In less than one week, on January 1, 2012, Carlos J. Cortes and I will see a dream realized. It is a dream that has taken three very long years and many tantrums and tears (me the tantrums, Carlos the tears, although he’ll never admit that) to accomplish.
Will it be everything we imagined? Probably not right away. But eventually, yes it will. How can I be certain of that? I refuse to have it any other way, and I will work as hard as I have to in order to see the dream become full reality. I pity anyone who stands in my way.
What the hell am I talking about? On Fiction Writing: The Website. As we said in the Writer’s Companion, everything has a beginning. Ideas are no exception. The concept for this website and the book began with a “wistful breath held in a clenched fist, and that breath set the dice in motion. The idea crystallized during a transatlantic telephone conversation between Renée (the long) and Carlos (the short).”
It started with the book. We wanted to compile a reference manual that would serve as a writer’s best friend; a constant companion. As the idea blossomed and took hold of our imaginations and our hearts, it mutated, expanding to much more. Carlos started it with a couple of questions, and damn my easily corrupted brain, he had me at “What if…”
What if there was a place dedicated to writers? Imagine a writer’s website that was more than a haunt, more than just a critique group or online forum.
What if a place existed that met the needs of all writers at any skill level? What if it enabled industry professionals of all kinds to connect and exchange knowledge and skills and build careers based on trust and respect?
Just think of what it would be like to enter a tribe where you are welcome simply for being what you are; where you are encouraged to speak your mind, to criticize perceived wrongs and not be ostracized because your opinion is not the popular one?
Imagine having the ability to hone your craft and to build your platform, having the chance to spread your creative wings in a supportive and nurturing environment. No ass kissing or pretentiousness. Just real people doing what they love to do. What if there was a place that put authors first?
We have it.
When Carlos first put the idea out there, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wanted it more than I’d wanted anything in a long while. It felt so right, so perfectly suited to my goals that it felt…too good to be something I should attempt to do. It’s surely too big an endeavor for me to manage. Who the hell did I think I was? Why would anyone want to join a site built by me—a nobody? I mean, we’re both (Carlos and I) loonier than Aunt Mary after too much eggnog.
But then I realized, shit I’ve been dividing my time between several sites for how long now? I’ve been on both sides: teacher and student. I’ve often wished I could find one place that offered support in the form of community, knowledge in the form of workshops and industry news, experience in the form of critique partners and brutal editing workshops, and promotion in the form of free and easy.
We built it. And yes, I can do it. It’s what I’ve been doing all along. The only difference was I did it on other people’s sites, in small increments so that I made no visible change in my life or anyone else’s. Why me? Well why the hell not?
But these points simply justify why this website needed to be built. Our primary goal, the ethos of this site and the book, is to help other writers succeed.
Times are changing. As the Publishing Industry groans under a mighty shake up, new markets crop up like weeds and the tried and tested policies don’t work anymore. Publishers, who used to dedicate large portions of their budget and time to polish manuscripts, have had to cut expenses to the bone by paring down their once abundant rosters of copy editors. As a result, manuscripts need to be print-ready to have any chance of publication, which in turn demands from the writer considerable technical skills. Authors are treated like cattle, herded in and out and if the brand ain’t right, they’re sent to pasture where they wait for a bit of luck to roll their way.
The old way of getting published isn’t working. Authors make their own opportunities now and we have to take an active role in our success. Luck? Pfft. Ain’t no such thing. And this is coming from an Irish lass. I’m not talking self-publishing versus traditional or any of that tired nonsense. I’m speaking in general terms. YOU are responsible for your goals. All you need is the right environment to realize them.
We want to give that to you.
In a market awash with millions of poorly written—and horribly edited—manuscripts seeking a place to roost, agents and publishers have closed ranks to a point where a writer must have not only superhuman abilities but also be willing to run a vicious gauntlet to have a reasonable chance of publishing traditionally.
And even then, writers have a one in a million chance at succeeding. Is that fair? We are the talent, the driving force behind the publishing industry. Where’s our success? Why are we still fighting each other? Authors need a place to come together, to be one. It is when we work together that dreams become reality. On Fiction Writing is for dreamers who want to become doers.
Aren’t you curious?
Here’s a bit of what you’ll find:
Agora: A forum in which writers can discuss every facet of the publishing industry. Learn, exchange knowledge, goof off, and make lasting friendships with people from all walks of life and all cultures.
Showcase: A virtual bookshelf where you can post your book cover and the first five pages. Its purpose? Promotion. Free promotion. The Showcase is a place where you can tempt readers to buy your book. Want to know more? Send me an email at Renee[at]onfictionwriting[dot]com. Put "Showcase" in the subject line.
Peer Critique: A writer’s workshop where you critique the work of others, and post your own work for critique. It’s free for members. It’s awesome. It allows you to polish that manuscript until it shines.
E-zine: The homepage is an area full of information and opportunity. Articles by OFW editors and members (yes, you may submit your article and have it published on the homepage, we insist that you do), interviews with industry movers and shakers, competitions and writing contests, and the Rack, where Michael Keyton tortures the bravest souls with questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Mike demands that his interviewees take a position…not bend to the status quo.
There’s much more. These are just a sampling of what On Fiction Writing contains within its cyber walls.
With Writer’s Companion, we wanted to give other writers the tools, weapons, and skills to negotiate the Caudine Forks of the Publishing Industry. And survive with a smile at the end.
With On Fiction Writing, we wanted to give writers the community and the hands-on expertise no book can give you. Why now? Why not now? With the exponential growth of the Internet, globalized commerce, new consumer rights, and trading laws have fueled an unprecedented thirst for professional writing services. If writers have ever been in need of a place focused solely on their success, it is now.
Why me? Why Carlos? Because over the past ten years we’ve done little else except learning the hard way everything contained in this book and on this website.
Above all, we are mongrel writers, and that alone gives us the moral right to build such a haven. We wanted to put together a place that would be useful to us and our harassed kin: other mongrel writers. In our opinion, a site run one of the household names who monopolize the NYT Bestsellers List wouldn’t be of much use to us.
As we’ve said before, these thoroughbreds learned the craft (those who did) a long time ago and are used to being fussed over, groomed, vaccinated, deloused, and taken for walkies by agents, publishers, and editors. On the other hand, we’re there, on the street, under railway bridges, in mole-infested and unheated garages, and in vacant lots, burning the midnight oil in the company of other mongrel scribes because writing is our passion. We don’t wear a tag or belong to any posh kennel club, but we have never forgotten our origins, or how to enjoy a good scratch.
On December 31st I will be posting to Facebook, Twitter and on various other discussion groups and forums, announcing the launch of On Fiction Writing. When I do, I will be providing all of you the means to join the site for six months free of charge. If we were millionaires or even slightly wealthy, we’d have offered it for free indefinitely. But this is the real world. Such a site costs both money and time, but we’ve arranged membership to be cheaper than a half-cup of coffee per day. It’s worth every cent. We promise.
We are not alone in this endeavor. We are blessed, hell blessed doesn’t even begin to describe the amazing talent we have supporting and working with us in this endeavor. Writers, editors, professionals, real hard working folks, have come together to help Carlos and I realize our dream. We hope it will be yours as well.
Welcome to our tribe.