I’ve had both the pleasure and the pain of discovering the youwriteon site over the past week. If you’re not familiar with this, it is a free site sponsored by Random House and Orion where writers can post up to 7000 words of their unpublished or self-published novel (5000 for short stories). In exchange for reading and reviewing the work of other participants, your own work is assigned to members to read and review. Once you have four reviews of your work, you can begin to see your ratings summaries, and once you have eight reviews, you can be included in the rankings along with others.
I first learned of this through my connection with Tom Winton on LinkedIn. His novel Beyond Nostalgia (99 cents on Amazon!) has done very well in the youwriteon rankings.
But it’s more than just the rankings that would make this site appeal. Although you need to sift through the review comments, when you see a particular criticism multiple times, you need to pay attention and consider revising your work accordingly. That’s what makes the site so helpful – you can make your work better. It’s a reality check. When you think you’ve made your story as good as it can be, getting objective feedback from multiple sources can either confirm that for you or point you in the direction of what you need to change.
Another appealing aspect is the chance to bring your writing to the attention of publishers. The most highly ranked books get reviewed by Random House and Orion, and authors have been known to land impressive deals as a result of being introduced to the publishers on youwriteon. They are the minority, of course. My reading experience so far has been mixed, with a few potential gems mixed in with a lot of really bad stuff. I’ve been surprised at the number of very dark, unpleasant stories.
So how has my book #2, Sentimental Journey, fared? Well, honestly, it has received mixed reviews – some very high praise along with some rather consistent criticisms. This process is not for the thin-skinned. Interestingly, many of the reviews include comments mirrored in feedback I’ve received historically from agents and publishers – “you write very well, but….” It seems I need to work on making my characters more believable and likeable. When you receive feedback like that fairly consistently, you really need to pay attention. So I’m going to make some revisions in the chapters I have on the site (oh, yes, that’s another nice thing – you can make revisions and re-post) and see if my revisions make a difference in the reviews. That’s the biggest value, after all, the chance to improve your writing.