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Thread: Protecting Yourself and Your WIP

  1. #1
    Five by Five katiemac's Avatar
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    Exclamation Protecting Yourself and Your WIP

    If you choose to have a beta reader, you should take some precautions to protect yourself and your work. The majority of individuals who volunteer to be beta readers really are excellent, excellent people, and you can find proof of that in some other stickied threads in the forum. Beta-author plagiarism isn't common, but it's impractical to suggest plagiarism doesn't exist. Fear of this kind of plagiarism shouldn't stop you from finding a beta reader. However, no matter what, you should always take measures to protect your work.

    1. Check out the copyright laws of your area. United States copyright laws (linked) state that "Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device."

    2. Know your beta. Don't send your work over the Internet to someone you do not trust 100 percent. It's okay to start small--send a chapter or two before the entire manuscript. This is also a way to make sure you and your beta are a good match. The same goes for betas: Know your author.

    3. Agree on the level of criticism. If you want a line-by-line critique, make sure your beta is willing to provide one. Many do not go into in-depth critiques. When authors and betas agree upfront on the level of critique, they are more likely to see the project through.

    4. Save old drafts. Although it's unnecessary to e-mail yourself a copy of your work (check out the "poor man's copyright" in the link above) to be protected, it's not a bad idea to have dated drafts of your WIP.

    5. Save correspondence between you and your beta. This kind of violates #2, since you should be trusting your beta 100 percent. Still, having proof of correspondence is helpful for both you and your beta.

    6. Beta readers are not for everyone. If you don't want to share your work, you don't have to.

    To all of you wonderful beta readers out there: Don't depress. We're not accusing you guys of thievery. Still, it's great to recognize on both sides that the issue of plagiarism does exist. Protecting yourself from potential accusations is as important as a writer protecting his or her work.
    Last edited by katiemac; 10-23-2008 at 08:58 AM.

  2. #2
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    I can sort of see this from both sides.

    I once wrote a very complex story and wanted beta-readers for it. I wasn't a member of a writing forum at the time, but of somewhere that had loads of members and who all knew me rather well. However, later on I was to find out that my story was being passed around by some people whom I didn't get on so well with. It made me wary of who I sent new work to.

    On the other hand ... Wow, I never thought I could be viewed as a possible future thief. I beta-read at least three novels per week for people, some I love, some are good and one or two have been a disappointment. But I would never consider stealing any of the stories, I don't need to, I have a perfectly good imagination of my own.

    I beta-read other works because it helps to to see what's wrong or right with my own, and for the simple pleasure of reading. But I would rather not beta-read at all if someone thinks I might steal their story, plus it would give me more time to do my own, not stolen, work.
    Last edited by Samantha's_Song; 10-09-2008 at 01:20 PM.

  3. #3
    Mostly harmless SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    What? No one is accusing anyone here of theft. Katie has posted general advice in response to frequently asked questions about copyright and the potential dangers of passing your entire novel to strangers. Get to know them first. Start out with small exchanges. Test the waters before you dive in. How is that aimed at you personally?

    -Derek
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  4. #4
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    No, I didn't say that Katie was accusing anyone of theft. But people, who are new to passing their work around, could worry unnecessarily that this could happen to them. I know how I felt when I found out that my work was being passed around, it isn't nice, but it also wasn't on an actual writers site.

    I think everyone on here knows how much work goes into writing a novel and wouldn't ever consider using anyone else's ideas. I, personally, would hate the thought that someone could even think that I'd want to use their work for my own use, that's all.

  5. #5
    Mostly harmless SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Well, no one is thinking that. All we're doing is urging members to use some common sense sprinkled with caution, I think. Me personally, I wouldn't swap novels with anyone I hadn't already encountered and grown to know a little in Share Your Work or other writing forums. That's not to say I distrust everyone I don't know! But if they don't know me, I'd expect them to show a little caution, too.

    -Derek
    The Sunday night Flash Fiction Challenge! Write a story in 90 minutes! If you dare.
    The challenge is open all week, all welcome. Check out FFC forum (password=flashed)
    This week's intrepid authors who dared: Jason, feyngirl, me.


    My web page! Published short stories & novellas,
flash stories, Sci-Fi webcomics, omg screenplays too, lol
Does the excitement never end?!

  6. #6
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    Yes, can totally understand that. Even though I was new to sending my work out when I got stung, I did always keep every email that I sent it out on, natural first-timer paranoia eh

    I don't do a lot of crits on the SYW. I like to take the works to my PC and go through any piece of work properly, so if I did that from SYW, by the time I got back to it, there would be loads of great replies already and mine would be rather redundant.

    [I like to take the works to my PC and go through any piece of work properly,] I'm not saying that the people who do it on the board doesn't, it's just the way i personally have to work.

    Also, for me, personally, I've found that swapping a novel with someone I'm critiquing doesn't work. I give quite a few pages of crits and have ended up with one single paragraph back on my own. But maybe that was just me and it doesn't happen to others?

    Quote Originally Posted by dpaterso View Post
    Well, no one is thinking that. All we're doing is urging members to use some common sense sprinkled with caution, I think. Me personally, I wouldn't swap novels with anyone I hadn't already encountered and grown to know a little in Share Your Work or other writing forums. That's not to say I distrust everyone I don't know! But if they don't know me, I'd expect them to show a little caution, too.

    -Derek
    Last edited by Samantha's_Song; 10-09-2008 at 02:23 PM.

  7. #7
    Moderator AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    FWIW, I'm the person you all know ("Howdy!") whose work was stolen and sold by an online critique person I'd known for a couple of years.

    I just want to say it does happen. Rare, yes, but not never.

    Maryn, who did get legal advice, thanks
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  8. #8
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    Maryn,
    I am really sorry that your work was stolen and my heart goes out to you . Some people are just despicable, aren't they. Hugs to you

    Quote Originally Posted by Maryn View Post
    FWIW, I'm the person you all know ("Howdy!") whose work was stolen and sold by an online critique person I'd known for a couple of years.

    I just want to say it does happen. Rare, yes, but not never.

    Maryn, who did get legal advice, thanks
    Last edited by Samantha's_Song; 10-09-2008 at 08:23 PM.

  9. #9
    Five by Five katiemac's Avatar
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    Yes, general advice for writers. I did amend the original post to reflect the issue for authors and betas. It's important both sides of the exchange protect themselves from accusations and thievery.

    Thankfully it's not a common issue for most beta-author partnerships. But as Maryn pointed out, it unfortunately does happen.

  10. #10
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    Maryn, I'm so sorry that happened to you. You have my sympathy.

    We know plagiarism can happen, but it is rare. Most of us need those extra pairs of eyes on our work, so we have to take a chance, however cautious. I tend to look for Betas who have been around AW for a while. I don't just check their profiles, I check their posts and threads. Usually, I don't send more than a chapter until the Beta sends me one of his/hers.

    If you have more than one Beta for the same WIP, in a way you have a backup person to speak out on your behalf if need be.

    As katiemac said, keep an old version on your computer. If it comes down to a question of ownership, haul your computer to a lawyer and show him the date on your original document.

  11. #11
    The Unicorn Writer Madisonwrites's Avatar
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    I personally don't send out my entire story to my Betas....I'll only send to like the fifth chapter or so. It depends on how long my work is and what's in it. But that's just me personally. I take what the Betas have said about those chapters then apply it to the rest of the story. For me, that helps me learn.

    I've Betaed several partials and fulls, some are great, some not quite so. I love it because I'm writing and reading at the same time. I LOVE to help people with their manuscripts.

    And I would never EVER steal someone else's work. No one's mind works on the same wavelength as mine, so it wouldn't be worth it.

    Aw, Maryn, I'm so sorry that happened to you.
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  12. #12
    Inconsistent AWer dragonmedley's Avatar
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    What everyone else said.

    I'm paranoid about sending my stories, but someone has to read them!
    Si tu n'es pas une lumière, tu dois réfléchir.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW EndlessDestiny's Avatar
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    Do you think it's best to just get a BETA for a few chapters? I'm paranoid about this kind of stuff but I need a BETA.




  14. #14
    KoalaKoalaKoala! Red-Green's Avatar
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    Ultimately, if you want a thorough and truly helpful critique of your work, you'll need someone to read the whole thing. Rather than being so paranoid that you actually diminish the value of critiques received, do all the things suggested. Meet people and make friends on the board. Keep your correspondence with them. Get multiple readers who can serve not only as reference points for the opinions of the others, but who are "witnesses" to your ownership of the work.

    Above all, my advice is build relationships. Keep in touch with your betas, reciprocate, communicate. I still recruit fresh betas, to be sure I'm getting unbiased opinions, but I'm cautious. For example, my most recent WIP, I posted a blurb on this board with a request for readers. Found four new readers. All people with a history on this board. All people who were willing to let me know who they were in real life. A fifth person volunteered, but I declined, as she doesn't post regularly on this board and she didn't want to tell me who she was in real life.

    Good luck.

    Quote Originally Posted by EndlessDestiny View Post
    Do you think it's best to just get a BETA for a few chapters? I'm paranoid about this kind of stuff but I need a BETA.
    ~Bryn

  15. #15
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    Unless someone trusted me with the whole of their manuscript, then I wouldn't bother to offer to critique it.







  16. #16
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Celestia's Avatar
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    Smile

    Hi, I just read this thread and I want to assure you that though I'm new to posting at AW, I've been writing and posting my stuff online for years. Don't want you to think you can't trust me as a beta reader. I have references!

    I've created and administered four message boards since about 2003, all of which have contained fan fics and original member-written materials.

    My newest board is New Tarazed on which the main feature is a role-play group novel with original characters and based in the Buck Rogers "universe". Before that was Tarazed on which we had several group novel RPs that were excellent! (All my forums require membership before entry.)

    Before that was Andromeda Fans on Xsorbit and before that Andromeda Fans on a different server which no longer exists.

    I've been writing with some of the same people for 3-5 years and I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate to vouch for my honesty and integrity.

    Just want you guys to know that.

    I intend to become much more active here at AW. (I joined 2 years ago but got distracted.) It's time to get serious about writing, and this looks like the perfect place.

    --Cindy a/k/a Celestia

  17. #17
    banned as an incurable tosspot
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    Just a thought . . .

    Because it is scary to send a complete manuscript to someone you don't know, maybe what we need is a pool of trusted Beta readers. This would need to be private, accessed only by Mac and maybe a couple of moderators (not all of them). Those who have betas they trust could add names to the list and other members could ask if a beta is a member. I don't think allowing access to a trusted beta list to everyone would help as some could be inundated.

    Does that make sense? Is it feasible?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Samantha's_Song View Post
    ...I would never consider stealing any of the stories, I don't need to, I have a perfectly good imagination of my own...
    This is more or less, word for word what was posted to me in reply to my second ever writers forum post.
    Whatever the first post was, the second at the very most was how do I not only stop you all from stealing my books, but how can I stop you stealing all my ideas for plots??

    I was paranoid, big time.
    I am not a particularly devious person in real life however I have a lot of wide and very varied real life experiences. I knew where a few lowlifes lived, so who were these writers who wanted me to post all my stories in the SYW forum, what hell did SYW mean anyway? That took a few days to sift thru the sand.

    Ah, the old veteran from November is safely ensconced in his sages position. All is well with the world!

  19. #19
    Bartender, gimme a Linux Mint Matera the Mad's Avatar
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    I don't think it is always necessary to send an entire MS to a beta reader. Speaking from the beta's viewpoint, I would rather not be expected to read any farther than the first chapter if the work turns out to be badly flawed. Beginning writers don't always know how far from polished they are. That is a good argument for posting in SYW. Both writer and potential beta can have a good sniff around and evaluate quality as well as reliability.

    "Stealing" is not as much a concern for me as sharing -- can I trust someone not to share my work with others. It might be done in all innocence, but what if somewhere along the line some third or fourth or fifth party decides to post it online? That is why it is important to know and trust betas. It is like trusting your webmaster or your bookkeeper. (I know a lot of passwords that are not my own. They are just as carefully guarded.)

  20. #20
    It's cold out there dlparker's Avatar
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    Sharing your work

    I admit it's a terrifying thought that others might share your work with third parties. Or plagerize.

    But writers have to have readers. Writing a novel can take 6 months to a year. You gonna do that in absolute isolation? It's hard to do.

    I used another online critique forum for years earlier in my writing career and so far as I know, no one stole or plagerized. It was a nice experience except for one flamer, who was clearly envious.

    But one person in a face-to-face critique group I belonged to did spoof and mock others' works. SHE thought was funny, but the rest of us were deeply wounded and shocked. She posted mocking spoofs of group work on her blog and no doubt thought no one in the group would know. We did, and it ended the group. No one could trust after that.

    But in general, I've had good experiences. Of course just one bad apple can be a painful experience.

    Still I absolutely treasure good critiquers when I get them. It's a difficult thing to do, no kidding. And writers NEED beta readers.

  21. #21
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    dlparker, you say many great things here.
    I wrote the first b ook in just 3 weeks without an ending. My first message online was to ask for a real writer to help me, to write the ending to my book. I got a short, sharp shift. People reamed me out, saying if I couldn't find the ending then I was never going to be a writer. After a few days, an ending came to me, it was bloody, brutal and valid and I am damn proud with that ending to the work, in many ways, I think that ending "makes the work".

    I am completely useless as an editor, I have no problems with that, but here comes the rub, I need people to read my work and evluate it as having potential commercial viability and potential marketability. Where can I get such things without taking the risk or sharing my work with others. I found an excellent beta here, and I found an excellent editor online. Both of those within 2 days became firm friends and I have work 1 out being ripped up by the beta. Once that is completed, I will revise and rewrite, then it goes to the editor. After I then do the revise and rewrite for the editor, both these people will get the final draft and without further reworking, then it goes to any agent or publisher I can find to maybe get published, it will go the trad publishing route but I have been shown many positives with POD and I will travel that route sooner or later.

    You have to share your work with someone, beta's, editor's, agent's and publishers. At every step you risk losing the work, having it turn up as an eBook tomorrow with a new author credit. But someone said, no pain, no gain, and without true risk, there can be no reward.
    I do want the rewards, so I am carefully risking my works, as carefully as possible.

  22. #22
    It's cold out there dlparker's Avatar
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    Hey Herman,

    It's pretty common, I think, to sometimes have to wait for the idea for the "right" ending to come to you. I had one short story sat on for weeks before the ending came to me suddenly out of the blue. That's got nothing to do with being a "good" or "bad" writer. It's pretty normal, I think.

    That's because the BEST writing is not entirely conscious. SOmetimes it takes a while for the sub-conscious to "float" the answer up to the top of the head. Happens to me all the time.

    I have found though we all have bad experiences in life, sometimes people can really surprise you in a positive way. It's true a few folks who would never dream of speaking so harshly face-to-face let it rip on the Internet. It's a protected medium. But don't give up because of a few thoughtless jabs (and I see you haven't).

    You made the same point I did in that a useful adjunct to writers, especially if you are more experienced, is having a soundboard. You could possibly have worked out your ending sooner if you'd had someone to bounce ideas off. I don't need editors, really. I need something else entirely. It's more of a creative or intellectual process, I think.
    Danielle

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    Progress

    Danielle, thanks for the reply/endorsement. I don't mean you have fallen into my line but that you seem to think the way I do.

    With that first work, it was excellent but there was no ending. Once I got the message that no one was gonna write it for me, or could, then the ideas flowed and the right ending came into place. I must say that it is special and did cause a tear or two to come into place, I don't tear up easy but this ending was emotionally special and I hope the readers get that same feeling. Time will tell.

    If you wanna talk to me about collaboration, then go right ahead. I believe I have a wonderful sense of the adbetourous aspect but technically i am a complete mess. I can write, my pro editor tells me that, but I need the technical side of my work tidied extensively, maybe I can help with offbeat ideas for others to add to their creativity. I have been known to look at things and see what is not there, this can spook others, but eventually they appreciate it.

    One was writing a girl gang book of LA. I asked about burglaries, prostitution, police bribery and corruption, stand over, drugs, and major crime. They answered "Hey that is all great, I have to go back and rewrite to include it all". I just sat there and wondered what the hell they had written about gangs without including any of this. But I felt good anyway, I think the author did to, altho I never heard back from them <GRIN>.

    Let me know, here or PM.

  24. #24
    It's cold out there dlparker's Avatar
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    Herman, I sent you a private message. Look forward to hearing back from you.

    Danielle

  25. #25
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    Danielle, Look forward to hearing front from you. I think!?!? <GRIN>

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