Two Problems with YouWriteOn.com

May 13, 2011 § 11 Comments

I’ve been praising YouWriteOn.com, a UK website that lets you post short stories (under 5,000 words) and the initial chapters of a novel (up to 10,000 words) to be critiqued by other writers. The deal is that you need to read and critique someone else’s work in order to have your story assigned randomly to someone to critique.

There are some problems with the site however. When you submit your work, you can identify its genre, which is revealed to potential reviewers. While I won’t review certain types of writing because I am not a fan of all genres, some people will do so. One person who reviewed the first chapters of the mystery I’m working on, wrote that he generally doesn’t like mysteries. Well, it didn’t surprise me when his review gave me the lowest scores of any reviewer. (Fortunately you can lop off your lowest review after you have received 5 reviews.)

The other problem is that the site seems to be attracting a lot of very young writers. I’ve read two or three attempts recently that were very bad – replete with spelling, grammatical and word choice mistakes. The most recent one twice wrote “waist” for “waste,” started sentences with lower case letters and repeatedly used ‘and’ to combine phrases that had nothing in common (“souls” and “a list”). It’s apparent that these writers are not even taking the time to run a spell checker before they upload their works.

Nevertheless, some of the comments I have received have been on target and therefore very helpful. I will continue to use the site as well as test similar sites. I’d love to hear from others about your experiences with writing community websites.

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§ 11 Responses to Two Problems with YouWriteOn.com

  • Tracy Thomson says:

    Youwriteon.com may tecnically not be a con but it is a waste of valuable time. No matter how many reviews you do, you will almost never get more than one review a day. What is more, someone who has accepted to review your writing can take up to 4 days to do so, and up to 4 days to reject the piece. this means you have the potential of writing 48 reviews in an 8 day period and only receiving 1 or none back. It also only takes one vindictive person to make the reviews meaningless anyway. No matter what you email to Ted Smith he will always send back automayted responses asking you to check the links on the left hand panel for example for extra information.
    Remeber also that if you are tempted to self publish via this site and do not appear on the Nielson scans you will find it almost impossible to find an agent or publisher………..

    • 37editor says:

      You may be right Tracy in theory, but in practice I’ve found it works if you write one review a day and hope to get the same back. The reviewers vary in terms of the value of their input, but i’ve found most are diligent and provide useful comments. I see it mostly as a place to test out material in the early stages…

  • Jungle Girl says:

    I’m having the same problem right now, and actually am feeling crushed. My book is literary women’s fiction, and I’ve had a literary agent read the opening chapter and say she loved it. All the reviews I’ve had on youwriteon have been from men, whose own books were either science fiction or shoot em ups. The negative reviews have shaken my confidence to pieces, but I do actually believe my book is beautiful, and all the reviewers’ so far have had far inferior work. Not sure I’m going to go on with it, I’m licking my wounds to be honest. I wish there was a place to post work which was a community of positive women who the book is actually targeted at. Don’t feel I’m cut out for this. 😦

    • 37editor says:

      Jungle Girl: If you wanted me to comment on your post, here’s what I have to say:

      If the agent loved your first chapter, then why are you giving any credence to the comments you received from youwriteon? Either you believe the comments have merit without regard to whether they were written by men, women or any other gender to be found in the unknown universe or you don’t. If you need women readers to tell you that your book is okay, then it appears that you don’t trust your own judgement very much. That’s not a good place to be.

      Youwriteon or any other community of writers has its place, but ultimately it’s a very small one. First in import must be your own honest evaluation; then the agent who has accepted it; then the editor with the publisher who has agreed to publish it; and finally the reading public who will only tell you where your book hit on the likeability scale. BUT, IMHO how many books you sell is still less important than your personal judgement.

  • Jungle Girl says:

    Thank you for your reply. I’ve been doing some serious thinking about why I write, and what I write, today, and your comment really helped put it in perspective.

    For the last year at least, I have been writing with one eye on feeling I have to get published, one eye on what an agent will think, what an editor will think, what the public will think. It’s become part of my identity that I MUST be a published author.

    Actually I realised I’ve got to write for me and trust my own judgement and what I’m creating in order to really be creative. Thanks for the insight, and in future I won’t be reading any youwriteon reviews late at night when I’m exhausted. 🙂

  • 37editor says:

    JG: That sounds a lot better than your prior post. We don’t do ourselves any favors by putting ourselves “under the gun”. When you tell yourself that you “HAVE to” get published, complete a novel, make a sale, etc., you’re making the job that much harder.

    Having a goal is essential, but once you’ve set that goal, then concentrate on the steps required to reach your goal. Work hard at your craft. Write, edit, write, edit.

    If you do a good job trust that you will be rewarded. Meanwhile you have to get satisfaction out of the task itself. If you don’t feel good when you’ve written a good paragraph or spent an hour making a draft better, then you need to find another line of work.

  • johnbassett says:

    To be fair, the site seems to need an overhaul from what I can see. The thing that really and I mean REALLY gets up my nose, is writers / authors, who insist on using inappropriate language, graphic violence and sexuality that some may find offensive to read. The problem is, when you go to do a review it says ‘adult language’ or whatever and so you can reject the work on that basis, I may be wrong, but you the reviewer, are then given a warning of how many rejections you have made and must then complete a review. If writers wish to use foul language or graphic violence, depraved sexuality they should do so. However, I would not want to read their work or review it. I for one do not want to engage in their fantasies. The site should, on these merits, put writers / authors who insist on these practices in a seperate catagory. Leaving for those who want to read literary work of a higher quality the opportunity to ignore those writers and not waste our limitation of rejections.

  • 37editor says:

    JohnBassett: Unfortunately, the problem defies a simple solution. Adult language might mean use of some common swear words or it might mean graphic descriptions of sex or violence, and no writers wants to be stuck in a category ghetto where their work might be overlooked.

    What I do agree with you on is that YWO should not restrict the number of rejections you are entitled to as a reviewer. For example, I try not to read horror stories because I don’t like the genre and am less likely to give the writer a favorable review. Since stories are assigned randomly, they ought to allow an unlimited number of rejections.

  • Marchofaida says:

    Hi JG
    I had a similar experience with the 2 most negative reviews I’d received; they both came from male journalists ( I checked out their profiles so that’s how I know). I felt that there was something particularly personal in their review- not personal to me- but ther reviews were general and general in a negative sense. Perhaps dismissive of women/’s literary writing. I t didn’t bother me too much but it is disheartening when you suspect that your writing is not being assessed on its own merit. I know there are genres that I am not particularly interested in but I would always strive to look at the writing on its own terms. Most reviewers who have looked at my stuff do just that ; occasionally you’ll have the misfortune to come across those who don’t. Pick yourself up and carry on.

    • 37editor says:

      Marchofaida: One has to match one’s expectations with the reality of the service being offered. YouWriteOn is open to anyone. Therefore, the reviews are going to be of mixed quality. I found enough worthwhile in the comments given by some reviewers to overlook the ones that I didn’t think were accurate or balanced.

  • Celia Villa-Landa says:

    I would agree with most of the above comments. I have no faith that the site is anything other than a way to get a few possibly useful comments on your work. The site appears to be run by algorithms, not people. I can’t believe that it is moderated or edited in any way as I have been sent two pieces to review that were purely advertising material for exercise products and the bulletin boards are full of such adverts and little else. In addition, most of the links on the site do not work. I agree that the range is too wide. Like one of the contributors above, I have written a novel which I would call literary or at least, literate fiction,and I have had encouraging words from several agents, though no-one has wanted to take me on, I suspect because of my subject matter. I, too have no interest in reviewing children’s books, science fiction, or sex-and-violence, but we are only allowed to reject one a day. But I have enjoyed reading some of the material I have reviewed and I have had genuinely helpful comments from several reviewers, so i am hanging on for a bit. Don’t be put off by the nasty ones, though.

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