The View From Here Interview: WriteWords
WriteWords is a Writers' Community based in the UK that provides inspiration and feedback for writers across the globe. One of the founders, Anna Reynolds , who is the News Editor and interviewer for the site, tells us about the community and its origins.
Part 1 of this interview here.
Do you ever have any problems with authors who have issues with feedback they have received from the writing groups?
Not really- this is partly due to the way we moderate- we don’t miss much- and partly due to the fact that people tend to gravitate towards us because they want a supportive place in which to unveil their work. Of course over the years people have received critiques that they feel have been too strongly worded, or aggressive, or rude, and we’ve dealt with these on an individual basis- and also by giving suggested guidelines for critiquing, including allowing the owner of the work to indicate what level of critique they’d like- gentle, fairly strong, or no-holds-barred. So writers set the tone to some extent. It’s also the case that if you join a WriteWords group, you’ll get a safer place to discuss your work, as groups tends to feel a responsibility towards its members. Writers are generally pretty nice people, I think; they’ve all had to deal with rejection and criticism, so they –mostly- have a sensitivity about how to word things. Mostly.
Do you remove aggressive comments?
Well, first of all, the WriteWords community are remarkably good at moderating themselves- and operate as a good community should, mutually supportive, loyal, etc- they are also vigilant at spotting people who are out to cause trouble, or stir things up in an aggressive or downright rude way. We do remove posts if they are extremely insulting, or deliberately provocative in a negative way- we're not acting as censors, but keeping the majority happy. We contact the person who's made the comments to give them a gentle warning, and if that doesn't work, then we send in the heavies.
How has the site been received by the industry - do you have agents or publishers as members?
One of our very first members/supporters was agent Simon Trewin, then PFD and now United Agents- he’s famously accessible, but has always been a great fan of the site and in the early days, even commented on people’s work- obviously we’re too big now for that to be practicable for him- he’d be snowed under- but there are plenty of other agents, editors and magazine editors who’ve given us their time, advice, or support, for example responding to specific questions, or in the form of an interview or many other ways. Generally people in the industry love the site- we have tons of great writing showcased for them to see, bright people who have good and interesting queries and ideas, and often agents/publishers etc come to us to tell us about changes to the way they work, and inviting our thoughts and opinions.
Do you have plans to develop the site further?
We’re always developing things- that’s the joy of working purely online, that we can adapt and be fluid. That might be in small ways, such as changing a page layout to make navigation around the site easier, or it might be something like adding a new feature such as the add-your-own-blog, or responding to good ideas and feedback from a member.
Can you tell us some success stories from WriteWord members.
Some recent examples are one of our members was longlisted for the Waterstones Childrens Book Prize 2009 for material which she initially on WW, another was published by Macmillan New Writers last month. Again the novel was workshopped on-site. One members' novel has just been accepted for publication by Flambard Press, due out May/June 2009 and an earlier draft of one members story posted on WW for critiques, has been shortlisted for the Aesthetica Magazine creative works competition in the fiction category. As a finalist, he will be published in a book that will be available in Borders nationwide from 8 December. There's countless other examples of success on site.
What is your view of the publishing industry at the moment from the point of view of new writers?
Well, everything people filter back to us says that adaptability is the key- writers may not have the luxury of saying they don’t change tack, or refuse to write in a particular genre, or don’t really do publicity, etc. That’s not to say that desperation is ever going to be the answer- it’s still true that your own original strong ‘voice’ is what will prosper, but writers do have to be as web-savvy as possible, get to grips with viral marketing, Twittering, etc, themselves and not rely on the publisher to do everything- also we are hearing that the more you can do to polish your mss before submitting it the better- with cuts in editorial staff, there’s less time to nurture and edit new writers, so make use of good critiquing services and groups.
What is your view on self-publishing?
As long as you know what you’re letting yourself in for, go for it. Check out the company/people behind the outfit you’re going with, look at other books they’ve produced- are you happy with how they look? Be aware of what the limits will be- the marketing and PR and admin being down to you, be sure you can afford it, and I suppose don’t kid yourself- do it because you want that book in print and that is what a self-published book is- the rest is up to you. It’s been incredibly successful for some people, and for others it’s about having a book they can gift to family and friends and have satisfaction in seeing on their shelf. To thyself be true. Oh, and ask for help and advice- this is a question that continually comes up on WriteWords, and lots of members have great, sane, useful advice, so don’t feel you need to reinvent the wheel.
Can you give any advice to new writers?
Lots, but they may well have heard it before. Read tons, not just in your market/genre/media but everything- playscripts, filmscripts, poetry, classic and contemporary, journalism, etc- read from a point of view opposite to your usual. So if you usually tend to read women’s fiction, try reading some really butch male writing- it might not be your thing, but it helps shift your perspective and widens your vision.
Keep a ‘jewel box’ of ideas, cuttings from newspapers, little things that might inspire a story or a moment, snatches of overheard dialogue, photos, old postcards…this has never failed me when I’m jaded or blocked
Write every day, if you can, even if it’s just a line or a germ of an idea..
Join WriteWords. Find a writing ‘friend’.
Enjoy it- it’s not a series of hurdles to be endured. Well, it is, sometimes, but it should be the best fun you can have as well. Otherwise why the bloody hell are you doing it?
Visit WriteWords here.