Friday, 22 January 2016

DON'T SHARE YOUR SWEETS! Beware of sending work off for dubious critiques.

In unpublished circles and the newly published set, writers have one thing in common - their heads are bulging with ideas. They can’t imagine such a thing as a published author suffering from creative deficiency; desperately searching for a little spark of inspiration....

When I think of being deficient in something I recall a particular period in my life when I was a stone heavier, off coffee and consuming dolly mixtures by the truck load. If we are to assume that cravings in pregnancy are linked to a deficiency in diet then I can only guess I needed a sugar rush. I have heard that if you get a taste for something in particular during those long nine months it will turn out to be your child’s favourite indulgence. Perhaps the foetus is developing a liking for whatever Mum is devouring?  Anyhow, sure enough, my son has a penchant for sweets. He’s not fussy, whether they’re weighed out from jars, in packets or tubes. I spent most of his early years at Woolworths, scrambling around, cupping my hands to catch stray Pick 'n Mix.  Nowadays you don’t need to get them weighed at the counter - just pay for a cup and fill it to the brim. Some experts choose carefully, ignoring the spherical gob stoppers and going for the smaller flat options - cramming as much in as you can get away with. I’ve seen them craftily holding the lid firmly down, pretending they’ve not stolen more than they should have - an innocent, childish deception. However, not all deceptions are this endearing.  

I often wonder if some published authors who suddenly offer to critique work might have an ulterior motive to ‘pick and mix’ someone else’s ideas?  Even if these short-term editorial services are provided without that intention, it is a sure fire way of subconsciously plagiarising work. I remember reading a novel that was very atmospheric and Dickensian.  Before long, someone pointed out that I’d been replacing the word because with for, both in emails and texts. I’d got no idea I’d been writing ‘ye oldie English’, but it had been going on for over a month. This is the reason why you shouldn’t read your genre when writing. Crime writers should choose something comedic during the months they’re plotting a murder - clear your mind of blood and gore.  

I think it’s a good idea to attend talks and lectures when you're working on your next project.  There’s nothing more productive than a small workshop. If you can afford it, pack yourself off to a writing retreat. All writers crave solitude.

Many published authors complain about not having the time to write their next novel because of publicity obligations. So alarm bells should ring if a working author suddenly runs a competition or sets up an auction to critique work. You don't want your work to end up in their next book! It doesn't matter if this is deliberate or unintentional. It's your baby not theirs! 

Question why a working writer is doing this? What, for example, is forcing them to ask for a particular theme? Don’t be tempted to send work off for dubious critiques. Don’t share your sweets! Even if you think this might be the only road to publication – it isn’t. Pick a reputable editorial service that comes with a recommendation from The Society of Authors. Mix in a few workshops, talks and conferences. Be patient. Your day will come. I’m rooting for you.

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