DRitC is not over yet. We’ve still got a lot of stories to look forward to –Sera Trevor’s Troll Whisperer, K.C. Faelan’s Top Floor and Metamorphic Heart written in collaboration with Alexis Woods, and my own The Biggest Scoop among them (just got the word this morning — coming soon)! But with my second DRitC story published a month ago, I thought now is a good time to share what I’ve learned from two years and three stories.
DRitC is first and foremost a giving event. Readers give their enthusiasm and ideas. Writers give their art and time. The behind the scenes beta-ing, editing, formatting and quality assurance crew give a massive amount of time and effort. It’s an amazing celebration of a very special community and for many authors, especially those who have never done anything like this before, the chance to participate in this event is all they need.
That said, I know from experience that writers get very nervous, despite the fact that we have an amazingly dedicated support base behind us. Which makes my first piece of advice:
1. Join the support thread. It will probably be in the same folder as the Event Prompts near the top. This year it is called ‘LOR Authors’ Support Group (NSFW).’ You will find encouragement and wisdom from seasoned veterans and newbies alike, right from claiming your prompt, to writing dilemmas, approaching edits and finding betas. Sometimes we even swap recipes.
2. Find a prompt that really interests you.
You have 2 months to write your story, then you will review it 3-4 times. You need to feel passionately about the prompt. This year the mods posted the prompts in batches that were ‘locked’ for 24 hours, giving us plenty of opportunity to consider which prompt we wanted. I made a list of several prompts that appealed to me, and even came up with a few scenarios for them, but after sleeping on them, discovered that I was only lukewarm about the idea.
Don’t panic and think that if you don’t grab a prompt from the first few batches, you’ll miss out. Prompts are posted in the order they are sent in, so while it can be tough to wait it out while everyone around you is claiming prompts and settling down to the fun part of plotting and world building, trust that your prompt will come. Plus, there is less competition for prompts in the later batches as authors are only allowed to claim one at first. To make sure I wasn’t disappointed, even after I had identified the prompt I wanted, I found a second and third choice to pursue if I was unsuccessful.
3. Familiarize yourself with the expectations that come with your genre, especially if it is new to you. Read stories from past DRitC events. I actually asked my prompter for her favourite slave-fics to get a handle on what she liked, and it was the best thing I could have done. Also, keep in mind that the event is organized by the M/M Romance group, and romance comes with expectations all of its own — in particular, the HEA (Happily Ever After) or HFN (Happy For Now) ending requirements. Unless your prompter specifically said they were okay with an unhappy or realistic ending, or requested a plot-heavy story, romance should be a major focus of your story.
4. Talk to your prompter! I’ve been incredibly lucky. My prompter last year is now one of my best Goodreads friends, and I have got a lot of great story recs from her, and met some really fun and interesting people through her. I suspect that the same thing is going to happen with this year’s prompters too! Now, your prompter might prefer to leave you entirely to your own devices (and that is entirely their prerogative), but I think making contact to see if they are okay to answer questions, etc., is a good thing — particularly if you’re going to take your prompt in an unexpected direction. If your prompter is actively posting in your prompt thread, it is a good sign that they’re interested. But remember, while you can check to make sure that your prompter is happy with a HFN ending, or a noir setting, prefers slow-burn or insta-love, the prompt and story are now yours. Your prompter cannot beta for you, and you should be keeping character names and story title secret until the mods have finished playing their guessing games. If you’re not confident contacting your prompter, looking at their Goodreads shelves should give you an idea of what they enjoy. Note: this is assuming that like me, when you write your DRitC story, your number one priority is making your prompter happy.
5. Post in your prompt thread! Other group members will jump into threads of story ideas they like to share their excitement for the story and to thank you for picking it up. These people are invested in the story idea, and want to help you succeed. They are a great source of encouragement and sharing excerpts/cover images/pinterest inspiration boards with them is a great way to get valuable feedback and I find their enthusiasm contagious. When your story is posted, they will be the first to read it.
6. Beta-readers are the best resource you have. The mods can help set you up with one, but the Beta-readers wanted thread in the M/M Romance Group is full of people in the same DRitC boat as you, many of whom are willing to beta-swap (they’ll read yours if you read theirs). Again, this is a great way to make writing friends, especially if you find people on your wave-length or writing in your genre. However, it is also really valuable to find people who disagree or have different stylistic preferences. While you might not use all their advice, it forces you to examine why you’ve made the writing choices you have, and alerts you to places where you are not succeeding at creating the effect you want.
7. Write. Write rough, write fast, just get that first draft down as quickly as possible. Two months sounds like a lot of time, but you want to send your draft to a beta and have time to act on their feedback before you submit your story to the mods. Also, if your story has a setting that is not familiar to you (and even if it is), try and find a local beta as soon as you can. In my first year, I didn’t get a local beta until about a week before the due date, and she gave me some really amazing feedback — and because I’d left it so late, I didn’t have the time to properly act on it. That is probably the most important lesson I learned from my first DRitC event.
8. Respect the deadlines but don’t hesitate to ask for an extension if you need one. I regret that in my first year, I decided to not act on the beta feedback I received in order to submit my story on time — I feel I could have made it a lot stronger. This year, I wrote the story I wanted and submitted late. From a story perspective, this was absolutely the right choice — Deep Magic is so much stronger for all the feedback I received. However, stories that come out later in the event do not generate the same buzz and excitement that the stories that are released first do. I don’t think it is worth rushing to take advantage of that excitement, as readers can spot a rushed story, but if you do realise you need more time, let the mods know as soon as you can. I was able to get set up with a beta while I was still finishing Deep Magic, saving some time. The mods are great. They want you to succeed and will do everything they can to help you. Do not hesitate to contact them if you encounter problems.
So, now you’ve read my recommendations, do you have any of your own to add?