Throwing it out there

I didn’t really want to enter the fray, but here I go.

Have you seen all the hoopla about Book Country?  Do you even know what it is?

Book Country is an off-shoot of a rather large publishing house (Penguin).  Basically, it is another venue to workshop your book.  The difference between Book Country and say, Critters, (other than the fact that Penguin is attached to it) seems to be that your stuff is OUT THERE in the wild, gray yonder (I imagine the intertubes as being rather gray; with a metallic sheen for sure, but definitely gray).

Folk do this all the time.  Before they are ready, they put their work out to display, either on a forum, on their blog, or (egads) published on Amazon or Smashwords.  Hell, I’ve done it.  To be sure, with a short story and not a novel, but I’ve done it.

You write and write and write, and the next natural step is to share what you wrote.  Any writer, especially a new writer, is all too eager to share.  But, as I and many others have learned, sharing too soon has a few draw backs.  Allow me to list them:

  • Your work is not ready.  It WILL be filled with grammar errors, typos, and plot inconsistencies.  Or, just unbelievable plots twists.  This will make you look STUPID.
  • It is one thing to get flogged in the privacy of your private critique group, but quite another when it is done publicly.  Believe me – I’ve done it.  Though it is very educational, it might do more harm than good as your ego will suffer.  New writers need to be encouraged to do better – not beaten to a pulp till they crawl back under the rock they squirmed out of.
  • Though you may think folks will not remember your first draft (and, they probably will attempt to forget it as soon as humanly possible), it is hard to make a new first impression.  First impressions are just that – first.  I’ve given up on making my first book anything but a lesson learned.  I’ve put too many versions of it up on the net that I’m sure when folks see it coming up they groan and say, “Not again, Nila, please, not again.”  My only hope now is to try to fix it, carry though on getting it published to learn the ropes, and move on to the next.

So, what does all this have to do with Book Country?

I read all Jaye Manus’s blog posts on her writer-oriented blog.  And she doesn’t really like Book Country.  She’s written several articles (here, here and here) about them and I finally had to go and check out what she was so mad about.

Holy Cow, folks, ANYONE can read a writer’s work on that site.  Nevermind all the things Manus is complaining about, dear god-that-I-don’t-believe-in-but-you-might, writers are throwing it out there for ALL TO SEE.

We will see your perchance to use too many ellipses.  We will see that you don’t really know how to use first person narrative, but you are doing it well enough for folks to read along (good job).  We will see that you don’t have a proper hook and that your historical references are confusing.  We will see your word choices are less than ideal, and are not setting up the dark mood you are after. (Note to writers: hair tickling your nose while a knife is pressed to your neck?  Not likely.  The nose is the last thing you will be thinking about.)  Essentially, we will see new writers, some of them good writers, learning the craft of writing.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that.  If you are comfortable with folks watching you take baby steps with your baby, your first book more than likely, then by all means you should use the site.  The feedback I have seen is helpful and sincere.

I, for one, have learned my lesson about making my work available too soon.  Folks are not going to see the diamond in the rough.  Well, actually, they will see it.  But everyone’s story, and I really do mean that, everyone’s story is a diamond in the rough.  The trick is for YOU, the writer, to show us that diamond.  No one else will.  So, when you put that piece of coal out there for others to see, it will color how they think of you as a writer.  I know there are fellow writers out there that think I’m an awesome writer because I offer my feedback on their writing in a confident manner.  They have no clue if I can write.  I know because they have never read any of my stuff.  But they have a good (false) impression of me and I’d like to keep them deluded.  One way to do that is to make sure I only put out my best.

I’m not saying my (or your) best will be good enough, but do yourself a favor and use a critique group that does not allow your work to be publicly displayed.  Take the time to workshop your writing with a group you can trust and that is private.  No one wants to know how you make the sausage.

For that reason alone, I would be leery of using Book Country.  However, if using the site works for you, then by all means, use it.  Just be aware of all the implications of putting a rough draft on the net may have.

Keep writing.

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2 thoughts on “Throwing it out there

  1. Interesting perspective, Nila. I’m like you. I do not want people to see my early drafts (hell, half the time, *I* don’t want to see my first drafts. Heh). If someone is going to comment or critique my work, I want to know their qualifications. (That goes for works in progress only. For a published work, my feeling is that anyone who spends the money to buy it and takes the time to read it, then they’ve earned the right to say anything they want. As the author, I will shut my mouth and take it as one of the costs of doing business.)

    I’ve seen writers quit writing because of critique groups. I’ve seen others get better. So I guess it depends on the writer. Maybe, before seeking out a hard-core critique group or an online workshop, writers could test their own confidence level by asking one trusted person to give them a harsh critique. See how you react when criticized by someone you KNOW has only your best interests at heart. If that has an adverse affect, keep writing and building your confidence in private. Try again later.

    1. Well, I didn’t say I *wouldn’t* put my first draft up, but just that it is a bad idea.

      I visited the site as a new writer, which I am, and that’s how I saw it. My mouth dropped open when I could click on a book and start reading it AND see what other writers rated it and their comments. It was like – whoa! It’s out there for everyone to see? Just seemed odd. But maybe that’s just the new way of doing thing?

      In regards to the paid services, I didn’t even get that far as the fact that the material and critiques were public, I knew I wouldn’t ever use their site.

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