At a local writing group I attended last Sunday the question was raised about the integrity of entering work in a competition after it had been critiqued by a number of other people – the question being at what stage did a story move from being a sole effort to one of collaboration. The person who posed the question was not asking from a position of ‘sour grapes’, as she neither wrote for nor entered competitions, so I accepted her concern as genuine.
As the founder of a critiquing group (and as a member of many writer’s groups over many years) where the focus has always been on assisting the writer further develop their skill, I have openly encouraged beginning writers to present their work for critique prior to submitting anywhere (be it competition or publication). The purpose of this was to ensure their work was at its polished best; to optimise their chance of having their work accepted. I saw this as an integral function of the group.
Alternatively, I have seen some stories presented in their rawest, most grammatically incorrect form – little more than a concept thrown on the page - and watched them over a period of critique sessions, and with the input of half a dozen other writers, transform into a well-shaped, fine piece of writing. I never gave a thought as to whether these stories might then be entered into a competition and the question of integrity in this regard never arose.
These were my thoughts as I attempted to respond to her question, as several of my own arose from her single one, so I’m asking for opinions on the following:
- Would it be a more appropriate to submit a group -worked story to competitions or publications where entries are invited from collaborative efforts of writers rather than an individual?
- If a writer pens the original concept, does that make them the sole author, despite input on grammar and syntax from others?
- As writing competitions are judged on a number of elements, not the least being use of language and punctuation, and if the story has been critiqued and structurally edited by a series of writers, is it ethical for it to be submitted as the work of one writer?
Please help with this one – it would be much appreciated. ~Merlene