Show your work

After a three month hiatus, I’ve returned to my critique group. While my prolonged illness was the reason for my absence, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to go back or not. However, while I was gone, I received so many nice notes from group members wishing for me good health and return, so I decided to make another go of it.

zaJYQQOne of the things I love about my group is it is totally drop-in. All you have to do is show up and do the work (and not be a complete ass) and you’re in. This keeps things fresh, except, of course, when some complete ass shows up.

Last night was a great example of this. I got the opportunity to critique the work of a very talented rookie writer. It reminded me of how far I had come and gave me new motivation to dig into my work.

I also put myself on the critique schedule for the fifst time since October. It’s only fair. Critique is a humbling process. Unless you put your own work into the meat grinder, I think you loose perspective of what others are dealing with.

This is where I am coming to my point. AH-HA! See! See! there is one. Part of becoming a writer is putting out your work for other people to see–people who aren’t your friends and family, people who might not even like you. Some of it will be unfinished. Some of it will suck. Some of the advice you get will be hurtful and utterly unusable, but is going through that spanking machine any worse than sending your work to an agent or an editor. Is subjecting yourself to peer critique worse than putting your work out to the general public without the benefit of someone else’s eyes?

So be brave. Show your work.

4 thoughts on “Show your work

  1. Shannon R. Ryan

    I love writing but always worried that my poems will be stolen if I dont get them copy written but I dont know how?

    1. shannon Post author

      This is a complex question to which there are no great answers. I’ll try to answer it the best I can, but my obscurity has thus-far guaranteed I’ve never had a problem in this area.

      This first thing you should know is you own a copyright on any original work you produce (unless you are under a contract stating it belongs to someone else). Type it on your computer or scribble it on a napkin, you own it. However, the trick to this is: the burden of proof that you are the creator is on you. I used to freak out about such things, and I know people who still do. I also know people who have their works stolen from them.

      I should mention there is an United States copyright office. I think they charge $35 for them to certify a copyright. I don’t know anyone who uses this.

      I’ve never met anyone in our critique group who I thought would steal my work. I have met a few people who I thought might kill me in my sleep because I did not recognize their special genius.

      Here’s a weird Catch-22, for someone to want to steal your work, you have to be good enough to steal from. I know that sounds a little negative, but it is one advantage when you are a beginner. If you are good, making your work public is a great way to protect your copyright. If you don’t suck, belonging to a good critique group with people you trust is a great way to ensure you have a group of people who know your work is yours and can go to court for you.

      As I mentioned, I had a friend who ran into this issue recently. He was posting a weekly erotic serial and found someone was posting his work to another website where they would earn money for advertising/views. In this case, he read that website’s terms of service and was able to contact the website admins, pointing them to his more-established original documents.

      To me, the risk of making your work public is like the risk of merging onto the expressway. Sure it’s dangerous. Yes, you can get hurt, but you kind of need to do it if you want to get somewhere.

      1. D. Moonfire

        When my first novel was picked up by a publisher, they required that I register it with the Copyright Office. I ended up sending an unbound copy in a box and a month later, I got a certified piece of paper that claimed it as mine.

        I already had the copyright when I wrote it (as you mentioned). The pretty little form is basically just a stronger defense if anyone tried to steal it. In general, it didn’t matter since I wasn’t good when I wrote it and no one is ever going to try stealing it. 🙂


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