The Pros and Cons of Absolute Write

 

So last week, I did an overview on Absolute Write for those who hadn’t heard of it, detailing some of the most helpful boards (such as a query letter critique forum and one to find beta readers! All here in my last post.)

But for those of you who’ve heard about Absolute Write and are considering joining, I wanted to give you the heads up.

First the disclaimer: Absolute Write is a FANTASTIC resource. It definitely helped me become the writer I am today, got me in the know, and helped me meet a wonderful group of writers. I even got to beta the first two chapters of Beth Revis’ Across the Universe because we met on Absolute Write.

On the other hand, this site gets a bad rep, sometimes. And when you’re new or confused, it can be difficult to sort out what’s true and what’s just someone ranting about their bad experience.

So here it is: a list of needs-to-knows about Absolute Write, and the pros and cons of each.

 

It contains wealth of information about the publishing industry and submission process.

Pros:

For those still trying to sort out how the publishing industry works, this is great. You’ll learn all the basics and a lot of the advanced material as well. Including material about advances. (Bad pun. Bad pun!!!) For newbie writers who think they’ll wrap their manuscript up in a nice box with some twine and mail it off to a publishing house, this will give them a bit of a reality check. And let’s face it. We need those reality checks sometimes.

Cons:

It’s easy to focus too much on getting published. Hanging around the AW boards when you’re writing a first draft can be torture, and because it all sounds so exciting and businesslike, there’s an internal urge to jumpstart the submission process. This results in a lot of newish writers diving into the world of rejection letters before they’ve ever focused on craft, and a lot of older writers will seem to have plateaued. This, in turn, results in people turning to self-publishing and POD prematurely, because they have been doing this for X-many years and are ready to be published.  Simply put, they got overeager and then disappointed too early on.

 

You’ll tap you into the writing (and blogging) community.

Pros:

One of the hardest things about writing, and any art form at all, is that it’s so isolating. We create for ourselves but we crave other people’s appreciation. Writer’s need other people for support and encouragement, for wisdom, for networking and beta-reading, for mentor and mentoree relationships all across the board. Absolute Write does this. You’ll meet other writers in the same boat as you, and when writing a first draft, having other people care (and talking to you through the cave walls, so to speak) can be a life saver.

Cons:

Community is great. Distractions are not. Some days, it’s a whole lot easier to go on Absolute Write and talk about writing, while never actually typing a single word. It can be a time-suck if you’re not careful. And it’s very, very easy to get into the “wish I had written, don’t want to write” mindset. On top of that, the community is very single-minded. Sometimes fighting for your creative license can be like swimming against the tide. And finally, it’s easy to feel legitimized about, say, the quality of your novel, just because the people at Absolute Write told you it was submissions-ready.

 

They’ll push you.

Pros:

You’ll be whipped into professional shape in no time. All those embarrassing newbie mistakes (like calling a manuscript a book, or saying “fiction novel” in a query letter) will be corrected in no time. You’ll learn a lot of the inside phrases and rules such as show-don’t-tell, BIC (butt in chair) and no ly-adverbs. You’ll feel educated, invigorated, mildly intimidated, but equipped. The AWers won’t accept any crap when it comes to procrastinating and they’ll encourage you to improve your craft.

Cons:

Every new writer needs to learn the rules, but eventually you need to learn when and how to break them. AWers have a tendency to strip away any rule-breaking they see, even if it lends to quality or voice. Plus, if you continue to break the rules, there is a lot of lecturing involved by older members who think you’re just being obstinate. I think every AWer goes through a period of feeling the pressure of the community weighing down on them, resulting in guilt and stress. AW tends to focus too much on the rules, and forget about things such as recharging, guilt-free writing methods, inspiration, or how to slow down and improve your craft rather than push for marketability.

Finally, AW has no patience for people who aren’t sure they want to go all professional yet. If you’re noodling around and just want people to praise your first drafts, it won’t happen there.

 

They’ll help you develop a tough skin.

Pros:

If you’re going to survive the publishing world, you’ll need to remain persistent, and you’ll need a tough skin. It’s that simple. Learning how to deal with constructive criticism, query letter rejections, editorial feedback, bad reviews–it’s essential, because rejection never really stops. And AW will not coddle you. AWers ask other members to rip their piece to shreds, and the other members will. They’ll do it nicely and helpfully if they can. But they will in fact rip it to shreds.

Cons:

Not everyone can take having their work ripped to shreds. Tough skin takes time to build, and AW doesn’t have much of a grace period, although people will try to be more conscientious of newer writers. But you’re basically expected to take your medicine without complaint, protest, or justification. And because they strive for excellence, they can always find something new to comment on. Sometimes this is discouraging and confusing. And for the newbie writer, who is still dabbling at this, who haven’t gotten a taste for it yet and are still trying to decide if it’s worth the effort–all this criticism can push them in the wrong direction.

 

And two final pros and cons:

Pro:

As a writer, you’ll grow up in this community, and you’ll grow fast. They’ll foster you along the way and equip you with skills and resources you’ll need to survive in the publishing industry. You’ll hear names, and later those names will become published and even famous authors, and you’ll become connected without even realizing it. (Remember when I betaed for Beth Revis? I was just being nice, but she remembered me later on. It’s a connection I couldn’t have made now.)

Con:

Eventually you’ll grow out of this community. Although I am definitely speaking from personal experience, I’ve also heard from a lot of other writers who started in AW and slowly moved out of that sphere as they got more independent and gained agents or publishing contracts. There becomes a point when you realize AW is repeating the same things they’ve always said, and they don’t have anything more to teach you. On and off you might get frustrated with the critical nature of the community there, and you might start leaning more on your crit partners or agent. This isn’t a bad thing…it’s just part of the natural progression of maturing as a writer.

 

* * *

So.

All that said.

The takeaway, here, is that Absolute Write is really and truly a fantastic resource, but you need to be aware of how best to use it and whether it’s right for you. If you’re new at writing and you’d like to improve, but you’re not ready to face too much criticism yet, you might want to lurk around the boards for a while and soak up the information first. When you feel like it’s time to step up your game, then you can join and start asking questions and requesting critiques. Even more established writers would find AW helpful.

But the caveat is, you’ll always need to keep a balanced mindset about what you’re learning there. Definitely do learn how to follow the rules. Realize at some point you will learn how to break them, and that this is okay. Don’t feel you have to follow everything they say to the letter. Learn how to be your own judge–and learn how to judge yourself critically. Develop your tough skin, and then surround yourself by people who know how to encourage as well as suggest constructive changes. Put yourself out there, but don’t be in too much of a rush to get published. Learn how to write for yourself first.

That’s my two cents, anyway. As they’d say on Absolute Write, take it with a grain of salt.

 

Truly and always,

-Mandy

Advertisements

How to Use Absolute Write

 

 

Back when I was a fresh little nooblet of a novelist, and the publishing world was an enormous mystery I couldn’t figure out how to unlock, I stumbled upon Absolute Write. It was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me at that time. It educated me, honed me, tapped me into a community of many other intelligent writers, gave me a kick in the butt and a fond farewell, and sent me on my way.In fact, you will hear a lot of writers mention Absolute Write, but for those not in the know, it can feel mysterious and confusing.

So here’s the dish.

The Absolute Write Water cooler, often shortened to Absolute Write (or just AW,) is a group of web forums dedicated to everything writing and publishing. The layout can be a bit intimidating at first, but there are a couple of important boards that will really help you navigate your way around:

The Basic Writing and Novel boards, where you can discuss almost anything about how to write, such as plot and character, while the novel board focuses a little more on novel-related writing topics, such as the three-act structure, climaxes, etc.

Then under the AW Writing Lab is one of my favorite sections — the Share Your Work (or SYW) boards. These require a password (vist) which is always kept in the description. These boards are wonderful–broken up by genre, you can post sections of any work, whether it be in progress or ready for betas, and get critical feedback. Best of all? They have a Query Letter Hell board–which is where you can get crits on your query letters! Utterly invaluable.

An unspoken rule of etiquette is to crit at least a handful of other people’s works. People respect this a lot, so if they see you asked for crits but not giving any, they might skip critting yours in favor of someone more friendly. So keep that in mind.

Then there’s the Blogging & Social Networking board, where you can network with other bloggers, announce when you’ve started a new blog, and in the Did You Update Your Blog Today? thread, you can post links to your current blog posts and find links to other writer’s blogs. (This one is a huge resource!)

Finally, there’s the Beta Readers forum, where you can find people looking for betas or crit partners, post your own beta reader request, or discuss the beta experience. (Another huge resource!)

And to use the old adage, that’s just scratching the surface.

 

* * *

 

However. People tend to have polarized feelings about Absolute Write. Some will rave and rave about it’s helpfulness and how awesome the community is, which is true. But others will say they don’t use Absolute Write anymore, and will admit, in a way that makes you wonder if there’s more to the story, that Absolute Write has it’s issues.

And this is true as well. I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum, so in my next post, I want to talk about the pros and cons of Absolute Write, and explain a little better how to use this resource the way that’s best for you.

 

Until then!

 

truly and always,

-Mandy

 

 

 

Recent Reads, July Edition

 

 

Hello lovelies.

So I don’t know about you guys, but I tend to read in massive spurts. I will order 4-6 books from the library, devour them in about a week and a half, immediately order more, and devour those as soon as they arrive. I’ll repeat that, oh…say four times, over the course of two or three months. Which means about twenty books or more in that three month time period.

And then I will stop for a while *

But the stopping is IRRELEVANT because right now I am in the middle of a surge and, oh look, books!

Series I’m in the midst of:

Endlessly, Paranormalcy #3

Don’t Judge a Girl by her Cover, Gallagher Girl’s #3

Only the Good Spy Young, Gallagher Girls #4

So a while back I got into the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter when I saw the title of the then-newest book in the series, Out of Sight, Out of Time, and read that it involved amnesia. Amnesia! I thought. My favorite. Also, friends of mine, namely Chandler Craig, had been raving about the Gallagher Girls for a while. So anyway I gave it a try. I got hooked on the series, but I’ve always been reading with that goal in mind of getting to the elusive fifth book with amnesia…and now I’m finally there! The next one I read will be it! I’m excited, because the series has been sweet but a bit light up until now, and only in the last two books has it really started darkening up a bit. I’m liking the heightened tension and stakes, and I can’t wait to read the fifth in the series. *Cue dramatic music*

Then there’s Endlessly.

So I’m ashamed to admit that when the Paranormalcy series first came out, I sort of shuffled my feet and decided I didn’t feel like it. I was tired of paranormal. And paranormal was right in the title. But the covers were pretty…So I watched how the series developed, and decided I might give it a try. Eventually. Maybe. Perhaps.

Sometime last winter I finally gave Paranormalcy a try–and I loved it. Early this spring I read Supernaturally, the sequel, and was a little less enthusiastic. So I was nervous, about the final installment of the trilogy. Would it be meh, would it be angry-making, would it be anything as good as the first? Then I read Endlessly and realized all my fears were unfounded. It recaptured the magic of the series and kicked it up a major notch. I was very excited.

Books That Were/Are Big (and I read them, yay!)
(if belatedly, boo–)

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The Different Girl by Gorden Dahlquist

Timeless by Alexandra Monir

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

And I have to say guys, these books were well worth the read. Eleanor & Park reminded me quite a lot of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, in that it was honest and real and sweet–but also challenging, and sometimes gritty; sometimes gritty to the point that it lessened my enjoyment of it. However, it was every bit as awesome as everyone said it would be. Definitely lived up to the hype.

Timeless by Alexandra Monir felt like a tad bit of a let down; the cover was just so beautiful, that I found myself hoping for a YA version of The Time Traveler’s Wife. While Timeless was fun and easy to read–it reminded me quite a lot of Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz, and Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard–it didn’t have the intensely complex feel I like in time travels. So I think expectations spoiled this one for me.

The Different Girl, however, was a real fun surprise. I wasn’t going to read it. Like at all. I thought it looked like a creepy dystopian, but then I read a few reviews by people who had also thought it would be a creepy dystopian, and said they were disappointed, and I thought, hmm…so I read the sample pages available online. And sat up. And paid attention. Because I was hooked. I reviewed this book, somewhat, on my Goodreads, but basically it was a lot quieter and more intriguing than I had thought–it reminded me a lot of Melody Burning by Whitely Strieber in the sense that it was different, and a bit quiet, but very intense in it’s way.

As for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making? Out of the fourty two books I’ve read so far this year, it was one of only eight that I rated a full five stars.

I LOVED it.

It was everything everyone said it would be. More. It was the Alice in Wonderland I had always wanted to read, without being as weird or creepy, and the ending was fantastic, and everything about it was fantastic. I’m desperate for the sequel. Enough said.

Then we have A Long, Long Sleep which, like The Different Girl, I had made up my mind I wasn’t going to read. Initially it looked intriguing. A while ago I ordered it from the library in one of my sprees…read the first two chapters…and thought to myself, shoot. I know exactly how this is going to go. And put it down in frustration. But then, because I am stubborn sometimes, especially with books with pretty covers, I ordered it again, and this time I skipped ahead. And got hooked. And went back and read up to where I was. And phew, boy guys, I am sooooo glad I gave this the second chance. I’m not sure what it was about chapter two that had turned me off initially, but once I got past it, I loved everything I read.

A Long Long Sleep is actually a sci-fi adaption of the fairytale Sleeping Beauty, and I loved how this translated to a girl who gets lost in cryo for sixty years. One of my current WIPs is a cry story–TES, if you were keeping track–so it was a lot of fun to compare notes, and also, the book was an excellent read. I really wish it had gotten more attention than it did when it came out, because it’s so well written.

Bottom line: I was so excited to finally read so many of the books that had been lingering on my TBR list, and that I enjoyed them so much!

 

Last but not least:

Each library book run, I tend to include at least one book by Diana Wynne Jones, Robin McKinley, Sarah Beth Durst, or one of the books from each of the series I’m currently catching up on (Gallagher Girls, Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl, and Jackson Pearce’s Fairytale Retellings series.) That way I know I’ll have at least one or two really awesome books per reading splurge.

My obsession with McKinley is the sole responsibility of her novel, Pegasus. I’m sure my obsession with Pegasus will end at some point. Maybe when she finishes the series. Who knows. Whatever. Until then, I have been slaking my McKinley-obsession by reading her backlog of previous works, and yay for me, she has a lot of good stuff to read. So far I’ve dug into some of her most popular stuff–I read Sunshine (thumbs up, it a bit creepy) and Chalice (had no idea what was going on in that story!) and The Blue Sword (hmm) and I’m also reading her online serial novel, Kes. So I thought it was about time I got into her fairytale retellings.

Spindle’s End was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty (which I guess means I read two such retellings–this, and A Long, Long Sleep in one month. By accident! Hah!) (But both were very different, so.) It was a lot of fun. It read like the non-Disney version that feels much closer to how the original story might have been. I liked it a lot, and it’s been a while since I last read any McKinley, so I’m back to having my obsession slaked for a little while.
(I’m not really obsessed.)

(Sort of maybe kinda.)

(COUGH)

So! I’m already halfway through my goal of 80+ books to read, this year.

This is great considering I haven’t been including re-reads, which would have added about 15 books or so. And I’m very excited to be close to a Barnes & Noble again which (hopefully) means I can keep up with reading the new YA releases instead of twiddling my thumbs and waiting for a library to get them in, or preordering them on my starving-student income.

Yays all around.

What have you guys been reading?

Also, afterthought: I’ve been extremely busy with the new job, and because it’s physical labor, I’ve been pretty beat afterwards. So I haven’t had much energy for blogging despite having things worth blogging about. But I’ve got a couple posts lined up, including another weekly Pinspiration, an author interview (!) and another Making Up Meals style foodie post (but with desserts, not meals. NOM.) (And PICTURES. Nom nom nom.)

So as soon as I get a weekend to myself, there should be more blog things occurring. Hopefully.

So double yay!

 

truly and always,

-Mandy

*Were you guys waiting for me to explain why I stop reading? I thought I’d save that for another time. Because, I know, the intricaciesof my reading habits are sooooooo fascinating. Ahem ahem.