Over the Easter weekend I set up a new website with the goal of making it easier to get early feedback on my writing. It’s called ‘beta’ and you can access it right here: http://beta.justincawthorne.com/
One of the things I’ve never been particularly diligent about as a writer is getting feedback. I’m always keen to get it, and I’m particularly grateful when people take the time to point what does and doesn’t work for them. However, it’s often been a case of printing out a copy of my story for a my wife, emailing a copy to a friend, and very occasionally seeking feedback from random other people as and when I can. It’s never been a particularly well-organised process and, as such, it’s never really going to do much to help my writing get better.
Now that I’m getting more and more writing done, two things are happening. One is that I’m finishing stories and wanting to publish them (whether I self-publish or submit elsewhere, I still need them to be as good as they can be). The second is that I’m getting far more self-critical: I can tell when my writing isn’t quite what I want it to be, but I can’t always work out what it is that needs fixing. (This is probably as much due to the fact that I’m reading regularly once again, which is probably something that deserves its own blog post).
Anyway, although I don’t have a willing team of beta readers just yet, I do want to make it as easy as possible for people to be able to read my pre-publication stories and give me feedback. This is why I’ve set up ‘beta’. Each post on the site will either be a ‘final draft’ short story, or a single chapter in the case of longer works. The site is styled to make the reading process as pleasant and easy as possible (i.e. the site design should not get in the way of the reading). For people who don’t want to read on-site, a link to an MS Word version of each story/chapter is provided at the bottom of the post.
Feedback can either be submitted at the bottom of the post, emailed directly to me, or added as comments to the MS Word document (and emailed to me). This is probably the bit that’ll need more work, but I think I’ve covered the most obvious options.
I toyed with the idea of password protecting the posts, but I can’t really see the point. I’ll almost certainly archive the posts once the particular story has been published and the risk of people trying to ‘steal’ my work is so infinitesimal it’s almost laughable.
For now I’ve put two posts up. One is a slightly reworked installment of a web serial I started (and, unsurprisingly, never finished) several years ago. This was more to test the overall process of getting ‘beta’ to work.
The second post is something I’m genuinely interested in getting feedback on. It’s the first chapter of a novella that I thought I’d finished some weeks back. However, as I was doing some final proofing I decided that it still wasn’t good enough so I’m given it another draft. There are about twelve chapters in all, and I’ll be posting each chapter as I rewrite it. The chapters will be linked by tag (as opposed to category) which is the way I’ll be linking all disparate parts of a single work on the site. This offers the choice of reading it as a serial, or waiting till everything’s up there and reading it all in one go.
So, even if you don’t have time to read either of the posts on the site, I’d still like to hear if site itself works: can you access the Word documents? Can you read the posts ok on your tablet? What sort of things can I do to make you want to go back to the site time and again? And so on.
And, of course, if you have time and a critical eye, let me know if you’re up for being one of my beta readers 🙂