!
Don’t forget: the deadline for submissions is February 14th, 2015. Polish those stories and send ’em in! Guidelines, as ever, right here.