If you read my post last week about potentially doing a regular feature where we would peer-critique an anonymous excerpt, you might have seen some of the positive feedback in the comment section.
Thank you to all who shared their thoughts. Many people said they loved the idea, but some were concerned about the logistics.
Here are a few of concerns raised, and how I would address them:
Deluge of Submissions
I would start by opening my inbox to submissions for a short period of time–perhaps 48 hours. I might choose only the top genres of interest for our readers here at Write It Sideways (a poll is attached below), and invite only submissions in those genres for that submission period. Depending on how many we get, I might choose a handful of excerpts that I think we would all learn a lot from, and post those ones weekly or bi-weekly for critique.
Critiquing out of Context
One reader was concerned about critiquing short passages of work out of context. While it’s not ideal, many other blogs do something similar and it hasn’t proved a huge problem. I would purposely choose excerpts I thought could stand alone for critique, without necessarily needing to know the context.
There’s always the concern about posting excerpts of one’s writing online if you plan to later publish that work in a magazine or book. While there doesn’t seem to be a general consensus, agent Nathan Bransford recently took on this question in his forum. Here are his thoughts:
I think attitudes on this vary somewhat, but I personally believe the key is that you retain control over when you can pull it down. Yes, there’s the question of whether something really truly ever disappears from the Internet, but as long as it’s not easily findable once it’s taken down I think you’re okay.
Here’s also my opinion from a previous post:
On the all-important matter of how much work to post online — I think it’s fine to post some work. However, I would be very, very, very careful about posting excerpts from a novel you want to publish. If you can control the material and the amount you are posting is limited to a chapter or two and you can pull the work from the Internet at any time, I don’t think there’s necessarily a problem (but again, there are varying opinions about this).
That probably sounds a bit scary to some of you. Me too.
Because agents and publishers all have their own opinions, I’d recommend sending submissions from pieces of writing you don’t intend to publish. If you’re serious about writing, you should have plenty of practice material to work with anyway.
Of course, if you do choose to send an excerpt of something you want to publish, you would be posting only about 500 words (2 typed pages). Also, I would take down excerpts on request, if you later decide to submit your work for publication.
Please take the time to fill out the poll below to help me further work through the logistics of this process. If interest is still high, I’ll get back to you next week with the finalized details.
If you have any other concerns or questions about this process, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you asap.
Update: The poll is now closed. Thanks for voting, and you can see the results here.
Join the discussion
Great idea. Looking forward to reading the extracts you choose to post and seeing the feedback. Gonna start looking through my work to see what I’d like to submit!
I would support your recommendation of not submitting a piece planned for publication. I just submitted to the Bridport Prize, and the rules state that the submission “must never have been published, self-published, published on any website or public online forum.”
Thanks for that, Kelly–good to know. I’ll definitely remind readers in the official details.