I have been to workshops (not online) and have felt it a valuable experience and it wasn't only because most feedback was very good. Honest!
Now, as i'm beginning my third and hopefully final draft, I know I must get feedback on this particular work. My question is this, truthfully, I am not certain about joining a workshop. I would prefer to follow the great Stephen King's advice about showing it to not only one "ideal" reader, but more than one--so where are these people?
What are your thoughts on that--please?

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Ideal readers are hard to find. Let several people read it. Someone who's good at line-editing, someone who is a fan of the genre, an experienced reader, another writer, a friend, a stranger, folks with different educational backgrounds. Keep in mind your audience, but also that some people can be more helpful than others. And be open to criticism.
I will! I think it's good, although I always nit pick! Yes, I will be very open to criticism because it's important I hear things--especially negative things, I suppose!
I agree that I should get a few people--I'll ask around. Thanks so much, I.J. (as always).
I belong to a couple of writers groups, at least one of which hears every word of each project sooner or later. I also read each day's output to my "ideal reader" as I completed them. I once sent copies of a manuscript to a local mystery readers' group, but didn't think the effort of printing up that many copies of a full manuscript was worth the feedback I got.

The trick is to learn what each person providing feedback is like. There's a member of one of my groups who doesn't get my style or humor, but is very good at pointing out inconsistencies. I pretty much ignore his comments on jokes and stylistic things, but make sure to correct every factual thing he pointed out.

All of that comes with time. You eventually have to be the final arbiter of which advice to take, and which to ignore. Just don't be afraid of taking the criticsm face to face, and remember it's the work that is subject to criticism, not yu, or your abilities. It's business; don't take it personal. And don't be afraid to change who who ask for feedback if you don't think their contributions are valid or helpful. Just make sure you're honest with yourself about why you're dumping them.
Hi Carole.
I belong to a writers group and we meet up once a month. We are very small - only three at present- but we know each others work very well and that helps enormously.
I usually take the view that if they both say the same thing- they're right.
We are ferociously critical of one another but also massively supportive. I'm the only one to have been published ( yet ) and they have been so cool about it.
My husband also looks at drafts which I find very useful. That said, he aint the 'wow, honey, I love it,' type. If it's pants- he'll tell me.
HB x
Hi Helen, thanks for your reply
I would love to find a writer's group like that--I'll keep looking. I was in a great one about eight years ago--the guy who ran it was Clive Hopwood--don't know if you know him or about him. He's great. Involved in prison reading and writing programs and a playwright and children's book author. We were all different in there--some published some not. And no! I didn't meet him in prison! It was in Lancaster and then somewhere South of the Lake District, don't remember where.
Will have to keep looking.
Feedback is very important--and my husband couldn't be more casual about even reading my writing! so no extra pats on the back there--which is just as well, as I wouldn't learn anything.
Will def. take on board what you say. and again, thanks.
Carole, it can be hard finding someone appropriate in your neighborhood unless you live in a big city, so my approach has been to go online to get feedback.

I hang out from time to time at Critique Circle (found at http://www.critiquecircle.com), which has a thriller/mystery/suspense group, and more recently I've discovered a British site: http://www.youwriteon.com.

You get a mix of useless and useful feedback at both sites, in my experience. Only a small percentage of the writers are agented and/or published. The downside is you only get feedback on a few chapters at a time and you have to provide feedback to others to earn the credits needed to get your stuff reviewed. The upside is you could get lucky, like myself, and find a kindred spirit. I'm even co-writing a novel with a friend I found online who writes in the same genre and is in the same boat now as myself, i.e., agented but still unpublished.

The British site presents a fun game. You earn scores from your reviewers and if you score highly enough there are prizes. I just earned a pair of professional critiques from Random House UK and another British publisher for landing in the top ten for the past month (roughly the top two or three percent of all submissions) with the opening chapters to my co-written WIP. Perhaps I'll see you there sometime ...
thanks so much for that, Eric!
I'm sure you will see me there! I'm going to check it out.
really grateful for that.
Yes, I think, as you say--you have to separate the useful from the useless.
Can't wait to see it. will take a look now, even though I'm bleary eyed--from a long weekend away and lots of travelling.
and eric, in line with your avatar--here's looking at you, kid!
Sometimes, handing work over to several people can drive you mental. I found this even circulating the very early reader copies of the book I have coming out this November - it was stated right up front it was first draft, unedited, and people would come back and say, "There are a few typos." I don't care about typos - I care about inconsistencies, points of confusion, things left hanging that need to be resolved. That's the point of that stage of circulation.

And the point in saying it is, sometimes feedback from one person can be more helpful than from ten people, and in fact, sometimes any feedback at all can be harmful. First, you have to know who you're getting feedback from. I don't mean best friends for ten years, but know enough about them/their background to know you can trust their input. That leads to the second thing - you need to be able to trust they're giving genuine feedback, intended to help you produce the best book possible. If you doubt their feedback or motivation, you stop assessing the manuscript and even the feedback and start analyzing them to see if you believe them.

I've been aware of some critique groups where people shut down, in some cases stopped writing for a few months, because the level of critique was too much for them to take, or because fundamentally, they didn't trust the source. There are unpublished writers I've had feedback from, and it's been great, but this is all in knowing who you're dealing with. Don't give work casually to anyone you haven't developed some rapport with. In other words, don't trust it to the masses and put it on a blog where anyone can take shots or steal the ideas. Be discerning, and be clear about what type of feedback you're looking for when you pass the work on.

And to be honest with you, some of the worst advice I ever got was when Suspicious Circumstances was long-listed in a competition in the UK. I had also entered what's now What Burns Within, and it didn't shortlist, whereas SC did, and they couldn't poke enough holes in WBW. I threw the critique out and didn't do a damn thing they told me to do (saying it was unpublishable as was) and it was bought by a NY publisher. Sometimes, no matter who's giving the feedback, you've got to trust your gut instincts.
Thanks Sandra!
I see what you mean, truly.
am mulling that over, believe me.
I've been sharing my work with strangers over the internet for four years now, Sandra, and I haven't experienced any of the debilitations you've described. I'd add that it's not so much what individuals say, but what is said collectively, when you're getting lots of feedback from lots of strangers on the web. You look for the commonalities across crits. You don't have to know why some stranger has said something; you just need to know what was said, and determine for yourself what you think of it, partly based on what others have said, and you certainly don't need to worry about someone stealing your ideas. This ain't Hollywood.

And as I'd mentioned, you do this and eventually you'll find individuals in cyberspace you connect with enough to develop a real relationship with, and you can find yourself sharing entire WIPs and having precisely the kind of relationship you seem to value.

Agree with you on the trust your guts part, though.
Thanks Eric.
I see your points. I can also see that the more feedback you get, the better it is.
I suppose once I would step into the water, I'll be more brave. I guess that's how skins get tougher right?!
It's a different perspective, Eric, although I know that now whether or not work has been posted online has an impact on publishing contracts and can be an issue for some publishers. I specifically said, don't post it on a blog and take random comments. That's different than even forming a critiquing group online - which I have participated in as part of the old Mystery Circus - which involved exchanging work with people I've never met and in some cases, don't know at all. I had no problems with that personally, but some of the experiences I've touched on are from other people I have known.

Saying all that, anything posted in whole or in part online isn't eligible for submission to Spinetingler. If people can read it elsewhere for free, why should we pay even the little bit we do for it? The exception is when I approached people for things that had been taken down from FITG, but there was also no payment involved. Writers should always consider where they want their work to end up, and whether or not online posting may jeopardize their ability to place the work later.

I've also known people who shared work as part of an in-person critique group, who found some commentary so difficult to deal with they stopped writing. Of course we all know you have to learn to get a thick skin, but if extremely harsh critique comes back that you're not ready for at that time (maybe you're very early on in your writing experience) and it deters you from writing at all, it's not helpful. I'm not saying get in a group with people who'll stroke your ego - not for a second - but in one particular case I'm aware that one person in the group was just cruel. They felt threatened by everyone else and the attacks became personal. And if you're newer to the process, you never know what kind of impact you might have on you.

And the big thing with the typos was, some people said, "There are some typos." Nobody told me what page they were on, so it's not helpful at all, and it wasn't the primary feedback I was looking for. As secondary, sure, great. If you're circulating work, it does help if (over time) you have a sense of the nature of feedback you'll get from different people so that you can target your readers.

From the other side of the coin, I try to always ask what the person's looking for. I've offered critique sometimes in the past, to be told the work is done, sold or in submission and they aren't making changes. That's the "tell me I'm wonderful" writer. Sometimes, people only want input on one specific thing in the story. If something else is screaming at you as a problem, approach with caution. If they said they only wanted input on X, ask if they're interested in hearing another observation before giving input on Y. Again, going back to past experiences others have had, a whole critique group disbanded over tensions from those kinds of problems.

Of course, I'm also citing negative examples specifically, for a reason. If you prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario, it can only be better than you think it will be. The worst thing to do is think the process will be smooth and easy. That's setting yourself up for a fall.

Oh, and another fun one is people who try to re-write the story for you. You need discerning readers who try to get what you're doing and assess whether or not it works in that context, not people who try to make your hardboiled work a cozy or vice versa.


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