I found the NextBigWriter while surfing the internet for information about writing classes and workshops. I’ve been missing the camaraderie and energy of a workshop environment, so I thought maybe there was some kind of forum online that I could join.
I was attracted to this site because of its format. Before you can post writing to be reviewed, you have to review other people’s writing. By giving reviews, you earn credits. You spend credits when posting your own writing. It virtually guarantees you will receive feedback on your writing.
Of course, not all feedback is equal. The big question in my mind was whether I would get any useful comments on my writing. I decided to give it a try. You can sign up as a Review Member for free, which means you can read and comment on writing but not post your own. I joined as a Writing Member and paid for a year subscription, which cost around $50. You don’t have to join for a year if you just want to test it out, but the per month fee is higher.
The process of setting up an account is pretty easy. You have to give yourself a pseudonym, which becomes your screen name. I chose Barrington Greene as my pseudonym, in case anybody is looking for me on the site. I ignored the warning about not being able to change your pseudonym once you entered it, and I regret that. In retrospect, I should’ve just used my real name, but the site seems to encourage anonymity. Maybe it’s so people will feel more comfortable giving tough feedback? Fine with me.
The first thing I did after getting my account set up was check out the Site Forums. The topics include categories like “Writing Tips and Advice” “Getting Published,” Self-Publishing” “Writing Contests, Challenges, Prompts and Games,” and “ Reviewing Tips.” I clicked on the “Reviewing Tips” forum and read some of the posts. Here’s when I started to think maybe that I made a mistake with the year-long subscription. Most of the posts in this section are complaints from people who thought they were reviewed too harshly. Quite a few posts argue that poetry is subjective and therefore shouldn’t be criticized too harshly. I read the poems by some of the people who posted, and the reviews. The reviews were not wrong. The poems needed a lot of work.
On the other hand, there were some good posts about reviewing. One reminded people that we give our writing up to review because of how subjective our own readings are. Most of us have loved a poem we’ve written unconditionally and it took someone else’s reading to make us reconsider.
Overall, I got the feeling that there are some reviewers who review many things quickly because they just want to earn credits and post their own work. That didn’t seem to be the majority, though.
I was ready to start reviewing and posting my own work. In the next issue of The Writing Assignment (April 14), I’ll chronicle what happens and tell you whether or not The Next Big Writer is the next big thing.