"I think the whole glory of writing lies in the fact that it forces us out of ourselves and into the lives of others."
-Sherwood Anderson, US novelist
Oh dear. I've been searching for a site that provides constructive feedback on creative writing. My search took a nosedive this week with the Literotica Forums.
As mentioned, I planned to spend a week dabbling around on the site to see if I could use it to my advantage. But no. I could not. Here's why.
It's really a site for finished pieces of erotic stories and poems, not a place for critiques of unfinished work. Or so it seems. The purpose of the forums seems to be “getting attention”, rather than “getting and giving advice”. People are asking for comments, but not particularly for constructive criticism.
Some of the writing on this site fairly well-written, but not particularly erotic. Some of the writing is really, really bad. I know that a feedback site is a place for people to develop their skills as a writer, but you'd expect a certain level of ability from people if they are serious about writing- serious enough to use a site like this, at least. Example: reviewers are having to point out to writers that they have accidentaly changed from first to third person. One writer describes her story as being set “in the 1800th century”. Okay, so some people are beginners and are there to learn, but what support is there for fairly competent people who have already been published and who want to further hone their skills? Not much.
This brings me nicely onto my third point: not only are there a lot of terrible writers, these contributors are also (predictably) awful at reviewing. One story, written from the perspective of a milionare rapist preying on lapdancers, did not get in my books. And I'm a BIG American Psycho fan, so it wasn't the content that particularly put me off. It was just badly written, more than anything, and the wafer-thin depiction of the female characters proved how few women the author actually knew in real life. Yet the majority of reviewers loved it! They all congratulated the author for his “brilliant” stories (he'd written a few) and gave nothing in the form of constructive criticism. One fairly eloquent reviewer- older than most, seemingly- put it to the author that rapists generally don't make good protagonists. They aren't likeable individuals. This particular main character was a brat with no redeeming features, even when he wasn't sexually assaulting pole-dancing nineteen-year-olds. I added that I agreed with this reviewer. I didn't hear back from the site as to whether I'd received any correspondence from that comment.
Some writers upload unfinished work in the hope of gaining feedback. One story I critiqued contained no reviewer's notes indicating that the piece wasn't actually finished, so of course when I reviewed it to say that the ending didn't work I got an earful as they “obviously” hadn't finished writing it yet. Generally speaking, people on Literotica don't take criticism well at all.
On the flipside, some of the poetry is really good- well-thought out pacing, thoughtful word choices, graphic without being vulgar, sentimental without being gushy. Some of the poetry is not so, but at least a handful of examples really stand out. It doesn't seem to be a place for feedback, though, and when the site lets you communicate, it isn't easy to use. After submitting a comment, the text disappears and there's no notification of whether it has been submitted or not.
The site itself isn't particularly easy to use- some pieces will have an obvious text box for you to submit your comments in. Other poems or stories won't. I couldn't tell why this was.
This left me wondering- is the site a place for working on your stories or not? On Literotica it isn't clear. I tried to upload a story of my own for the purpose of gaining feedback. When you find the upload form, the instructions read like you're submitting a finished piece for publication on the site- like the magazine. “You are granting us non-exclusive rights to publish your submission”, it says. I debated this, then sent the piece anyway. I wish I hadn't in retrospect- If I could have made the story better, I would have had a better chance of being noticed as a writer. But, if Literotica decide to publish the piece, I can link it up regardless.
I'm also a little disappointed that the submission form knocked out all of my italics. The story I uploaded was mostly internal monologue, so it was particulalry important with that piece and I spent some time checking that it was right.
So. A FAIL of a week on the writing front. Do you know a better feedback site that I should be trying?