Friday, 20 February 2009

YOUWRITEON.COM - Part One of Three

A UK based, free to join, writers' critique site for long and short fiction in English which accepts submissions from anywhere in the world.

YouWriteOn have helped a few writers get published one way or another -- among them Douglas Jackson -- author of Caligula

I used to* like YWO and found it very useful.

YouWriteOn's message board often comes across as a schoolyard wherein kids of all ages and backgrounds, and the occasional troubled school-leaver (i.e. published author), wander around making friends, shouting the odds, falling out, making up again, ganging up on a geek or a nerd, otherwise causing mischief, or sucking up, like teachers' pets, to good ol' Ted (Ted Smith the site's erstwhile host).

But Ted is not so much a Headteacher as a harried and harassed form teacher subbing for the Deputy Head while negotiating with the caretaker, catering staff, visiting teachers and inspection teams -- often forgetting he's left a class unattended.

It's all good fun -- especially when someone stomps off site and you're left wondering whether they're going to return -- a la Columbine -- armed with a gun and a gang recruited from another crit site. That said, the message board can be a useful source of information.

The process of uploading work (minimum 6000 words) is a bit tedious (it's dissuaded me from uploading more work more frequently) and doesn't allow much latitude with formatting.

The quality of the crits varies wildly from dim witted, incoherent, or opaque nonsense to very precise, thought provoking, insightful and encouraging commentary. I've not yet read any rave reviews that are as gushy as some I've read on Authonomy.

Having signed up and been assigned a text (which can be accepted or rejected) you are allowed four days to post a minimum 1oo words review to earn a credit which can then be assigned to your own work in order to get a review.

Reviews are scored across 8 categories from 1 to 5 and then processed using standard deviation to position the title on a chart. The five highest placed titles on the last day of the month are put forward for a critique from someone who is employed by Random House, or by one of YouWriteOn's regular retainers. Members also have the option of saving time and hassle and paying for a 'professional' critique.

Members can also use YouWriteOn as a route to a POD edition of their work (but more on this aspect in another post).

If you are looking for an anonymous critique from someone whose skills and experience may exceed your own, or who, conversely, may have only started writing in earnest last week, then YouWriteOn is probably a good place to visit.

What's been your experience of YouWriteOn?

[*see Part Three]

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