QOTW: Fictionpress

10 Jun

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?

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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

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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.

Now we come to FictionPress. V is totally right in that an audience is a powerful motivator. That’s pretty much why I finished my first book; I was dying to get the plot written so I could share it with my readers. Was any of my stuff ready to be published? No (But I thought it was, lol). I’ve seen a few articles lately discussing how powering through and actually FINISHING a project is a skill all young writers have to learn. FP and FF taught me that.
But, I was young. Aged 14-17. I was inexperienced. I was, as V said, wanting to be published but not SERIOUS about it now. For anyone in their late teens or older, or anyone who is SERIOUS, I would recommend not using FP or FF. I would recommend finding yourself some good CPs and getting involved in the community. CPs give feedback that can help you grow, while an audience only gives adoration. There are some things you can learn in a vacuum of constant approval, but there’s a lot more you can learn with the help of people who are just as serious about writing as you are.
So, if you feel like you’re not ready to be SERIOUS, then yes, go and have fun! Because it really is fun. 🙂 But if you want to work and focus, I wouldn’t recommend using FP or FF for feedback on your writing.
-Savannah Foley
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I’m glad that, as a thirteen/fourteen-year-old I posted my work on fp, because it was fun. There was instant feedback and gratification, and I learned to be slightly more confident as a writer. And for me, confidence has been crucial. Learning to throw words onto the page in my voice, without having that voice stumble, stutter, or pause because I lack confidence, has been crucial to my development as a writer.
But. Nobody really offered me critiques on fp, and I’ve learned more about how to write from critiques than I have from anything else (except, perhaps, reading). I learned, first, from my beta readers and critique partners. And then I had a steep learning curve when I queried agents with my first novel, and got some very pointed feedback. I learned more doing revision requests for agents, and then pre-offer revisions with my agent. I’m learning now, from my editorial letters (and I’m still learning a ton from my CPs critiques, and my agent’s critiques etc). Every critique teaches me about my writing, what my strengths and weaknesses are, what I can do better next time.I don’t for a second regret using fp, but I wasn’t serious about publication when I did (although it was a distant dream).
For those who are serious about publication, I would recommend getting CPs, and truly seeking out feedback (constructive, harsh, shred-it-to-pieces, whichever level you can take) on your work.
-Vahini Naidoo

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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.

-Jenn Fitzgerald

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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!

-Kat Zhang

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Are you a member of Fictionpress? How has it helped you grow as a writer? Would you recommend it to others?

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11 Responses to “QOTW: Fictionpress”

  1. NeverLanding June 10, 2011 at 12:10 AM #

    Man, I love FictionPress but I’m too afraid to post anything too creative anymore so instead I stick with things I’m not serious about because I know that if anyone copy’s it I won’t care.

    I also know there’s an article on here talking about this, but it still makes me uneasy. And so I have this huge desire to share this story with people who will enjoy it, and the motivation fizzles out because I can’t.

    I feel like a need an audience or something to finish anything, which is kind of sad. :/

    • Vee June 10, 2011 at 12:14 AM #

      What may help you is to have ‘write nights’ or sprint writing sessions with close friends whom you can trust. So, you all write for an hour and then post a snippet (or the whole) of what you managed to get done during that time and give each other positive feedback on those snippets.

      Everyone needs a bit of a push to finish things, sometimes. It can be really hard, almost impossible, to work in a vacuum.

    • jackhowland January 23, 2012 at 12:17 PM #

      Hi,

      As a writer who started before the FB era, so to speak, the world of Fictionpress is new to me. I was always reluctant to engage in that sort of workshopping because I really wanted constructive criticism, rather than a lot of fluff. I’ve actually built a site to try to elicit that sort of feedback and help writers create their own communities of writers they respect. I’d love to know what folks think, since I’m not sure if it’s worth pursuing further. Any feedback would be very appreciated: it’s at independentwritersworkshop.org. Really, I wanted to create the online equivalent of the Iowa Writers Workshop, but that would be more precise in providing constructive feedback and eliminating fawning, pointless feedback.

      Thanks for all the very interesting observations!

      Jack

  2. Misti Wolanski June 10, 2011 at 8:32 AM #

    I picked up some fans from my time on FP.com & FF.net who are still with me, now. 🙂

    I actually got some fantastic critical comments from those sites. I welcomed them, encouraged them… and probably brought some on myself from having a reputation for being “rude and a little mean” (quote from a member of the Star Wars section of FF.net who was popular when I was active, which she said to reassure somebody I’d critiqued).

    More than that, I learned how to critique and edit on FF.net and FP.com. Friends would ask me for feedback, I’d tear it to pieces, and then be puzzled about why they were upset with me. (Social acumen, I do not have.) FF.net played a huge part in me learning how to critique and how to recognize and evaluate flames. (I see a flame, I think “Story fodder!” and try to figure out what could’ve triggered it. It helps a lot.)

    Overall, found FF.net easier to use than FP.com, but I also didn’t start fiddling with FP.com until after I had learned a bit. I spent more time on FF.net.

  3. Mac_V June 10, 2011 at 9:03 AM #

    I remember those days of frantic e-mail checking and puzzled looks when someone mentioned a beta reader or a critique partner. And it took me FOREVER to figure out what the crap MS stood for. But I totally agree with all of you girls. It was such a great start and a great motivator, but I’ll be honest– the main reason I pushed through and finished my story was a pep talk from Meg Cabot that I received while doing NaNoWriMo my first year. She mentioned that she had this enormous pile, her graveyard of half finished/barely started stories. She made a really good point that even if you start to hate it. Finish it. It totally is SUCH a big part of the battle.

    Wonderful post, girls. Have a great weekend! 😀
    Mer

  4. Liz Fabulous June 10, 2011 at 9:43 AM #

    I was a FPer through junior high and high school. I found it was good for the motivational aspect but less so on getting detailed critiques like on writing.com (though writing.com had its own flaws too). However, some of the reviewers turned into more serious critiquers when I found ones whose writing skill level was similar to my own and reached out for a more serious reviewing partnership.

    Ultimately, I left though for these reasons:
    1. It WAS affecting the quality of my writing. I noticed that stories that revolve around romantic tension got comparable numbers of reviews to mine, and so I did start writing in ridiculous fluff subplots and filing stuff under the romance category because I knew it would draw in new readers.
    2. Back in my day (ha, I sound so old), the advice from agents was “don’t put your work for free online because then it’s already been ‘published’ and the only way to get it published now is to significantly revise it.” So that was a big reason to leave as I got more serious. I think now they’re more permissive about it because they’ve successfully sold clients who grew up on it and have shown their willingness to revise.
    3. My writing had gotten better to the point that I wanted to move on from the multi-book series I had begun on FP, even if it wasn’t finished. The “New chapter plz” comments kept me saddled to that project for the satisfaction of getting reviews long after it should have been stuck in a box under the bed.

    FP is good for what it is: younger writers building confidence in their work and making friends. But not a serious tool for improving your writing much beyond that point.

  5. Kairee-Anne June 10, 2011 at 4:50 PM #

    I’m currently writing a few of my projects on fictionpress and I have been for about three years now. And lately, I’m just starting to understand the basics of editing and critiques. I also been on fanfiction before, but I never gotten use to writing fanfics right off the bat like many of you did.. Personally I enjoy fictionpress more because I’m able to share my first drafts of stories to people that slowly became my friends in the writing world..

    In a way, fictionpress is still helping me grow more as a writer and when I begin college in the fall, I’m hoping to understand more about the asepcts of the style, voice, and development before reaching to publish them and swingng off fictionpress.. Once I started to read this blog, the knowledge is truly amazing about writing. I sorta recommend fiction press so people can grow a bit, but once your ready to try publishing, I say to leave the site and enter ones like this one to hear more adult-like critique..

  6. Asia Morela June 11, 2011 at 5:48 PM #

    Your opinions on what FP can and cannot do pretty much cover each other, and they also validate my own impressions.

    I’m 24 and trying to get serious about my writing, but that hasn’t stopped me from reviving my FP account (never used before) this year… I must say I use it more as a showcase than anything else. I don’t expect to gather a lot of reviews from other FPers; I simply want some place to publicly store my writings, so whenever somebody tells me they’re interested in reading me, I can link them there., rather than send files over the mail. Also, I don’t usually edit much of anything I write, so putting my writings online forces me to do it, at least minimally.

  7. Choppy June 13, 2011 at 4:30 PM #

    I first heard about fictionpress back in the summer before my senior year of high school, so it has been about a year since joining. I actually had no probably finding good crit partners– but then, like someone else was, I was known to be a “hard crit who gives well rounded reviews”….thus I always recieved the same.

    Fictionpress would probably always be like home to me– it’s where i started making friends who are into writing, where i finished my first novel, and learned how to edit and learned all the writing slang. It’s a great motivator– probably would never had finished my novel without my fp community. Even now, when i don’t update right away, seeing that I still have loyal fans and people still finding my stories some how…it’s really motivating to see. 🙂

  8. Katie June 8, 2012 at 9:03 AM #

    I just started Fictionpress this year and in my opinion I’m enjoying it. I was always the kind of person who was always very shy about what she wrote and Fictionpress has helped me to at least attempt to put my work out there. I’ll admit that some of the criticism isn’t exactly constructive but for the most part I am enjoying it. When it comes to readers, especially readers who read for the fun of it and not just to criticize other people’s writing, they either like it or hate it. That is life. There is not right way to write or a bad way to write. Everybody has their own style. I guess the reason I’m posting my stories on Fictionpress is to see if there is anybody out there who doesn’t think my writing completely sucks. I write because I love it. I read because I love it. I’m not trying to write this to to make it sound like I’m criticizing critics. Some of the best fiction writers who have gotten discovered were not professional writers. That just got a big break one day because a bunch of people liked what they wrote. Kids are always looking for new things.

  9. NyNy February 5, 2013 at 6:14 AM #

    Nice article! Fiction opens up to a lot of writers to show their writing skills and also to perfect them. FF.Net and Fictionpress are good sites to start with but what I’ve noticed is most people like to upload their fiction on their blogs but there are plenty of places for them to upload them. One place in particular I’d recommend is ReadWave.
    You can build up an audience around your story by starting small writing short stories now and allowing your readers to download and share. Please check out the site here: readwave.com

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