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                      W R I T I N G   W O R L D

A World of Writing Information - For Writers Around the World

                    http://www.writing-world.com


Issue 8:11          6,992 subscribers    November 6, 2008

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SPECIAL NOTICE: Please DO NOT REPLY to this e-mail; any messages
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                        CONTENTS

===================================================================
 
The Editor's Desk, by Moira Allen
THE INQUIRING WRITER, by Dawn Copeman
NEWS FROM THE WORLD OF WRITING,
FEATURE:  E-Books from the Publisher's Point of View by Sean
McLachlan 
The Write Sites -- Online Resources for Writers
FEATURE:  The Benefit of Critique Groups, by Michele Acker
COMING UP NEXT MONTH IN WRITING-WORLD
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FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK
===================================================================

Back in the US -- and the Saddle!
----------------------------------

If you could have wired my house for sound over the past decade or
so, you might have heard a sort of intermittent whine: "I wanna
live in England! 
I wanna live in England!  I wanna live in EENNGLAAND!" It was the
whine of someone who has read far too much Agatha Christie, and who
envisioned moving to the equivalent of St. Mary Meade.

If we could only move to England, I firmly believed, we'd live in a
charming, historic thatched cottage. We'd take long walks in the
British countryside, observing its flora and fauna.  We'd visit a
different castle every weekend. We'd...

Well, we ALMOST managed to live in a charming, 16th-century
thatched BARN.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, given the
cost), its owners got "gazumped" while trying to buy property in
London.  ("Gazumped" means that even when your offer has been
accepted, someone can come in with a higher offer and bump you
out.) We also learned that historic cottages come with equally
historic plumbing.  As for fauna, we did enjoy watching Britain's
native wildlife -- foxes, badgers, seagulls -- feasting on the
mounds of trash bags that would line the streets of Hastings on
collection day. (This was before the advent of "wheelie bins,"
whereupon we learned how to squish down two weeks of garbage into
one rather small bin to avoid being fined for leaving the lid of
said bin open even a fraction of an inch.) And we were able to
one-up relatives bemoaning the rising prices in the US: "Gas is up
to $3 here!" my sister would wail, whereupon I'd reply smugly, "How
awful... it's about $9  a gallon here."

Yes, we did see plenty of castles, and cathedrals, and Roman ruins,
and country houses.  I now have about 17,000 photos on my hard
drive, most of which still remain to be "processed" into Lulu photo
albums.  I gave up on that particular task around February, when I
realized that on my old Mac laptop, this project averaged 3-5
minutes per photo; I didn't like the math! Hence, my first
"homecoming" purchase was a new PC with Vista.

To make a long story short, we learned that England is a nice place
to visit, but an expensive place to live -- and that when one
member of the family is working full-time, it may help pay the
bills but rather drastically reduces the time available to "see the
country." After not quite a year, we came to the conclusion that
(a) we were losing money far faster than we were earning it, and
(b) Pat wasn't enjoying the task of earning it (i.e., the job just
wasn't working out). By this time, anyone eavesdropping would have
heard a growing mutter: "There's no place like home... There's no
place like home..."

And so, after 15 months, we packed it in (and up) and headed back
to the US of A -- and we're glad to be home. The trees are turning
(adding to my ever-growing photo collection), the Canada geese are
making regular stops on the pond at the bottom of the "garden"
(most of the year, it's covered with green scum, but Canada geese
seem to find this absolutely delicious!), and the boxes are all
unpacked.  It's time to get back in the saddle...

Which is exactly what I plan to do. England gave me a nice "time
out" from Writing-World.com, and now I'm ready to spend a bit more
time with it. 

Don't worry, Dawn isn't leaving; instead, we'll be sharing tasks
once again.  We've decided that it's time to take the newsletter
back to a twice-monthly schedule, so we'll be alternating columns
and editorials. I'm resuming my role as "editor-in-chief" and
taking over the handling of submissions and advertising, as our
advertisers have become a bit confused by our efforts to separate
"newsletter" and "web" ads.  The new schedule will go into effect
in January.

So -- if you're a reader, you'll be hearing from us twice as often.
 If you're a writer with an idea for a newsletter article, let me
know, as I'm now accepting submissions for 2009.  And if you're an
advertiser (past, present or future), we have particularly good
news, as you'll now receive twice the exposure for the same price. 
(For submission guidelines, please visit
http://www.writing-world.com/admin1/guidelines.shtml; for
advertising rates, please visit
http://www.writing-world.com/admin1/adrates.shtml).

And now, if you'll excuse me, before it gets any colder, I'm going
to sip some coffee on the deck!

-- Moira Allen, Editor

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CHILDREN'S WRITERS.
Receive a FREE ISSUE of the monthly newsletter devoted exclusively
to the authors of freelance manuscripts-to help you sell more now.
http://www.thechildrenswriter.com/M2810

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THE INQUIRING WRITER
===================================================================
                                            By Dawn Copeman

Last month we had a question from Karen Snyder who asked "Do any of
(you) use voice recognition software (such as Dragon
NaturallySpeaking) and does it work?  Do you like it or is it a
waste of money?" 

Jean Burns is one user who has used voice recognition software. 
She wrote: "For years I had used an older version of Dragon
Naturally Speaking Professional (2000). After the initial training,
I found using it definitely saved wear and tear on my arthritic
hands. The more you use it, the better it gets at recognizing your
voice and coming up with possible corrections. Corrections can
still be done manually if desired. I do not know if the newer
versions work as well, but would recommend buying it if you can
find it at a good price--some sites I checked this summer had
specials of $50 off. 

"Why don't I use it now? I had to reformat my computer this past
spring and between teaching and other duties haven't had time to
reinstall and train it, but hope to do so soon!

"By the way--it is much more user friendly than any voice
recognition that comes with Microsoft, and if you save what you did
using Microsoft voice recognition, the chunk it uses up is enormous
compared to a regular file or a Dragon Naturally Speaking done
file."

This month our question comes from Andrea Pflaumer, she writes: "I
want to set up a simple website and don't like the tools offered by
my webhosting company (should have checked that first). Do the
readers have any suggestions for setting up an inexpensive, simple
website? I would like to include a short bio page, links to my
published articles and a blog. Also, I'd like to be able to manage
and update it myself."

Can you help Andrea? If so send your reply or any other questions
or problems to put to our writing community, to
editorial"at"writing-world.com with the subject line Inquiring Writer.

Dawn

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NEWS FROM THE WORLD OF WRITING
==================================================================== 

Authors Guild and Google Reach Copyright Agreement
--------------------------------------------------
The Authors Guild has reached an agreement with Google that will
allow researchers and readers access to a huge array of copyrighted
material via Google Booksearch. Google will pay $125 million to set
up the Books Right Registry which will cover existing legal claims
made by authors for copyright payments and their legal fees to date
in setting up a Class Action to recover copyright fees from Google.
For more information on this story visit: http://tinyurl.com/6lhu2n

Heroes writers sacked
------------------------
Following disappointing viewing figures for the latest series of
Heroes it has been revealed that the show's top writers and
co-executive producers Jeph Loeb and Jesse Alexander have been
fired from the show. For more on this story visit:
http://tinyurl.com/6ouh3j

Business as Usual at Frankfurt Book Fair
--------------------------------------------
At the Frankfurt Book Fair the recession was the key word with
books dealing with financial advice and business tips have been
snapped up by the publishing houses. Otherwise there was no sign of
the recession in the deals being done.  The Moomintrolls are to
appear in picture books published by Puffin, Conn Igulden has been
signed up by Harper Collins to write some new children's fiction
but the big news is what is being seen by many as the next 'Harry
Potter'; a new trilogy by British author Peter Hoffman entitled
"The Left Hand of God."  According to Penguin, they have already
earned back the advance they gave to Hoffman in sales to the US and
Germany. Here in the UK we shall have to wait until next summer to
see if the pundits are right. For more information on this story
visit: http://tinyurl.com/5amtns

Mills and Boon Join Digital Age
--------------------------------
Mills and Boon is the UK arm of Harlequin and like its Canadian
parent, it has finally published 200 titles as e-books. The e-books
are available at the company's website and at Waterstones and
WHSmiths. Mills and Boon now intend to convert 70 books a month
into e-books. For more information on this story visit: 
http://tinyurl.com/68nxwu 

Authors Sign Petition to Condemn Mafia
---------------------------------------
Ian McEwan is the latest author to put his name to a 200,000 strong
petition to urge the Italian Authorities to protect Italian author
Roberto Saviano and his family from the Mafia. Saviano has received
death threats from the Neapolitan Mafia, known as the Camorra,
after writing a best-selling account of the Camorra called
"Gomorrah."  The book has since been turned into a film and is
hotly tipped to win an Oscar. The petition was started by Italian
newspaper La Republica following an open letter from Nobel
Laureates including GŁnter Grass, Mikhail Gorbachev and the Bishop
Desmond Tutu. Other authors known to have signed the petition
include Martin Amis, Paul Auster and Jonathan Franzen.  For more on
this story visit: http://tinyurl.com/5maas2

And Authors Sign Another Petition to Defend Milan Kundera
---------------------------------------------------------
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth, Carlos
Fuentes, J.M. Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer are among some of the
authors and Nobel Literature Laureates who have signed a petition
to defend the honor of Czech born writer Milan Kundera. Their
actions stem from a report published last month which claims that
Kundera was a police informer when the former country of
Czechoslovakia was under Communist rule. Kundera who left the
country in 1975 and became a French citizen in 1981 has denied all
allegations.  For more information on this story visit:
http://tinyurl.com/68vfat

Booker Prize Goes To Debut Novelist
-----------------------------------
Finally, the Booker Prize, worth £55,000, was won by 33 year old
Aravind Adiga with his novel of modern India, "The White Tiger."
Adiga is the fourth debut novelist to win the Booker Prize.  For
more information on this story and to read an extract of the
winning novel visit: 
http://tinyurl.com/482qyc

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WORLDWIDE FREELANCE WRITER - You can download a free list of
writing markets if you subscribe this week. Discover almost 2,000
writing markets from USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Australasia.
http://www.worldwidefreelance.com
 
******************************************************************** 

FEATURE:  Ebooks from the Publisher's Point of View 

====================================================================          
                                                  By Sean McLachlan

If you follow any writing newsgroup for any length of time,
inevitably the discussion of the relative merits of traditional vs.
ebook vs. print-on-demand (POD) publishing will come up. But what
you generally hear is the writer's, or aspiring writer's, point of
view. This is the first of a two-part article on the ebook and POD
industry from the publisher's point of view.

On a personal note, while researching this article I was struck by
how helpful ebook and POD publishers and editors were. They didn't
fob me off with a few glib lines, but took the time to answer my
questions fully, and urged me to write back if I had follow-up
questions. 

Others provided links to useful articles or even answered questions
I hadn't asked but should have. I've worked with four traditional
publishers, my first book coming out six years ago, and in all that
time I've only talked to one CEO. As far as accessibility and
friendliness, electronic and small press publishers are way ahead.

But aside from sociability, what are the good, solid business
reasons for taking epublishers seriously? After all, ebooks have
been around for more than a decade, but most books are still
published in print. According to the Association of American
Publishers, net sales for books in the United States in 2007 were
$25 billion, up 3.2 percent from 2006. Of these, ebooks earned a
net profit of $67 million, a growth of 24 percent over the previous
year. But looking at that as part of the total of all book sales
this constitutes less than one third of one percent. There are a
lot of smaller epublishers out there that aren't counted in the
statistics, but even if the figures are off by a factor of ten,
which is doubtful, ebooks have a long way to go.

While epublishing has been slow to take off, it's beginning to get
noticed. Epublishers are breaking out of their own community of
awards and publications and appearing in more mainstream venues. In
2003, Ellora's Cave became the first epublisher to be recognized by
Romance Writers of America. Books from Twilight Times are now
getting reviewed by important pre-publication reviewers such as
Library Journal and Booklist. One of their titles, The New Bedford
Samurai by Anca Vlasopolos, was a finalist in the category of
historical fiction in the ForeWord Magazine 2007 Book of the Year
Award. Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross by Dr. Florence Byham
Weinberg, was a finalist in two categories for the 2007 New Mexico
Book Awards contest, Historical Fiction and Best Book on Southwest.

So why do some publishers decide to go the ebook route? They give
various reasons, ranging from concern for the environment to a firm
belief that ebooks are the wave of the future, but one thing all
publishers noted was the bottom line. It's much cheaper to produce
and distribute ebooks.

There are other headaches related to printing books beyond simple
cost. Raelene Gorlinsky, Publisher of Ellora's Cave Publishing Inc.
says, "Ebooks make more sense in terms of start-up costs and
complexity. One doesn't have to expend massive effort and time on
getting books printed, warehoused, marketed, shipped. . ."

But a lower startup cost doesn't mean epublishing is easy. With
instant gratification and home shopping being the hallmarks of
ebook marketing, ordering has to be easy for the customer. This
means a lot of work to make a good website. Good programmers are
expensive, and it's no coincidence that many epublishing startups
have at least one programmer among their founding members.

There's also the problem of spreading the word. Many readers still
aren't familiar with ebook technology, and with so many
epublishers, competition for existing readers is fierce.

Another obvious concern with selling books that are nothing more
than computer files is the question of piracy. There have been
several instances of websites selling discount ebooks that were, in
fact, pirated, but no publisher felt this was a major concern. Some
sales are lost, but none felt this did significant harm to their
profits, and the larger epublishers with financial clout often go
after the bad guys.

Epublishing's main forte is erotic romance, what Ellora's Cave
refers to as "Romantica". These books offer a romantic plot spiced
up with explicit and frequent sex scenes. Many brick-and-mortar
stores refuse to carry this sort of material, and many of the
genre's predominantly female readers are too shy to go buy them in
person, so the ebook format is a perfect way to get around these
twin obstacles. They're also easier to hide from the hubby, who's
probably deleting his internet history every time he's turns off
the computer anyway.

Treva Harte, editor-in-chief of Loose-Id, one of the most
successful erotic romance publishers, points out that romance fans
read voraciously and thus get jaded quickly. With monthly sales
statements and a quicker turnaround, epublishers and authors are
better able to respond to rapid changes in demand.

But what about other genres? Some publishers mentioned that how-to
books can sell well in ebook format. At Whiskey Creek Press, while
the big sales tend to be various types of romance, science fiction
and fantasy titles geared towards female readers also do well.
Gorlinsky adds, "What works in ebooks are the genres that readers
cannot easily find on bookstore shelves, or that they are hesitant
to purchase publicly. Erotic romance and edgy speculative fiction,
anything that is 'pushing the envelope', can do well in digital
release. I don't see this changing."

A major concern many writers have with epublishers is that they
don't generally offer an advance. While their royalty rates are far
better than traditional publishing, anywhere from 25 to 50 percent
as opposed to 4-12 percent, writers worry about not getting any
money up front. Lida Quillen of Twilight Times replies, "Typically,
a small press may not be able to pay an advance because it is not
in the budget. It does not matter whether the small press is a
print-only publishing house, a university press, or an epublisher.
A typical ebook might have production costs of up to $1000.00 for
editing, artwork and formatting. . .so there are no funds left over
for an author advance. With that kind of investment you can rest
assured the small press publisher will endeavor to do all they can
to make your book a success."

Harte says, "Traditional print publishers pay advances because they
have to--they are holding the author's intellectual capital hostage
for many months. The author won't see royalties for a year, often
longer. With Loose Id, we pay royalties in the same month the book
releases and it doesn't take us a year to publish a book. Why do an
advance when you can get paid from the actual sales within the
month of an e-book releasing?"

Many of the publishers also mentioned that because of lower
start-up costs, epublishers are more willing to take a chance on a
new and untested author, or a type of book that does not fit into a
traditional mold.

But the main question writers want to know is if they can actually
make a living writing ebooks. The answer appears to be a qualified
yes. Piers Anthony, who has a financial interest in Mundania Press
and maintains an excellent website on epublishing at 
http://www.hipiers.com/publishing.html, says, "Some writers may be
able to, but I think the great majority can't. Sales are not large
enough yet." Indeed, publishers tend to be tight-lipped about
sales, and the few figures that authors have provided for Anthony's
site are not promising. Award-winning author Darrell Bain
(http://www.darrellbain.com) states that he has earned about
$30,000 from his ebooks since 2002, but that's after six years of
work and dozens of published titles.

Others are more optimistic. Raelene Gorlinsky from Ellora's Cave
notes that since ebooks stay in print theoretically forever,
backlist sales make up a substantial portion of a prolific author's
income. Treva Harte from Loose-Id says she knows "a few" writers
who make a living from ebooks. "A prolific and popular e-book
writer can release more books per year than most print authors, so
the e-book author has the possibility of making as much money as an
average print writer who will see one or maybe two books come out a
year. But making a living from any kind of writing is a long shot."

Steven Womack at Whiskey Creek Press concurs that it's rare for a
writer to make a living off ebooks alone, and since the business is
driven by new releases, an author must be prolific in order to have
a chance at writing for a living.

As with traditional publishing, electronic publishing is in a state
of flux. Piers Anthony thinks the ebook industry will, "continue
expanding, at the expense of traditional print publishers, who will
no longer have a lock on the market. It is a kind of revolution,
long overdue."

Those traditional print publishers have taken notice. Tor and
Harlequin, to name two big hitters, now offer ebooks, as do many
others, and some are going into partnership with epublishers. Lida
Quillen of Twilight Times notes, "Ellora's Cave started as an
epublisher, bought their own printing equipment early on and now a
number of their titles are distributed by Simon & Schuster. Samhain
Publishing signed an agreement with Kensington Books whereby
Kensington will publish up to 12 Samhain titles annually."

So what's next for the ebook industry?  Gorlinsky has seen some
major changes.

"Until about two years ago, erotic romance publishing was the realm
of epublishers and small presses. The big N.Y. houses hadn't
believed there was a big enough market for this genre. Once they
saw the success of Ellora's Cave, the volume of books we were
selling, most of the N.Y. publishers jumped on the bandwagon and
started erotic romance lines. So there are now a lot more books
available to readers.

"Readers have become more open to a wide range of erotic subjects
and practices, and in fact continually want 'hotter'. What was
considered pushing the envelope five years ago is now 'vanilla'.

"I think that now so many N.Y. publishers are involved, the market
for erotic romances has become over-saturated. And in their rush to
get into this trend, some publishers were putting out books that
are not very good; this turned some readers away from erotic
romance, to the detriment of us all. So I expect that, like with
all hot trends in fiction, the market for this genre will level out
and some publishers will pull back on the number of releases or
even discontinue their erotic romance lines. The most successful,
including Ellora's Cave, will continue to do well and dominate the
market."

Womack isn't too worried about the big companies taking a piece of
the electronic pie.

"The large publishers will muscle their way into the small press
POD and ebook universe. When they do, because of their higher
overhead, prices will rise considerably, which will continue to
leave room for successful small presses like Whiskey Creek Press
with smaller overhead costs," he says.

Lida Quillen responds to the question of the industry's future at
length.

"Authors on the web are acquiring new skills. Writers are starting
to think in terms of multi-media effects due to the influence of
surfing experiences. The manner in which the words appear on the
page (HTML coding), non-linear (embedded hot links), visual
(graphics, borders, backgrounds), music (wav, mp3 files) and so on,
have an almost subliminal effect. 

"Writers spend hours in front of a computer screen, researching and
interacting with literally hundreds of people worldwide on a daily
basis. All these experiences cannot help but affect the way authors
will write in the future.
 
"Continued advances in technology will open up the ebook market to
millions of new readers. The publishers who are able to stay the
course will reap the benefits. For small presses who maintain high
standards, have learned the business end of book publishing, and
who produce quality books, I feel the future is very bright
indeed." 
 
>>-----------------------------------------------------<< 

Copyright (c) 2008 by Sean McLachlan

Sean McLachlan worked for ten years as an archaeologist before
becoming a full-time writer specializing in history and travel. He
is the author of Byzantium: An Illustrated History (Hippocrene,
2004), It Happened in Missouri (TwoDot, 2007), and Moon Handbooks
London (Avalon, 2007), among others. He runs two blogs, one on the
life of a midlist writer at http://www/midlistwriter.blogspot.com,
and another on travel and travel writing at
http://www.grizzledoldtraveler.blogspot.com
 
For more information and advice on ebook publishing visit:
http://www.writing-world.com/publish/index.shtml

***************************************************************

THE WRITE SITES
=============================================================== 

THE EIGHTEEN QUESTIONS
----------------------
This is a great little site - twice winner of Writer's Digest 101
Best Sites. They've put eighteen questions to authors and you can
read the questions and answers and in doing so pick up little tips
from the experts.  Well worth a visit when you can't bet bothered
to write.
http://eighteenquestions.com/index.htm

WRITER'S FM
-----------
Listen and learn while you work.  This is the only 24hour radio
station for writers and by writers. Listen in for interviews with
famous writers, writing prompts and music to inspire you.  Also
available in podcasts.
http://www.writersfm.com/writersfm/

THE PUBLISHING LAW CENTER
-------------------------
This is a comprehensive site providing advice on all aspects of
publishing law from fair-use to copyright issues and electronic
rights.  All articles are written by lawyers.
http://publaw.com/

FREELANCE WRITING ORGANIZATION INTERNATIONAL
--------------------------------------------
A worldwide site providing information on all aspects and genres of
freelance writing which also offers free blog hosting for writing
only blogs. This site is vast!
http://fwointl.com/

THE STORY STARTER
-----------------
For when inspiration just won't strike, try this site instead. 
While you're there, check out the creativity finder for both
fiction and nonfiction ideas.
http://thestorystarter.com/

QUIPS AND TIPS FOR FREELANCE WRITERS 
--------------------------------------
If you're looking for the latest books on writing, here's a blog
that covers them all -- with quick reviews and useful excerpts from
the experts. Definitely worth a stop.
http://theadventurouswriter.com/blogwriting/

********************************************************* 

CAN'T GET PUBLISHED? Be a Well-Fed Self-Publisher and make a
living! Control the process and timetable. Keep the rights AND most
of the profits.  Here's the step-by-step blueprint used to create a
full-time living from ONE book!  By the award-winning author of The
Well-Fed Writer. http://www.wellfedsp.com.

********************************************************************

FEATURE: The Benefit of Critique Groups

====================================================================
                                                By Michele Acker

Critique groups can be an invaluable resource for writers at all
stages of their careers. They can help you see problems in your
work that you can't spot yourself, they can help you improve your
own work by seeing the mistakes other people make and perhaps most
importantly, they provide you with the company of other writers who
understand your passions and obsessions.

There are three main types of groups you should consider, large,
online organized groups, such as Critters http://www.critters.org;
online forums and mailing lists; or smaller, more intimate critique
groups, both online and in-person. I'll discuss the pros and cons
of each.

Large groups like Critters can be very helpful. You'll receive a
wide range of critiques from writers in all stages of their
careers, even professional authors. The site is well run and
strictly regulated to keep people from taking advantage of others
hard work without doing any of their own. As a member of such a
group, you are required to provide at least one critique a week. If
you don't keep up your work goes to the bottom of the queue. And
your critiques must be long and well thought out, after all, isn't
that what you want yourself? The group is free, but you must sign
up to join, so you don't have to worry about editors turning you
down because you've already been published on the web. Go to
Writing-World.com for a list of large critique groups both for
novelists and short story writers in a variety of genres.

Other options include email lists. Do a search in Yahoo Groups and
you'll find ones for every genre you can imagine, such as screen
writing, children's books, science fiction and fantasy and mystery.
 There are even groups for young people who write or want to write.

You join the group--most are free, some require membership--post
your work according to the rules and send it out on a group wide
email. Those who wish to respond, will. Critiques are encouraged,
but not enforced as they are in places such as Critters. Some of
these email lists are for discussion purposes only and if you want
something critiqued, you have to post a file to the group's main
page and ask for volunteers. Either way, you can get some valuable
insight into your work. However, unlike a more structured set up,
you'll also get a lot of "I didn't like it" or "I really enjoyed
it" kinds of comments which really tell you nothing at all. Try
them out and make sure you get into a group that gives you the kind
of feedback you're looking for.

Online forums are set up a bit differently. Instead of sending out
emails, you post to a forum where people come and read your work.
Forums are similar to Critters but not as strictly regulated. You
aren't required to post a certain number of return critiques, but
if you don't, eventually people will notice and stop reading your
work.

Smaller, more personal critique groups are probably the best way to
help you improve your writing. Online groups are the most common
and for those of you who live in sparsely populated rural areas,
the most beneficial. You can be a part of one no matter where you
live. You can find online groups from a variety of places, through
people you meet at conferences, online classes, larger forums (as
mentioned earlier), or by joining writing organizations such as RWA
(Romance Writers of America), MWA (Mystery Writers of America) or
SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).

Finding a local group in your area isn't as easy, but in my opinion
it's well worth the effort. I prefer personal groups because they
feed two needs at once, giving you feedback on your work and
providing you time with other writers. Writers are mostly a
solitary bunch so any chance we have to get together is worthwhile.
You can try to locate a group by checking with your local
bookstores (independents and the big chains) to see if any groups
meet there on a regular basis, or if anyone has left their contact
information for people looking for a critique group.

But the best way to find a local group is by joining the local
chapter of a large writer's organization. For instance, I joined
RWA, not because I write romance (which I don't), but because they
had the biggest, most well organized group in my city. And while
all the meetings are geared towards romance writers, that doesn't
mean you can't learn something. I know I did. Plus I found a
fantastic critique group that helped me polish my book and get it
ready to send out. I have no idea where I'd be without them.

If you can't find a group you want to join, or you've joined one
that didn't suit your purposes, you might want to consider starting
a group of your own. You can find people to join your group the
same way you found other groups to join, referral from friends,
conferences, writing classes, writer's organizations and your local
bookstore.

Whether you join another group or start your own, you might want to
consider the following advice. It will make your experience that
much better.

1) Join or form a group where everyone is at pretty much the same
level. Having someone a couple rungs above you is helpful, but you
don't want anyone who is too far below everyone else. Until a
writer has reached a certain level of experience or expertise, they
can't be of much help to anyone. They can't offer you informed
opinions on how to improve your work and any suggestions you
provide will likely not make any sense to them. Writers at the
beginning of their careers tend to think their work is perfect.
Beginning writers - and if you are one, read this with an open mind
- tend to be very narrow-minded in their approach. They have a hard
time seeing a better way to write a particular scene, give their
plot more tension or make their characters more compelling. At
least in the beginning.

2) Screen people before letting them in. Get samples of their work
and have it screened, by everyone if you have a small group or by a
membership committee if you have a large group. You want to make
sure what she/he writes is something the group feels comfortable
critiquing and that they are at a level to be helpful to everyone
else.

3) Set up the rules ahead of time and discuss them with everyone so
they know what to expect. Work out a schedule. How often will you
meet? When? Where? Do you bring work to the meeting and read there,
or do you email it to each person in advance? How far in advance?

4) Work out ahead of time what genres you'll accept into your
group. Do you want everyone to write the same thing, or are
different genres okay? For instance, if you write Science Fiction
or Fantasy, do you want to join or start a group of other authors
who write only speculative fiction, or do you want to be in a more
diversified group, one that accepts romance say, or literary
fiction or even non-fiction? What genres do you enjoy reading? What
genres wouldn't you touch with a ten-foot pole? If you hate
literary fiction for instance, you wouldn't want to be in a group
that included literary writers.

5) If you want to join an established group, check them out first.
Attend a few sessions to make sure they're a good fit and the level
of critiques is something you feel comfortable with. In other
words, if what you're looking for is an in depth critique and
everyone in the group just says things like, "It was good, I liked
it," you know it's not the right group for you.

6) Remember, be positive but honest. Point out the things that need
work, but point out the things you like as well. And never overly
explain your own work. If someone doesn't understand something it
usually means you weren't clear enough. Consider their suggestions
and if it makes sense, rewrite.

>>-----------------------------------------------------<<  
 Copyright (c) 2008 by Michele Acker

Michele Acker is a freelance writer who has had articles published
on a wide variety of topics but who prefers to write science
fiction and fantasy and who has contributed to several anthologies
in these genres. Check out her books at
http://www.micheleacker.com/index.php

For more information on critiquing visit: 
http://www.writing-world.com/basics/critique.shtml and
http://www.writing-world.com/basics/dawn09.shtml

*******************************************************************
COMING UP in THE NEXT ISSUE OF WRITING-WORLD...
==================================================================== 

We find out how to get a job writing for newspapers and Sean
McLachlan takes a look at Print on Demand (POD) publishing from the
publisher's point of view. 

Your next issue will appear in your inboxes on December 4.

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WRITING CONTESTS

==================================================================== 
This section lists contests that charge no entry fees. Unless 
otherwise indicated, competitions are open to all adult writers.

FRANKLIN-CHRISTOPH POETRY CONTEST
-----------------------------------------------
DEADLINE: November 30, 2008
GENRE:  Poetry
DETAILS:   Up to 2 original, unpublished poems of not more than 100
line each, any style.  
PRIZE: $2500 in total prizes, including the $1000 cash grand prize.
10 Merit Award Winners will receive $150 writing instruments.
URL:   http://tinyurl.com/4voylk

SCRIBOPHILE NOVEL WRITING CONTEST
---------------------------------
DEADLINE: November 30, 2008
GENRE:  Books
DETAILS:   This contest is geared to those of you participating in
NaNoWriMo.  To enter, submit the first chapter (up to 4000 words)
or the first 4000 words of a piece of long fiction.  If you're
writing for NaNoWriMo, this can be the beginning of your novel, and
if you're not, it can be any piece of longer fiction that you can
cook up. 
PRIZE: First prize is a $50 gift card to Amazon.com; 2nd is a $25
gift card.  
URL:  http://www.scribophile.com/contests/

ANNA DAVIDSON ROSENBERG AWARDS
-------------------------------------------
DEADLINE: December 1, 2008
GENRE:  Poetry 
DETAILS: 1 - 3 poems 10 pages max on the Jewish experience.   
PRIZE: $3000 in prizes, shared amongst three winners. 
URL: http://www.jccsf.org/content_main.aspx?catid=642

ELIE WIESEL PRIZE IN ETHICS ESSAY CONTEST (STUDENTS)
-----------------------------------------------------
DEADLINE: December 7, 2008
OPEN TO: full-time US undergraduates
GENRE:  Nonfiction 
DETAILS:  3000 - 4000 word essays on topics suggested on website.   
PRIZE: $5000, $2500, $1500 and 2 honorable mentions $500. 
URL: http://www.eliewieelfoundation.org/information.aspx

MCKITTERICK PRIZE
------------------
DEADLINE: December 20, 2008
OPEN TO: UK authors aged 40 at time of competition, with an
unpublished novel or novel first published in the UK. The author
must not have had any other books published except children's
books. 
GENRE:  Books
DETAILS:  Submit four copies of published novel or first 30 pages
of unpublished novel.    
PRIZE: £4000
URL: http://tinyurl.com/2ch5uy

TOM GALLON TRUST AWARD AND THE OLIVE COOK PRIZE
-----------------------------------------------
DEADLINE: December 20, 2008
OPEN TO: Citizens of the UK, Ireland and the Commonwealth. 
GENRE:  Short stories
DETAILS:  5000 words max, stories may be published or unpublished.  
PRIZE: £1000
URL: http://tinyurl.com/2ch5uy

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