If not the blog then, where?

image of bookI’ve seen this debate elsewhere, publish on your blog so you have a ‘presence’ or keep your work to yourself so that it remains saleable. So far, I’ve just put up early pieces; exercises, bits and bobs that might entertain but that wouldn’t make it into a slush pile, never mind a magazine. Last week though, on leave and with only myself to entertain, I wrote what I think is one of my best short stories EVER (nah – doesn’t take much!) and, it being under 500 words, I was about to sling it up here for my many thousands of readers (ok, might have shifted a decimal point or two) to peruse. STOP! I thought. If this is a winner, it can’t go here, it has to go somewhere to do its winning and for that, it has to be pristine, untrammelled, unseen, and unpublished (Six readers – hear me? Six!). I teetered on the verge and muttered things like OMG, and WTF, and even They’ll Never Know, I so wanted it to be seen!

And then a compromise hove into view – Critique Circle! I could put it there, let people rummage around and maybe even get some decent feedback, and then send it to a loving home – what could be better? Well, not much as it turned out. As a CC Newbie (not now – got elevated to the Grownups queues), my story went into the up front public queue and fairly quickly picked up critiques. Some of these were rather limited – the critiquers hadn’t ‘got’ the story and so didn’t know how to judge it – but others were spot on (these, of course, were the most intelligent and insightful of the bunch [irony alert, just in case…]), not only understanding the tale but also coming up independently with the complex driving theme – musicality, poetry, and rhythm. Blinding!

It occurred to me too late that I should have announced the submission on twitter and my blog so that other members could go and take a look. I will next time. If CC offers a place to put work that might be published and doesn’t jeopardise its virginality, then that’s the place for me. I have another tale up shortly. If you’re a CC member, go take a look from the 18th (or 25th) for ‘Promotion’ and maybe give a crit if you fancy a go.

This story, ‘Dissolution’ was inspired by hearing Kate Baker narrate podcasts for Escape Pod and Clarkesworld. That voice, which turns out to have singer/musician and writer underpinnings (quelle surprise!) is one of the most evocative I have ever heard and if she were to read ‘Dissolution’, I would probably dissolute myself into a greasy blob on the carpet!

So there we are, a new phase entered in which I find I have something finally to guard. I welcome myself to the wicked and paranoid world of fiction writing!

What do you think? Use a critiquing service to find your potential readership and hone your skills or just keep it all very quiet before unleashing the lot on an uprepared public?

6 thoughts on “If not the blog then, where?

  1. Ah, you know, I am DEEPLY paranoid and so, I have never ever even desired to possibly put out any of my masterpieces (lol) online for other mere mortals to look at 😉

    I think I prefer to unleash my lot on unprepared public. It’s not that I am so incredibly arrogant that I think “meh, I am just TOO good for this” It’s just that well, from my experience visiting other critique sites, I haven’t found them very helpful and here’s the thing that gets me the most. Would you enjoy reading, say, a romance story IF you were into horror? or vice versa? Well, how do I know if the person who gave me a rubbish critique is just not into the kind of story I wrote? and even if you get gushing from someone, how do you know that they just don’t gush over everything? I’ve seen both of these type of ocurrences on critique forums I’ve visited.

    Gee, I am coming across as a really arrogant “I’m too good” writer but I’m not truly, I’m a really nice girl, I even like kittens and puppies 🙂

    • Well now, here’s a thing. Not so long ago I would have agreed with you but now I’ve had three stories critiqued at CC I am beginning to see how to rate the critiquers. There are clearly people who know nothing about the genre they’re reading and others who do but so far, I’m seeing no real correlation between this and the capacity to give an insightful review. Similarly, my experience of submitting to the Escapepod flash fiction competition recently illustrated for me how people with no idea at all of what was going on in the story were just as able (and just as inept) as those who obviously had when it came to stripping out the essentials. In short, there are knowledgable twerps and ignorant geniuses and you take from it what matters to you. Me. That is.
      Of course it might all wear a bit thin after a few more shots, in which case I’ll be joining you on the sidelines and lobbing the odd piece of prose over the wall into the public melee. But only if I think they have really earned it!
      So, how do you like your kittens & puppies? I prefer a nice salad, myself 🙂

      • Yes, a salad is nice. Roasted on a spit is nicer ha ha ha (me bad…that was awful)
        I may allow the mere mortals of CC to critique me sometime then and I suppose even the twerps should be able to respond to a good story. I did once, long ago, put up a short story on another forum, and it did get a good response but I still got paranoid and deleted the thread and my own account shortly after. Even now, I’m being super secretive about my novel whilst others proudly talk about it on their blogs. I will one day talk about it but only after it’s been sent to a few agents.

        • I suspect I would feel the same about a work the size of a novel. The odd 500 words here and there, well.. And it’s not my living so there’s less to lose, of course. Not so for any thief though. I find them, they lose their ears and quite possibly any other available body parts!

  2. I feel so dumb. It never occured to me to have a public forum critique my stories before I submit to magazines. I have a critique group, but I submit faster than our monthly meetings, so sometimes I have zero beta readers.

    I think I’ll try this for some of the pieces that are continually being rejected to see what is wrong with them. Thanks for the idea.

    • I’m becoming a bit of a fan of CC and the EscapePod forums – they feel like an online training course in critical reading and appreciation of the readership. At EP, during a recent (and as yet incomplete) flash fiction competition, I so often voted for stories no one else liked that I began to understand why it might be that my own writing may not be to most people’s taste. The question then was whether or not I wanted it to be and, give or take the skill to deliver something exceptional, I think the answer is no, I don’t write for a mass audience. At least not most of the time. The same is true of CC. I read and critique the stories of others and also observe what happens to mine. I am, I think, more able to distinguish between the critiques that have substance and those that do not. This means I am developing a better sense of what my writing actually is and what my target audience might be. Having access to a wide range of public opinion lets me know what ‘the readership’ is likely to be and, surprise surprise, it is hugely varied which means there’s room for all of us. My job now is to develop this craft to the best of my ability and write the stories I want to write for the people who want to read them.
      Jeepers! Did I just say all that? Heck!

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