Blog Archives

Writing Communities To Watch I: WritersCafe.org

When I jumped into the writing world, I immediately sought out a good writing community. In the past I wrote a lot of fanfiction, and a lot of it found its way to fanfiction.net, a popular site for that sort of thing at the time. However when I woke up one day and decided “I want to be a writer (more so than I have been before),” I knew that writing fanfiction wasn’t going to get me anywhere. A swarm of ideas buzzing around in my mind, I sat down and wrote two pieces of flash fiction that would lead me towards the start of my first original novel: Children of Solus.

That wasn’t long ago, and that novel is still long from completion, but the fact was that I needed to get myself out there. I needed to join in the hunt for new opportunities, all the while honing my skills and seeing what others thought of my work. To do that, I needed to find an online writing community to give myself an applet to show people what I could do. After all, sitting alone in a house writing silly stories that only I read to myself isn’t exactly the recipe for inspiration, encouragement, and personal success. No, I needed to put myself out there, one way or another. I plopped down on the office chair, spent five minutes or so searching for somewhere to upload my work (a long time for one with such a short attention span), and came across WritersCafe.org.


The site looked great; clean, well organized, eye-catching, and developed with writers in mind. I signed up and got right to work. First off, there is a high level of categorization when it comes to putting your writing where it needs to be. The list of genres to choose from and file your work under is extensive, and I think that’s an important thing when you’ve got a massive public database of writing. From metafiction to lyrics, WritersCafe has it all, and the upload system is simple to use and pretty self-explanatory. The site does not support file uploading, instead forcing you to copy and paste your work, but that’s not a big deal in the grand theme of things.

Once you’ve got your text in the editor and ready to submit, you have to option to tag your piece with keywords as lightly or as heavily as you’d like. You also can upload a picture with each piece of writing, which when clicked on later will popup in a fashion similar to when you click on a photo in Facebook. It’s a nice touch, and the site doesn’t force you to use only certain dimensions for your images. In addition to that, you can upload photos to an album, and even manage a simple blog all within the website, both of which can be viewed and commented on by others on the site.

Something nice about WritersCafe is its “newsfeed”, which is basically a simplified clone of Facebook’s newsfeed. Any other writers who you have added as friends will see when you upload a new piece of writing, photo, blog post, or even when you receive a comment on something. In return, you’ll see their activity. It’s smart to create a lengthy friends list, that way more and more people will see what you’re doing and read your work. As with most writing communities, there are a lot of common courtesies that come with this. If someone comments on (reviews) something of yours, it’s polite to review something of theirs. A sidebar on the main page will create a list of the last six or so people who reviewed your writing, suggesting that your return the favor. This easy access list and constant reminder creates a pleasant atmosphere where most will trade reviews without being asked.

The newsfeed is a nice feature, and very easy to use.

If you do want to ask for reviews or anything else more specific, WritersCafe also has a well categorized forum. The forums aren’t very active, but you’re likely to get answers to your questions sooner or later, and many are always looking to trade reviews with their fellow writers. If you want a bit more socializing, writers are open to create groups, complete with their own private message boards, and most groups are always looking for new members. On a similar note, writers are also allowed to create contests, customizing them to accept only certain types of writing (such as poetry, screenplays, or books), or anything and everything. Usually these contests follow a certain theme, allowing anywhere from one submission per writer to nine separate submissions. Most of the free-for-all contests become bloated with way too many applicants, but some of the more theme oriented ones find a reasonable number of applicants, giving everyone a fair shot at winning fun little awards.

The last unique facet of WritersCafe that I personally think is a great addition to the site is the presence of a section dedicated to writing courses. Anyone is allowed to upload courses, which within them hold a number of separate lessons. For example, I have my Breath Life Into Your Writing! course on WritersCafe, with each of its various installments uploaded as lessons such as “Part I: Personification, Part II: Metaphors & Similes” and so on. Readers are then able to go through the lessons at their own pace, with the option to subscribe to the course, which gives them a notification when the next lesson is uploaded. While much of the courses might be coming from novice writers, you’re sure to find a treasure trove of free writing tips and tricks.

There are courses on many different subjects, all at your fingertips.

WritersCafe sounds like a dream come true, right? Well, with dreams usually comes nightmares. WritersCafe isn’t perfect.

The most annoying aspect of WritersCafe is its server. During any given day, you will probably find yourself trying to load the homepage to no avail. Sometimes I can use the site with no problem all day, while others I can hardly load the main page once or twice. The site goes down way too often, and it’s been going on like that for years. Odds are it will continue on this way for some time.

Besides that, there aren’t too many negative points about WritersCafe. It has a few quirks that can be annoying, for example when you copy your writing over into the editor and upload it, the site will break all of your em dashes. For some odd reason, the site doesn’t like em dashes, and it turns then into quotation marks. This can be annoying if you—like me—do that a lot. It’s easy enough to fix if you just go through your writing in the editor and change your em dashes into two hyphens, but that can be time-consuming and a major annoyance when it comes to long stories and novel chapters.

Something else that can be frustrating is finding readers for longer pieces of writing. Poetry gets a lot of attention on WritersCafe, while books get almost none. It was months before my novel began receiving a good amount of attention, and only after I had a pretty large friends list, but that’s an issue you can focus effort into and conquer yourself through communication with other novel writers (who are also looking for readers) as well as groups dedicated to longer pieces of fiction. It takes effort to find the right people for this sort of thing, but at least you have a good community with similar interests and goals.

It’s time for a list now. Pros and cons, anyone?

Pros:

  • Clean, organized, easy to use.
  • Effective use of categorization and tagging for uploaded pieces.
  • Easy access newsfeed that most writing community sites do not have.
  • Friendly atmosphere encouraging review trading.
  • Easy to use forums.
  • Groups function complete with private message boards.
  • User created contest section.
  • User created courses section.

Cons:

  • Server constantly goes up and down.
  • Submission process breaks your em dashes.
  • Little attention paid to long pieces, with most of the attention paid to poetry.
  • $99 monthly subscription.

Just kidding on that last one; the place is free. I just felt like there were too many pros as opposed to the cons, so I decided to try and balance it out a little bit.

All in all, WritersCafe is a really great site. I’ve found the community to be pretty friendly, and the usability to be very high. It’s simple enough to figure out your first time using it, and detailed enough take time mastering. It’s got a lot of features, and they all work very well. I’ve been using it for awhile now, and I’m hardly ever disappointed (except for when the server goes down for six hours).

As for a rating, I give it a:

8.5 out of 10.

High praise? I guess it is, but I think WritersCafe.org deserves it. It might not be the most popular writing community out there, or the most professional, but it works. It was created with writers in mind, and as a writer, I think it’s a great way to get yourself out there, bolster your confidence, and hone your skills among fellow writers.

I couldn’t talk about every facet of the site, so go ahead and try it out for yourself. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Advertisements

2012 Hits!

Yesterday (I think) the Sundance Press reached total 2012 hits.

Sweet.

I think that’s pretty cool, and I just wanted to say thank you to all my subscribers and readers. When I started this blog little more than a month ago, I didn’t expect much. I’ve never, ever written a blog. The social media game is kind of something I got sucked into as I realized the necessity of it for writers trying to break into the industry. I wasn’t too keen on jumping into Facebook and Twitter. That’s just not my thing, but what can you do? I also knew I needed to create a blog, and the Sundance Press was born.

Since then, I’ve grown to enjoy maintaining this little blog. I’ve put a lot of effort into it, and even created my own graphics for the site (another graphical update is coming soon). Once upon a time, I updated it everyday. Unfortunately through sickness, laziness, and lack of constant ideas, I don’t do that anymore. I try my best, but I put a lot of time and effort into my instructional posts. That takes time, and it’s all off the top of my head and a product of my personal experience. Some people use other teachers’ publications as a basis for their posts, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I personally try hard to give all of you unique tips and tricks. I’m no expert, but I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I can impart some of my own wisdom to fellow writers. It takes time to think lessons up though, so that explains why I might not post as much as others.

Anyways, I didn’t mean to go on and on about this. Simply put, thanks for reading the Sundance Press, and keep coming back please!

Words With Friends – Vocabulary Booster!

Ritz? That's a good one.

I’m not ashamed to say, this game sucked me in right away. I’ve always been a big Scrabble fan, so when I watched someone play WWF (Words With Friends), I thought it was stupid. I mean, come on, you can sit there and put down complete nonsense words, forcing your moves onto the board and basically “checking” if they’ll work or not. Theoretically speaking, you can try everything you have (or don’t have) before choosing which move is the very most points. There’s not a great deal of skill and foresight involved. Does that make it bad, though?

Not really.

If you’re a Scrabble fan, you have to come at this game knowing that it ISN’T the same game. It’s all too similar, sure, but it’s in a whole ‘nother ballpark when it comes to actually playing the game. Obviously it’s far more friendly to beginners than Scrabble, as well as being a lot easier to play if you aren’t a walking dictionary like some people are. It’s easy to jump into, and those who might find Scrabble tedious, time-consuming, boring, WWF will be a lot funner for them. If you haven’t tried it yet, go ahead and check it out. it’s even on the iPhone or just about any other smart phone!

But as is true with any word game, it’s a good little exercise for you if you’re a writer. Scrabble is great for thinking of words and terms that seldom cross your mind otherwise, sure, but when it comes WWF, you’re likely going to learn a new word every couple turns (at least when you first start). I mean, maybe you knew that xi, qi, and qat were words, but I sure didn’t. It’s certainly a learning experience.

At the same time, that doesn’t mean it’s only full of crazy, ridiculous two-letter words composed of Q’s and X’s. You’re going to be really using your brain, building words and connections that you typically would never think of. You can never go wrong with working out your mind, and this game definitely is a workout, especially when you’re playing someone whos… well, a lot better than you. I wonder how good Alec Baldwin is…

So, do you play Words With Friends (or do you wanna start)? Add me on Facebook here and challenge me!

Social Networking? Aghhh!

If you stumbled upon this post expecting some poignant, insightful tips on building your electronic kingdom of social media, I’m sorry to disappoint this time. Unfortunately, I’ve never been one for the social side of this interweb thing. It’s a wonder I have a blog, right? I never touched Myspace, my mother plays Word With Friends and knows everything there is to know about Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else I’ve left out. I’m just not as savvy as I’d like to be about this stuff, but since they’re all such heavy necessities when it comes to a writer’s image, I’m treading water as best I can at the moment.

Today I set myself up on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. It’s fairly unknown territory, but it’s easy enough to dive into. This must all sound very pathetic. If you’re reading this, odds are you know all this stuff like the back of your hand. Well, sue me. I’ve been a recluse.

Anyways, I won’t drown on forever this time. I’ll just throw down the links to my new accounts. Be a dear and follow/friend/add me? Thanks!

My Facebook (It’s not much to look at yet.)
My Twitter
My Google+

 

Ether Books – A Stepping Stone In A Writer’s Career?

I’ll be honest here; I’ve been writing as a hobby for years, but never ever for a profit. I’ve never been published, because I’ve honestly never tried. Since I’ve been taking writing courses ranging from technical to fiction writing, though (and as I get older and actually need money), I’ve been doing a lot of searching for a good outlet to put my name out there. Blogging and uploading material online is all well and good, but it doesn’t give you that much publicity when you’re starting from scratch. I’ve never been a particularly internet savvy person when it comes to social media. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, they’re all cogs in the machine of establishing a name for yourself when it comes to many many different skill types. In my case, it’s much better for someone to have heard of you than to have not when you’re submitting written work. And so my effort in earnest begun.

I’ve only been at it for a few weeks. Perhaps I’ve done alright, it’s very hard to tell. I have lurked around for publishing opportunities, though, and that’s something this blog was created to highlight. Early in my search, I found a fledgling little e-book company who had invented some newfangled type of literature. I won’t name any names, since my thoughts towards them now aren’t entirely kind, but I will relate my experience.

This new writing method was pretty simple. It focused on emotion, so while you might be reading one of their e-books, the writing style would have a much greater emphasis on the character’s senses, as well as his emotions as the story progresses. All the while, there would be abstract illustrations placed within the pages, drawn in mirror to the protagonist’s emotions in that particular scene. To be honest, the hype they put behind it was extremely blown up. I mean, it’s interesting, it’s cool, but it’s not exactly revolutionary. I mean, I learned awhile ago that the first noted piece of experimental literature (The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne) written all the way back in 1759 even incorporated an entire page of black to mourn a character’s death. Expressive illustration in literature is nothing all that new, just seldom seen (undoubtedly because most people would not find it all that interesting).

Still, it’s an interesting idea and after reading all their information over I was a little excited to submit some of my work. Let’s be clear that when it comes to legalities, royalties, and pretty much anything to do with contracts and money, I’m a bit clueless. Reading over their contract, they preached the deal to be quite good. According to them, most publishers royalty numbers ranged from 6-10%. Theirs was 11.5%, and as they said, while you might publish one novel with a publisher, gaining 6-10% royalties off of it per sale, with them you could publish a novel in serial form, earning 11.5% royalties off of each purchase of $2.99. If you sold on astronomical levels, the royalty rate would slowly increase.

Um, wait a minute...

The next part of the contract discussed rights. In short, they would possess rights to your material for 5 years. You’d be completely prohibited from doing anything with it within that 5 year period. After the 5 years, you could opt out, but they would still skim 10% of your profits for the next few years. After reading this bit, I was more than a little apprehensive, but I was still interested. That’s when I hit the kicker.

Since they operate entirely on a word of mouth basis, putting no money into advertising, any writer employed by them is required to have a fairly impressive social media enterprise. 200+ friends on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I was fairly upset when I got to this part, and after discussing the matter with one of their editors, it was made crystal clear that if you don’t have the numbers, don’t even bother submitting your work. The entire thing was extremely strict, but from the perspective of a writer new to the publishing world, I figured that’s just how you played the game.

After this upset, I set out to obtain the social media numbers I needed. Another requirement was an active blog, and the Sundance Press was born. In the meantime, I kept up my search for other opportunities. I found a few ezines and whatnot, offering anywhere from $3-10  for short stories, but while I haven’t crossed that idea out, that’s not exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. In my search I soon came across www.Etherbooks.com.

Nice logo, right?

I had heard the name before, and it was quickly apparent that they are always open to submissions from just about anyone. I dove into the fine print right away, and was taken aback by how different the contract was. For one, the royalty rate is 20%. While the company sells only short stories through their exclusive app, they also accept short stories with a much more common word count (3000+ or so, compared to the 6500-10,000 that the other publisher wanted). Taking the smaller amount of work into account, the nearly doubled royalty rate made up for the difference.

As far as the rights went, you literally keep all rights to your work. That’s right, you can publish something on Etherbooks, and sell it to a third party ezine the next day, still completely within contract. Quite a contrast from the 5-year signing of one’s soul to the publishing Devil. It’s an understatement to say I was a bit more enthused about this publisher than the other.

As for what’s bad about it? Well, the first publisher sold their stuff for $2.99 through various ebook sites (and Kindle, etc.). Ether Books sells short stories (as well as serials, I believe) for 69 pence, which equals about a dollar in USD. Also, the other publisher was building a writers team of around a hundred. I wouldn’t be surprised if Etherbooks had upwards of a thousand writers. They seem to be very open to submitted work. Of various experiences with them, the story is usually something like “I submitted 3 short stories. Two were accepted and I haven’t been contacted about the last yet.” That leads me to believe that it might be quite easy to get lost in a sea of writers in Ether Books, meaning you might not get many sales at all.

It’s all speculation really. I haven’t been able to find anything of how well writers actually do with this publisher, but in the end it seems like a pretty risk free scenario to get your name out there. The contract is hardly a contract at all, the odds of acceptance are high, and the royalties are pretty impressive. What’s there to lose?

Since I’ve really found no negative reports about Ether Books, I’m going to write a few new short stories and submit them sometime soon. One is done so far, I’ve started on the second, and I have a good idea for a third. They promise to get back to you within 90 days concerning acceptance or rejection, and if you buy a premium membership with them (about $40) they promise to get back to you within 2 weeks. The other perk behind a premium membership is that you can publish as many pieces as you’d like, as opposed to only 5 without a membership. $40 is quite a bit when you realize that you’ll only be making about 20 cents per sale (before taxes…), but I suppose if you did become an established author through them, with a large library of pieces, you might do well enough to warrant the membership. In any case, that’s a bit far off for me.

I’ll be sure to post how my attempts with Ether Books turn out. It might be some time, but I’m not going anywhere. I invite anyone who’s had experience with Ether Books, or anyone who has published material through them to comment on what you thought about it!