Thursday, June 2, 2011

Is the Online Writing World Too Suspicious?

I have to make a confession.

I am probably the most naive person you will ever meet. OK, maybe I like trusting better. Yes, that is it, I am the most trusting person you will ever meet. I generally extend my trust to most anyone I know whether it be in real life or on the Internet. Naturally, the moment someone lets me down or betrays me, I drop them like they're hot.

But in general, I try to be open, approachable, and helpful. In real life as well as online. I've recently run into issues on a writing forum that caused me to pause. I've mainly stuck to the forums at Nathan Bransford because everyone is just so nice and helpful. It's really the ideal community for writers if you ask me. But I recently decided to venture into another well known writing forum that will remain anonymous. My first foray there last year resulted in a bad incident where I was raked over the coals for an innocent comment. Needless to say, the situation put a bad taste in my mouth. I recently ventured back to this forum, starting out on a genre specific board, and after lurking there for a while to evaluate the other users, I started posting.

I also began looking for more beta readers and when I had difficulty finding them, I posted on the board asking for suggestions on finding beta readers. Instead of suggestions, I got a lecture about how my post count was low and users will be suspicious of me until I prove myself (essentially). I can understand this to some extent, but then in some ways, it strikes me as wrong. Perhaps I was spoiled by the welcoming and helpful quality of the users at Nathan Bransford. And maybe I am the exception, meaning that I am willing to help people regardless if they are just stopping in or if they are a long time user. If I read a plea for a beta reader and the book is in my genre and it sounds interesting, I'm going to offer to read it no matter what. I know we have to be careful who we entrust our work to, but are we so wrapped up in our writing lives and are suspicions, that extending our help to other writers has become near impossible? It just seems the policy of "sure I'll help you, but what are you going to do for me" seems to be in effect. Maybe I'm old fashioned (ok, I am) but I consider it a compliment to be asked (either directly or indirectly) to help another writer.

So what about you? What's your policy for helping others? Are you open to helping anyone or has a bad incident caused you to be more reserved in extending an offer of help?


  1. I glad it wasn't the Bransforum that gave you that reply. Maybe I'm tainted by the atmosphere of the Bransforum too. Until recently I pretty much helped anyone who specifically asked me and would occasionally offer help if someone was looking and I thought I had something to give them. I did, however, promise myself I wasn't going to do any beta reading or critting in 2011. It was getting to be too time consuming.

    All that being said, I did have an *incredibly* bad experience with a writer who was mentally ill (and not treatment compliant) -- I was stalked, harrassed, threatened. If I suspect that's the case with someone (it helps to have a masters in psychology, luckily) I try to steer clear.

  2. Geez Margo! I'd say you take the trophy for worst experience. It's awesome that you still remain openminded after going through that type of situation.

  3. I don't do much beta reading. I don't really have the time. Work, writing, blogging and reading my crit partners stuff (I have 5 partners) Sucks up all my free time.

    On the forums, I'll reply if I have something to add but most of the time they've got it covered at Bransforums before I show up. I'm active on one other forum and I've joined a couple more that weren't a good fit.

    Good post.

  4. I'm a trusting person by nature. Both of my crit partners were picked up on the spur of the moment (one literally as soon as I'd hit the Bransforums), and both have been invaluable. So in that regard, no, I haven't had any nasty surprises.

    That said, I have had plenty of negative feedback on my writing and my blog (and not the constructive kind of negative), and I've learned to take it in stride and keep moving. I believe that it's not that we're too suspicious, but rather that we let insults and rude comments hit us a little too hard. Everyone has a cynic inside, and Internet anonymity allows some to think they're allowed to bring it out.

    We'll all get knocked down at some point. It's whether we're willing to get up again that matters.

  5. Caroline - Have you tried Historical Fiction Online ( I can't speak to the likelihood of finding beta readers there, but the atmosphere is very positive and supportive (so long as you're not the type just to drop in to make an announcement about your novel and leave, never actually participating in the discussions). I've never seen any comments about anyone's post count there. The topics are interesting and diverse and cover a wide range of issues of interest to readers and writers (perhaps more so the former than the latter, though, actually). And several prominent historical novelists participate in the discussions, including Elizabeth Chadwick, C.W. Gortner, Anna Elliott and Susan Higginbotham. Check it out!

  6. Matt - WOW thanks! I've never heard of that. I'm definitely checking it out.
    Will - I think it's hard to ignore anyone that is being overly mean or rude. It's really uncalled for in any context. Hang in there. :-)

  7. I will also be heading over there, Matt!

    And I agree, Caroline. The Bransforums spoil us all, because everyone is just so damn nice and helpful!

  8. Caroline, I found you out Bransforums too and just commented on your query and jumped over here and saw this post. I agree - everyone over there is super helpful and nice. By the way, I'd be willing to trade beta reading if you're interested. Mine isn't a historical romance - it's a contemporary fantasy with legal elements. I am an attorney but also teach writing and editing so I'm pretty thorough - I tend to prefer to do broad stroke editing focusing on plot and characters rather than grammar and such, but I can do both. I'm finding it very useful to receive comments and would love to get more feedback from other writers. Shoot me an email if you're interested [mine is theroadforks [at] gmail [dot] com.]