This week’s question is from Alex, who asks:
I know most if not all of you got your start with Fictionpress, but have since left. Would you advise the same to other writers just starting out, or just skip that and use the feedback of our peers on the road to getting published?
I wish I had an easy answer to that. Back when I was writing on Fanfiction.net and on Fictionpress, I knew nothing about the techniques and rules of writing – I just wrote because I enjoyed it. And when I saw people telling me they couldn’t wait for the next chapter, I would hastily write something up to appease the few readers I had. It was definitely an incredibly strong source of motivation.
I didn’t know any other writers prior to joining those sites. I didn’t know about critique partners or beta readers or that first drafts were just that – drafts. But without that experience and without readers just as inexperienced and yet as passionate as me when it came to writing, I’m not sure I would be where I am today. Writing on those sites made me the writer I now am.
Here’s the thing, though. Most of those comments were not constructive – most of those comments were from people telling me they couldn’t wait for the next chapter – people as inexperienced as I was and said nice things about my work no matter how terrible it actually was. Those comments didn’t help me grow as a writer – but the fact that I WROTE as much as I did made me a better writer. So in that way, Fictionpress worked – because of those comments, I wrote.
Just by being out there, looking for ways to improve – just by reading blogs like this puts you at a HUGE advantage. You have the ability to network with so many other writers at a similar stage as yourself in the writing process – and can network with these writers who are looking for beta readers and critique partners. You have contests and competitions that offer critiques on so many writing blogs – all you have to do is look. And by asking this question, you’re already well on your way to finding people who WILL help you grow as a writer. You don’t need sites like that anymore when you have communities of writers cropping up all over the internet.
If you’re writing to get published, I would suggest finding critique partners instead of writing on Fictionpress. If you’re writing for the joy of it, then Fictionpress might be more suited to you. I’m not saying there is a right or wrong answer – I mean, look at Sarah. She had her entire Queen of Glass trilogy online for all to see, and it’s getting published. Sure, it’s changed a lot over the years of revisions, but it hasn’t stopped her. It hasn’t stopped any of us. And though I can’t speak for her or anyone else, I know I was of a different mindset back then. Yes, I wanted to get published, but I wasn’t serious about it – not in the way I am now. But again, it made me who I am as a writer – it sparked the fire in me. So keep that in mind when you consider sites like Fictionpress. Either way, you’re writing – and that’s always a good thing!
-Vanessa Di Gregorio
I totally agree with V. Fictionpress (and its sister site, FanFiction.net) are excellent places to start for beginning writers. I wouldn’t trade my experience on either site for anything. Seriously, a lot of my best times as a teen were spent reading, writing, and responding to fan fiction. It motivated me to write. It taught me to keep my eyes open for the next angle for my oneshot. And it eventually led to the creation of my own, original work.
I know I would not be the writer I am today without fictionpress. The wonderful encouragement I received there motivated me to keep going and I started actually finishing the stories I started. I also used the forums to find my first critique partners, and get feedback from a range of people. The critiques I get now are far more detailed and intense, but when you’re learning how to take criticism starting small can be good! It also gave me a chance to write a bunch of short stories with different characters and different voices and have people read them and respond. Sometimes people respond really well to a new style of writing and that can be the push you need to run with it. Practice, practice, practice as they say.
If you need the encouragement of someone saying ‘yay new chapter!’ then fictionpress can be good for getting into the habit of writing regularly. If you’re still finding your feet with novels, it can be good practice. But I stopped posting there, not because I meant to or it was intentional in any way, but because the way I write changed. The purpose shifted. Now I don’t write a chapter, half-ass edit it and throw it online for the world to see. I write a whole first draft, then I get people to read the whole thing (bless them) and tear it to shreds. Re-write and repeat. That doesn’t really fit on fictionpress. So really, as the others have already said, it depends on what you’re doing.
I don’t think posting on Fictionpress will teach anything that you can’t learn elsewhere :) There are good points and bad points about Fictionpress. If you “make it big” on the site, it can be very encouraging to know that people are reading and enjoying your work. Reviews are lovely motivation to keep writing and finish a story, something that is often one of the biggest milestones for beginner writers. I know I used to check my email rather obsessively for reviews back then ;P
On the other hand, the vast majority of stories on Fictionpress get few or even no reviews at all, and this is not always a judge on their quality. Fictionpress has a certain demographic of users and readers and stories that cater to their tastes will tend to be reviewed more. Also, stories with a good number of reviews tend to attract more readers and more reviews, which, in turn, attract more readers and so on, while stories with no or few reviews languish. If your story falls into the latter category, posting on Fictionpress can be very disheartening.
Finally, reviewers on Fictionpress are not known for giving good critiques. I haven’t been to the site in a long, long time, but from what I remember, reviews almost always fell into the cheerleading category or the flames category, neither of which is particularly helpful to a writer seeking to improve their craft. I think they have started a new beta-reader program, though that didn’t exist when I used the site, so I can’t say how helpful it is.
I guess I’m sounding pretty harsh about Fictionpress, but I’m not trying to put the site down or anything! Posting on Fictionpress can be a lot of fun and can certainly earn you some fame. I still remember my favorite stories from there from when I was 12 or 13, which certainly says something. Fictionpress also builds community, linking you with other writers and readers, something I think is incredibly important. There are certainly lessons to learn there: writing regularly, crafting a good chapter, hooking a reader quickly…
So I guess what I’m trying to say is: if you want to try posting on Fictionpress, by all means do it! It’s easy and free to sign up, and you can have a lot of fun. Don’t think of it as an essential step, though!
Are you a member of Fictionpress? How has it helped you grow as a writer? Would you recommend it to others?