When I began working on pre-production to publish Perceval’s Secret, I also thought about what to do with a couple short stories I had finished. At the time, I wasn’t a member of a writing group, i.e. a group of writers who share their work and give feedback. Could there be a writing group online I could join? Or something similar?
It turns out that there are opportunities to share one’s writing and receive feedback online. If you have a blog, you can post your writing there and ask for feedback in the comments section. You can join an online class like those offered by The Loft. the Zoetrope Virtual Studio, or the Gotham Writing Workshop. Just google “online writing classes” for other possibilities. Or you can join an online writing forum like FanStory.com or Wattpad.com.
Two years ago, I joined Wattpad. It was free and it was easy. I posted both “The Light Chamber” and “The Negligee” there. Then I began looking around the website. And reading other writers’ works. The membership looked quite young, certainly younger than me. The stories I read were awful, usually just an idea with a character that wasn’t developed. No plot. No story. No character development, action, and sometimes very little dialogue. Mildly alarmed, I nevertheless decided to give Wattpad more time.
At first, I participated at Wattpad, reading stories, rating them and leaving comments. I joined several groups but then didn’t know what was really expected of me in each one. I began to sense that taking part in the Wattpad community might mean a large time commitment. It was more of a networking site, I thought, making connections possible among writers, which is fine. But my purpose of joining the site was to receive feedback on my stories.
Other writers did read my stories, but none left comments much less feedback. I asked for the feedback, also. As time went on, I learned that I was putting in far more time into the site than I was getting out of it. “The Light Chamber” has had a total of 37 reads, and “The Negligee” a total of 45. If the lack of interest in my stories is because I didn’t actively promote them enough on the site, then that’s my fault. Maybe they weren’t interesting or badly written, I don’t know — no one left a comment to that effect. The feedback I left for the stories I read also went nowhere even though I made it as constructive as I could and invited discussion.
Then a thought struck me between the eyes. Wattpad was more about popularity than an actual writing forum in which writers read other writers’ work and gave feedback. Is that true of all the writing forums online? I don’t know, but I suspect that’s the case. At any rate, I’ve decided to take down my stories from Wattpad.
What do you do to find a real writing feedback group instead of one online? It may not be as difficult as you might imagine, unless you live out in the country far from an urban center. I’ve discovered that MeetUp can be helpful, as well as local writing organizations, neighborhood associations, and colleges in the area. In the Twin Cities, we have The Loft which offers classes and workshops, readings, and a place for writers to meet. I’ve seen writing groups listed at the Loft’s Community Postings pages.
I’m very curious to hear from other writers about their experiences with online writer forums. Have you used one or more? Was a good or bad experience? Would you recommend it to other writers? Are you a member of an offline writing feedback group? Please respond in the comments section below!