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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Reviewing entire novels

   
Author Topic: Reviewing entire novels
jerich100
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Using this website we review only small sections of other writers' work, i.e., thirteen lines.

Has there been any history from this site of off-line agreements where writer A and writer B swap entire novels to review? We're clearly capable of doing it. Can this website provide an example legal form where writers A and B both sign it and agree under "law" that neither will steal the other person's work, etc., and only edit it? I realize that such adds an inherent risk, and the transfer of hard-copy transcripts would have to be via snail mail between the two parties.

Or am I speaking blasphemy? I'm new to this site so I can plead innocence.

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Meredith
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It is entirely possible to ask (and offer) for a chapter exchane either in the 13-lines thread in F & F for Books or below in the Novel Support Group (in Hatrack Groups).

Participants usually set the terms for such an exchange--full novel, section by section, chapter by chapter. The exchange is usually handled outside of Hatrack by email (not snail mail).

There's no need for a legal form betweeen critique partners. Really.

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MattLeo
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It happens all the time. It's a private arrangement between members, which is a good thing because the good people who provide this site to us aren't burdened with any kind of legal baloney.

Frankly, it makes no sense for an unpublished writer to worry about anyone stealing his manuscript. If you're J.K. Rowling publishing the next Harry Potter novel, sure. But otherwise unpublished manuscripts have an economic value of zero. Possibly less than zero. There are gazillions of unpublished MSS in the world, most of them bad some many, many of them quite good yet still without any chance of getting published traditionally.

As for people stealing your *ideas*, those have even *less* economic value. As important as the ideas are, they just aren't worth stealing.

If you are worried, just put a copyright notice on your MS and negotiate what the critique partner can do with it (e.g. no sharing with anyone else). If you're paranoid, get a copy of your MS dated and notarized. But realize, that's paranoid.

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History
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I've read/critiqued three novels, and the beginning of a fourth, of Matt's to date. And another former Hatracker's who has gone the self-pubbed root.

Only one Hatracker has asked, I think, to read the entirety of my first (and as yet only) novel.

"Stealing" between colleagues here isn't a problem, to my knowledge.

However, once published, either traditionally or electronically, there is the potential problem of piracy (I know one author friend who has suffered this).

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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extrinsic
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Copyright begins when a manuscript is in a fixed and tangible form, including machine readable. A writer sharing a manuscript for critique, review, criticism, publication, or with close family and acquaintances is no less owner of copyright than if the copyright is registered.

Any writer stealing any of another writers's intellectual property is liable for copyright theft. Period.

However, ideas are not protected. Where the hard bright line between borrowing ideas, idea plagiarism, and outright intellectual property theft lies is sometimes a matter for the copyright courts. Idea plagiarism is not against the law, though it is proscribed for scholastic work. One scholastic writer may, though, use another scholar's idea so long as the idea is substantively further developed and results in new knowledge.

Using another writer's milieu, characters, settings, events, etc., is copyright infringement, with few exceptions, like social commentary in the form of sincere satire, parody, lampoon, etc.

Many accusations of idea theft have been levied over the centuries, even today. Those accusations are generally not legally actionable, though they may be valid for social and cultural condemnation purposes. Such actions influence a writer's reputation negatively.

The film and fiction industries perpetuate idea theft, plagiarism, and copyright infringement for dramatic purposes as premises of storylines' antagonisms. So-and-so steals so-and-so's manuscript and submits it under the thief's byline. Dramatic tragedy or comedy ensues. Many of those scenarios are invalid and implausible.

Few, if any, writers anymore keep a project entirely secret enough that a nefarious malefactor could make off with another's property. Or the project is so secret that no one could possibly know of it, hence no one steal it. Or if only one other person knows of it, the thief, maybe in that scenario a theft might take place. However, the process of creating the project leaves a traceable trail in not only the owner's papers and files but also within the manuscript itself.

A thief simply could not reconstruct the process the owner went through to create the project. If the thief could do so, the thief could just as well have created a separate project applying the same effort and time, maybe less, creating an original work.

Worries about intellectual property theft, in my estimation, are warranted, but not in any appreciable way worth bothering about. The only worry I recognize is idea theft. Some of my A-game material I will hold close to my chest while a project is under development but as time for a debut draws close, I might begin letting the cards play.

[ January 09, 2014, 11:19 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Denevius
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quote:
However, once published, either traditionally or electronically, there is the potential problem of piracy (I know one author friend who has suffered this).
I hadn't thought about this, and it's an interesting point. Of course, we'd have to assume that any novels being published traditionally have gone through an editing process that changes it from the form that it was when it was being sent out before it was accepted.

And if you have a novel that's been accepted and you're sending it out to random strangers online for editing advice, perhaps you just aren't very bright. If my novel was signed on to a publisher, I'd go through the process of erasing all evidence of it from different critiquing sites, and probably only show it to my editor from thereon out.

I think at that point I wouldn't need any other outside input.

As for trading novels, I refrain from doing so. I've only had one good experience with that, and all of the bad to awful experiences have discouraged me from the practice. A chapter here and a chapter there is more than enough.

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Pyre Dynasty
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That's kinda how it's supposed to work. The thirteen lines are to get people to find other people who fit with them. We are here to find beta readers that aren't exactly in our same culture so we can get a greater breadth of opinions.

Mary Robinette Kowal posts chapters of her in-progress books behind a password wall for her beta readers. Some of them she met here.

I'd be more afraid that no one wants to read my work than that they like it so much they want to pass it off as their own. Stealing someone else's work is a career ender. No one wants to do business with someone like that, too much liability.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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When I have been asked to give feedback on a novel, I first suggest that the author send me a partial (first three chapters or first 20 pages plus a complete synopsis).

That way I can comment on their writing as well as on their plot plans without having to read the whole book.

This is especially important if the author has done something obnoxious but fixable all through the book. If you can help them to see what needs fixing in the first few pages or chapters, then you don't have to keep reading what still needs to be fixed in the rest of the book. (I hope that makes sense.)

It also protects the whole of the novel, and it gives authors quicker feedback than they would receive if they had to wait for feedback on their entire books.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
And if you have a novel that's been accepted and you're sending it out to random strangers online for editing advice, perhaps you just aren't very bright. If my novel was signed on to a publisher, I'd go through the process of erasing all evidence of it from different critiquing sites, and probably only show it to my editor from thereon out.

I will share portions of works that are little more than exercise sketches intended to test craft methods, voice, and audience appeal but not intended for publication. What I learn in the process then goes into works intended for publication that will only be appraised by trustworthy auditors.
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