Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pros & Cons of Online Writing Forums

Inkpop, Authonomy, Fiction Press, Figment! There are so many websites dedicated to writers. Some are privately owned, while some, like Inkpop and Authonomy, are owned by companies such as HarperCollins. There is a lot of speculation and fear about posting one’s writing to the internet. I uploaded my writings to Inkpop, but I respect others who fear to do so. Please do what feels comfortable to you, but I’m here to explain why, for me, the benefits outweigh the possible downfalls.

Stolen Work or Ideas - This is understandably very scary for writers. Until we are published, we don’t want anyone getting their sticky fingers near our ideas. This is an honest danger, and there are horror stories out there, but I didn’t worry so much about this one. For one, Inkpop has disabled the copy and paste function, which makes it a lot more work for someone to steal. Majority of online writers are focused on getting feedback on their own work. I have a hard time imagining that someone is hard-up for a story idea, so they take the time to read through a bunch of unpublished works for inspiration. If this is a fear for you, one way to bypass is not to upload your entire project. Only share the segments on which you need critique. My best advice: do not post your entire story online!
Copyright - This concept is often misunderstood. In the US and many countries, you own the copyright on everything you write the moment it hits the paper. Posting to an online site actually gives a better record that it is, indeed, your work and has been since at least the date you posted. You own it and you can remove it at any time.
Online Work Loses Value with Agents and Publishers - If this was true, HarperCollins would not have started two writing sites, and they certainly would not be publishing anything that they find on said sites. From what I’ve seen, agents and publishers don’t care if you’ve had a team of online writer friends reading and critiquing your work. My agent did recommend not to post the ending, but I’d already taken that precaution. In fact, my agent said that sites like Inkpop are a good way to build a network and “fan base”. Leigh Fallon’s writings are still sitting pretty and available to read on Inkpop this very moment.
Better Writing - My personal experience with Inkpop has been amazing. Posting my first book on there was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Why? I have a problem writing those introductory chapters. I can bang out the body of a story, no problem, but the first chapters are a bumbling mess. Within a month of posting my story online, I had received so much honest, helpful feedback that my introduction took on a complete facelift, turning into something beautiful that I don’t think I could have managed on my own. You have to be willing to take the critique without feeling insulted, though.
Motivation - I can’t count the number of comments I received that lifted my spirits. As writers, positive feedback is our fuel. There is much needed encouragement available from online writing groups if you’re willing to invest the time. Some of the people I met on Inkpop have become valued beta readers outside of the site, and even more importantly, they've become friends.
Helping Fellow Writers - You can’t join an online writing group and expect to receive without giving. Inkpop was like a part-time job for me during the Spring of 2010. In order to continue getting feedback and moving up the ranks, I had to give feedback of my own and support others in their journey. There is something soul-satisfying about helping one another reach our potentials.


  1. Thanks for this, Wendy! I have always wondered about the fears of posting writing online and it's great hearing your insight on it all. :-)

  2. You forgot to mention the con of how much of an attractive nuisance these sites can be--it can be so easy to get caught up in the posting and the reading that your other writing suffers!

    And it is attractive, and addictive, to make these wonderful connections, discover great writers, get a glimpse into others' processes.

    I had to learn to find a balance, and now twitter and facebook have eaten into my Absolute Write time. (Absolute Write is another forum.)

  3. I absolutely love inkpop. Its my favorite writing website out there.
    What I don't like is the pick system, seeing as how the majority of projects will never get into the top five.

    Another con is getting negative comments. I've gotten one recently from a girl who posted nothing but, "I don't like this kind of thing normally, so I didn't like this you should change it." and "Your names are too weird, they're going to break your story." (Which isn't true, because its in the style of classic fantasy. *sigh* But haters gonna hate.

  4. Angelica - YES - so addictive and time consuming!!! I've never used Absolute Write, but I know a few of our contributors have.

    Qui - unfortunately there are always going to be those unhelpful, hurtful comments on our writings. :( I guess, like everything else in life, we just have to take the good with the bad.

    Thanks for commenting!

  5. I actually posted my FULL book on inkpop. I've taken down the full thing since getting my publishing contract, but I've left 5 chapters up to give people a taster.

    HarperCollins liked that I had the whole book posted as there was proof that there was finished book on offer and they read the whole thing when they did my editorial review. I know this can be dodgy but it worked for me.

    In terms of negative comments... well bring them on. The harsh realities of the publishing world is that no matter how amazing your manuscript is, there will always be people who hate it, and there are unfortunately people in the world who live off being nasty to people, it gives them a high, and again, no matter how good your work is they will focus on the bad rather than the good. But if you're serious about making it in the publishing world, well then I recommend you suck up the nasty comments. These people think they've got the upper hand, but they don't. They are in fact teaching you a life lesson... thick skin is required for this business, and when you meet their likes in the 'real' world you'll be well able to deal with them, and so rise above their bitterness and hold your head up high. POW! Take that nasty people.

  6. I had a postitive experience when I posted work on Inkpop. Like with everything, good and bad. You're right though. It's a lot of work. I didn't get much writing done during that time.

  7. Yay, Leigh and Kelley, my fellow inkpoppers. (And Sharon, who is hopefully sleeping peacefully in Australia right now...)
    Leigh, I had my whole book up at one point until I got my agent. But when I made top five I put a note at the bottom of the MS letting them know that it was finished and that I could provide the last four chapters if they were interested.

  8. Hey, hey....I'm giving away the arc of DIVERGENT I won on Veronica's blog if you're still interested! The book is awesome!

  9. WOW this clears up some of my fears. But I am still going to remain on partcially posting my projects, I'm a bit too protective I guess. And plus a publishing company that is interested in me after I'm done writing, said I should only post like fifty pages just in case. YES! I said someone is interested, I met her at a local bookfestival, it's a small company, but atleast it's something! You guys probably read the books that they've published, "Angel Star" by Jennifer Murigia and "The Pace" by Shelena Shorts.
    BUT anyways, I'm going to keep with posting partcial projects. Right now, I'm not killing myself to get to the top five, considering I'm not finished with any of my projects YET. I feel I need to have it done before then. :)

  10. That's so awesome about the interested publisher, Kristia! Keep us updated! :)

  11. One of the things I always thought was super funny was how every single writer always seemed incredibly worried that every other single writer was going to nab their story idea if they posted it online. This shows what blossoming egos we all have as writers, doesn't it?

    I've found inkpop to be an incredibly awesome place. I don't think that I would have been so quick to finish writing the first draft of The Cycle if it hadn't been for so much of the support that I'd received -- and there were times that I wanted to trash the entire thing, but I don't think inkpop would have let me get away with that.

    Writing forums can be so helpful if you find the right one. Absolute Write is terrific as well, because there's such a wide variety of people to talk to (published, unpublished, self-published, waiting-to-be-published). The internet makes writing so much less lonely.

  12. Thank you for commenting, Meagan! I couldn't agree more (and I lol'd at your first paragraph). I didn't keep in touch with any of the people in my college creative writing classes, so I had to turn to the internet for feedback and support. I was really wary at first, but once I found Inkpop there was no turning back. Definitely makes the journey less lonely!

  13. I read this, and it really makes me want to go check out Inkpop.

    I agree on all these points, though. Writing sites CAN be total time-suckers, but the feedback blossoming writers can receive from them is SO invaluable.

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