Spit & Polish

Repair by Cuson

Repair by Cuson

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.


Posted on February 3, 2015, in Status Updates, Writing Advice. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Charlotte! This contest looks awesome. Good luck to everyone who enters!

    Thanks for mentioning Book Country as a place where writers can get feedback on their work online.

    Quick question: Can you clarify what you mean when you write, “anything posted [on Book Country] counts as ‘published’ in the eyes of other publishers”?

    Thank you!

    Lucy Silag
    Book Country Community and Engagement Manager

    • Hi Lucy! Thanks for dropping in. 😀

      Many markets, for short stories in particular, specify that material submitted to them must be “unpublished”. These markets have taken to elaborating that stories which appeared online in any public forum are considered to have been published already. Their contracts often ask for First World Electronic Rights. This has led to critique forums of many websites (such as SFFWorld and Critters) being “locked” – you need a membership to view this material. The forum then counts as private, and is not understood to have used those first electronic rights.

      I’ve found novel publishers are a little more flexible, but there are still quite a few out there – and big ones – who don’t want material that has appeared online. A writer could certainly take their chances and hope that a prospective publisher doesn’t mind taking previously published material (or that they want the book so badly, they will overlook the previous publication,) but there is plenty of precedent for publishers rejecting manuscripts on the basis on their having appeared on a place like Wattpad first.

      The issue is still a bit fraught!

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