3.03.2006

Online Writing Forums

Dear Miss Snark:

Your Snarkiness surprised me with an offhand comment a little while ago (Post: I'm Almost Finished with the novel) where you advised everybody to stay AWAY from online writing forums.

Gasp! Far be it from me to snark back at you, but WHY?

I've been part of an excellent online forum for two years now, and it would be hard to measure either the quality or quantity of the myriad benefits I've gotten from it.

My willingness to learn trumps my pride. What am I doing wrong? Please help my nitwit brain to understand! If you have a reason why we should avoid online forums (and you must, or you wouldn't have said anything), then please, PLEASE, share it with your loyal Snarklings, so that we may learn the better path.

For sake of reference, the forum in question is Forward Motion. In fact, it was someone there who first recommended you to me.

Thank you for considering my question. May your ginbucket (gin pail) never run dry.
P.S. My cats send regards to Killer Yapp, and want to know: would he consider it tribute or copyright infringement for one of them to adopt the name Killer Yeow? (KY here: no trademark infringement as long as I get to chase them up trees in Central Park regularly)



Ok, it was an offhand comment, and I should have qualified it a tad more.

I don't mean places that actually talk about writing or critique your work. I meant places that talk about aspects of the writing life and seem to be full of people who are doing everything but writing, and are chockablock full of "information" from people who aren't in the industry and aren't published. Questions that start "I heard this on a writer's forum" seem to have a high proportion of utter bunk in them. And my dog, some of the people who post on them make Miss Snark look like Merry Sunshine.

Additionally, the question was from a novelist who was 80% finished and struggling to make that 100%, and that's a very critical point requiring focus and dedication. At that point the ONLY thing is to finish and anything that distracts you from that path should be ruthlessly pruned away...even to the point of (dare I say it) NOT reading Miss Snark daily. The great thing about archives is they are there when you are finished with the novel. There's nothing here (or on those writing forums) that is so date specific that it needs to be read the minute it's posted. NOTHING.

It's easy to squander time and it's really easy to get caught up thinking you're learning how to write by reading how to do stuff, but you learn to be a writer by writing. It's like math class: listen to the teacher all you want, but you actually have to put pencil on paper and figure out x and y to learn how it's done.


21 comments:

AzGhostWriter said...

Great advice, as usual. I've discovered (long ago) that life does exist outside of the internet. Besides, nobody misses me when I'm gone.

doc-t said...

uh-oh. I kind of wish i handn't told the people at crap-o-meter to smurf off...

Do you think they'd believe i was kidding?

Anonymous said...

Even places that talk about writing and offer critiques and advice can be a distraction from what a writers priority should be - writing. That is why I'm here, writing but not writing....

Anonymous said...

I belong to an online critique group, Critique Circle, which if I let it, will distract me from writing (as will this blog). However, I have learned so much from critiquing other works and learning about resources that I've found it time well spent. For me, resources like this are short cuts and has increased my ability to write and complete my novel. I think I'd still be working on the first draft of my first book of 100K words if I hadn't found CC. With CC, it took me less than six months to finish the first draft. (I'm nearly finished with the sequel.) For me, the online critiquing forum has been an enabler.

There are a lot of things that can distract me from writing. What I have to do is treat it like I would any job, and make sure I do my job every day.

I guess it's all how one approaches things like online forums. I don't join every one and I'm careful as to how I use my time, as I would with any job.

jan said...

Balance, Grasshopper. Balance. (uh-huh.)

I'm at the 90% mark of my second novel...still squeaky new to the process, but learning fast. Part of what I've learned, sad to say as I was writing sections 60% to 90%, was through Miss Snark's past Crapometer posts.

She's right. The push toward the finish line is crucial. Checking the boards a million times a day is not.

But I'm glad I balanced writing time with learning time, because now that 60% to 90% section of my mss will need a lot less revision.

Bon chance, mes amies...

Anonymous said...

Of course, it depends on whose time you're doing your surfing...:)

Bernita said...

I find forums and such a good thing to visit and lurk if you're stuck or letting a manuscript "rest" - sometimes a discussion can turn on the light bulb in the brain.
Miss Snark, however, is every day - without fail.

Anonymous said...

Wise words from Miss Snark indeed. I'm thinking that the whole concept of writers' circles is akin to most any other place one seeks advice..

Mainly that the value of that advice is totally dependent upon one's perception of the advisor(s)! I'm coming to the conclusion that a whole lot of aspiring authors seem to lack confidence in their own voices and are quick to listen to another's opinion on style, content, or the marketability of fiction.

Yet ultimately, it's ALL opinion! Write what you feel, and read what you like: to each is or her own tastes. One woman's poodle is another woman's rottweiler... all that matters is that they're both great dogs, hehe. *poink* Magz

Waywardclam said...

Thank you, Miss Snark.

spaulson said...

Regarding erroneous information: In my (fairly limited) experience with online forums, I've noticed plenty of people talking about POD as if traditional publishing is going out of style, or at least is insufficient to meet their needs. While that last is true for a small percentage of people, I'm quite sure it's not true for all the people who scoff at traditional publishing. This mindset seems to be widespread. Perhaps because of all the extra work you need to do if you're going the traditional route? I'm daunted by it too, but it's still my goal anyway.

Other than that, I've found the forums I frequent to be quite valuable for finding resources and information (I get my critiquing off-line), and absolutely invaluable as a supportive writers' community that reminds me I'm not alone. They got me through my previous novel and are now helping me through my WIP. Even so, they can definitely be a distraction. I know this, but I'm still working on weaning myself....

Kaycee said...

I guess I weigh in this time opposed to Miss Snark. I do love you dearly, but I am a writer's site creator and admin. I love our little place on the web, and so far it has not kept me from writing (finished four books(not pubbed, but have published several short stories)over the two plus years our site has been out there. I know for sure I spend WAY more time on there than anyone else so... I can attest to the fact that writing and publishing and all of our "stuff" can be done.

I think it is the individual and how hot the desire to write is. FWIW.

Sarah said...

From someone who is currently stalled at the 75-80% mark, I know this advice is right on... but oh how hard it is to focus! I will qualify this by saying that my novel is a NaNoWriMo product, so chronologically it is finished. However, it still needs a ton of fleshing out and rewriting. I think it's even more annoying to have already had the satisfaction of writing "the end" only to have to go back and redo the crappy middle.

Now, the NaNo forums probably fall under the type of forums Miss Snark is talking about. A lot of dreck and a lot of people who were doing it as a joke, only got to 4,000 words, yet continued to come in and post. I did meet a couple of serious people, though.

The Beautiful Schoolmarm said...

When I hit the 80% mark, you couldn't pry me away from the computer (and I wasn't on the internet). I would occasionally receive e-mails from friends asking if I was still alive--but I only found them after I was finished. My good advice is: if you already have wrist problems, two weeks of 14 hour days on the computer is not healthy.

Anonymous said...

I am also a member of CC, (Critique Circle) which I throughly enjoy. It helped me start writing more again. Before it was just a little here and there, but it helped the spark come back.

But if you are just finishing, you can feel compelled to help others, while you should be finishing your novel.

Rick said...

I believe that the formal, clinical term for writerly avoidance is "vacuuming the cat."

Muttman said...

I ran into the biggest bunch of nitwits on Critique Circle. I find I do my best writing when I ignore writing sites and just focus on my own stuff. I'm selfish that way I guess.

Moi said...

FWIW, I've always heard wasting time was "cat hoovering."

Writing groups, whether they're on-line or not, do have a built-in danger of homogenizing a writer's voice. Especially when that writer's just starting out. There's lots of dangers involved in being active in a group, just as there are many benefits to it. It's up to the individual writer to decide whether the pros outweigh the cons about whether or not they'll join or be active.

Unfortunately, you never know what works for you until you try it and on-line writers' groups can become fairly addictive because you have that sense of community. Even so, it's not always what you need all the time. Discipline is the key to getting a book done, after all, regardless of what kind of distractions tempt.

Anonymous said...

Wow Miss Snark - I really needed that wake up call. I've been procrastinating...

Anonymous said...

1. Write....Revise
2. Write....Revise

You can gain valuable feedback, hear new great ideas, and have your typos pointed out in a number of ways. As long as you stay focused on writing a good story.

Meg said...

I think a key to online writing forums, esp sites which offer reviews and crits, is to know when you've outgrown the site. Sometimes you grow and realize the people there will never be published or be as serious about it as you are. I'm there with a site I belong to.

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