Recently, Under The Tree That Owns Itself—my short story for the upcoming Circle 8 Writers Group anthology Mothers & Other Strangers—was voluntarily uploaded to the password protected Accentuate Writers Forum’s (link: http://accentuatewriters.com/) critiques thread. The story had already been sent to this C8 editor’s editor, Angel Sharum (yes, even an editor needs an editor); yet I was confident Under The Tree That Owns Itself would not only survive the scrutiny of my fellow writers, but the tale had all the right ingredients that goes into a top-notch short story.
I was right about the latter. The former proved to be quite a surprise.
My fellow writers noticed a few awkward sentences that would be made easier for the reader if rewritten, and they were kind enough to suggest how those sentences might be improved. Of course, there were the few punctuation errors. There were, also, a couple word errors. I corrected as guided.
But Under The Tree That Owns Itself is historical fiction, set in 1942 Athens, Georgia; so, even in a piece of fiction, accuracy of the details is imperative. On my own, I discovered a huge error to the time period. I decided to use my discovery to present a challenge to my fellow Accentuate Forum members: find my historical error; win a paperback of C8’s Mothers & Other Strangers upon its release.
It took about half a day for the sharp eye of Ned Livingston to report the error I was ready for (a reference to the house trailers that didn’t begin to be embraced as substitute housing until the late 50s), but Derek Odom chimed in with one less than obvious, yet just as critical an historical error: the name of Brittany for one of my characters. I didn’t know Brittany was never used to name American girls until the late 70s. Derek did.
There is no doubt in my mind that had I not exposed Under The Tree That Owns Itself to my fellow writers in Accentuate’s critiques thread, the story would have gone on to publication in the Circle 8 Writers Group’s next anthology Mothers & Other Strangers with a character named Brittany, that, for the most historically aware readers, would have ruined this very good story’s credibility.
So what’s my point? There is great value in having protected access to a critique thread of a writer’s forum where flaws can be plucked out before they can hurt a writer’s chances at publication.
I hear some writer’s forums that offer such free critique service can be nasty experiences whenever the reviewers are too smug and full of their own sense of infallibility and literary genius. You won’t find such people at the Accentuate Writers Forum. You will find all the writers there care just as much about your hopes and dreams as they do their own. They will give your work thoughtful, honest, and priceless evaluation: the kind of encouragement that makes a good writer evolve into an exceptional writer.
So, give the Accentuate Writers Forum a try. Like me, you’ll bless the day you did.