Hello world! I have a friend that has just started a novel. She asked for some writing tips and is a little reluctant to join an online writer's workshop because of possible idea theft. (Links to the the best writing tips are at the bottom!) This is my response:
I was concerned about letting people know what my story is about at first, too. But now that I'm talking to writers and understanding how much work it is to get something publish-worthy, I think the feedback I get from OWW far outweighs any risk. Everybody on their has their own "baby" that they're nurturing, and it's just too much work to take someone else's incomplete idea. Anyway, you only post up to three chapters at a time, and someone would have to stalk you for months to get the full story, and you don't have to post the polished version if you don't want to.
In addition, your computer files have save dates on them, and if someone uses large chunks of your work- not just the general ideas, because that's very very hard to prove and also extremely unlikely- you're protected that way.
Unless you're writing term papers, the risk of plagiarism is very unlikely. More likely is what happened to Stephenie Meyer- She sent out a few copies of a draft and that friend gave it to her friend, which gave it to her friend, etc.
(This happened after she was on the NYT bestseller's list. Most writers have to struggle to find someone who loves them enough to struggle through the early versions, myself included.)
So unless you don't want to risk *anyone* reading it, I wouldn't worry about posting it piece by piece online. Of course, this is my advice and you have to make the decision about what you feel comfortable with. But even after starting as a good writer, studying and writing constantly for a year, I find the impartial advice of people that aren't afraid to hurt my feelings (and to tell me what works) is the best best thing I have done to improve. Way cheaper than conferences, too.I would add, read up on writer's and agent's websites. A good place to start is my friend Teresa Frohock's Very Thorough Post of links to writerly tips. Nathan Bransford, super agent, put it all together in one place for you, too.
The great thing about being in a workshop is you can also read other people's reviews of other writers' submission. This helped me to understand the vocabulary, to have the words when something wasn't "right", and to glimpse what experienced writers see when they read. It's a whole new process.
If you don't find things that bother you or you wish that they'd handled a little differently in MOST of the novels you read, then you either pick the greatest books ever penned or you need to develop your inner critic.
Again, this is meant as friendly advice based on my experience. Read, study, write. Make sure you understand passive voice and can spot it (and slay it like a dragon).
Find out what an info dump is and make a solemn vow not to do so. Don't overuse
"that, just, really, kindof, sortof" or other words that aren't necessary. Avoid adverbs unless you really really need one. No more than one exclamation point every ten pages, and the same for metaphors. Get a book on grammar if you don't have one already.
Be aware that when you send in a MS, you will have to change italics to underline, because the agents have weak eyes, poor things! And you will have to have your MS double spaced, one inch margins, with name/TITLE/page # in the upper right hand corner. Start each new chapter half-way down the page. 12 pt Times New Roman or Courier are the preferred fonts.
There's also the option, if you're really concerned about theft, to write short stories and post those to develop your skill as a writer but keep your novel at home.
The thing about early drafts is that they're early drafts. I can't say if your idea will fly because I truly believe in the hands of a persistant writer any story can be worth reading.
I write (roughly) for plot and character the first draft, consistency and flow the second draft. Deep characterization and believability in the third draft (where I'm at right now). It takes a lot of work to get it pretty, correct, charming, balanced, smooth, flowing, engaging, generous, surprising, and lively. I read an author's blog who posted all twelve of his versions for his chapter one. I read 1,2,3,4,5,8,and 12...and wow. He was a hack in the first draft, but by the end...it was good writing.(And the book is getting published. I've searched for his blog but it's lost. Should have bookmarked it- Drat!)
My kids' guidance counselor has a quote on her bulletin board that I smile at everyday when I walk Eli to his door. "The great thing about being a writer is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. -David ???" I'll update tomorrow morning after I get his full name:)
Okay- that's all I 've got! Good luck, and send me your Ch 1. and a plot summary if you're still game:)
And, for anyone interested, I love Online Writer's Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy. Happy writing!
Is there another word for synonym?