Down & Out In Milton Keynes – One Writer's Blog

August 2, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — miltonkeyneswriter @ 8:11 pm

I’ve taken, recently, to reading my youwriteon review assignments at the tail end of the day, when shoppers are deserting Centre: MK for the dubious prospect of early evening TV. Why? So I can read the latest assignment in relative obscurity, with just the Costa in-store baristas to worry about.

The reason is, the worrying standard of the assignments coming through. Although youwriteon do offer the chance to reject an assignment, I try not to unless really uncomfortable with the offering. As a tutor myself I am entirely familiar with beginner’s work and beginner’s mistakes, and no less familiar with how to let them down gently with constructive critiques so they  can develop. After all, we all have to start somewhere, and we can all learn from our mistakes. Fact is, if a facility like youwriteon had existed back then I might have been tempted to put my early attempts on-line too.

But today has been particularly trying. Obviously I won’t name names or titles, but I started the day with a promising sounding historic romance about vampires. Having become engrossed in the youwriteon offering Equilibrium (see earlier posts – and check out the link to this writer’s blog!) I was especially intrigued to read this.

In  fairness, for a first draft from what appears to be an author for whom English is not their first language, it was not entirely without merit.

But as anyone who has registered with youwriteon will know, in order to post a review you need to be able to answer five questions about the work, as set by the author. A score of 80% (4 out of 5 for those who like to pretend they’re innumerate) is required to demonstrate you have actually read the assignment. A fine idea, designed to prevent people writing any old gibberish.

Except that this wannabe-writer had set five questions not about the script she had submitted, as it the youwriteon criteria,  but about her family. She expects us to guess her husband’s name, the name of her youngest child and even, no kidding, the name of her cat!

So having spent valuable time and effort reading and then writing a positive review (I see little point in being destructive  – there is some good to be found in even the worst piece of work) the whole exercise was rendered entirely redundant by my being unable to pass the set questions to submit anything!

So reluctantly  I rejected the assignment and requested another. Up came a crime novel, with an improbable storyline. Aren’t they all?

As soon as I saw references to MI6 in the synopsis I knew I was on a slippery slope. MI6 and crime? Criminal some of their activities may be, but MI6 is strictly for secret agents, not detectives.

By literally the first line I’ve got my head buried in my hands, and find myself wondering if life is worth going on with. The character is named with a stereotype name and described as “a half-cast”. From thereon it’s just a slow descent into pseudo-racism masquerading as political correctness. The lead protagonist introduced soon after is black and no opportunity is missed to make the point in order to stress the PC credentials of the author.

If this wasn’t bad enough the rest of the story was just as cringe-worthy.

Sadly I’m going to forego the opportunity to post a review for this assignment too, because with the best will in the world, there is nothing kind that can be said about it.

But for anyone wanting to see a writer going from strength to strength, check out the revised first chapter of Equilibrium on Saffy’s blog. http://wp.me/p10v7v-J

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July 31, 2010

youwriteon – good or bad?

Filed under: Uncategorized — miltonkeyneswriter @ 10:30 am

The latest youwriteon newsletter is out, with evidence yet again that for a lucky few this is a route to publication.

And the very best of luck to them, but I still think it’s a bizarre way to find a publisher.

I’m still on the fence about whether youwriteon is a good or bad idea overall. Having to give marks out of five for things like plot and character development when seeing only the first seven thousand words of a story of perhaps 150,000 or more is simply bizarre.

Even worse when being asked to judge writing in a genre one wouldn’t normally touch with a barge-pole.

But it is certainly interesting, and occasionally very rewarding, to be able to view the early stages of other writers’ work.

By pure coincidence the latest issue of Writer’s Forum is out this week and the cover story is a previous youwriteon success story. Katherine Webb’s The Legacy was featured on youwriteon in the usual way and found its way into the high rankings from peer reviewers and eventually the attention of an agent and publisher. The Legacy was by no means Katherine’s first novel, and I’m guessing her experience ensured the submission was of the finest quality.

One of the real problems with youwriteon is the ability for absolute beginners to submit first drafts which are barely readable, not remotely proof-read, and often show no promise whatsoever. Pity the poor reviewer assigned one of these…

But the more assignments I get to read, the more I am enjoying the process, and occasionally coming across works which I’d like to read more of. Two worth mentioning here are No Evil Shall I Fear, a Stephen King style horror in the making, and An Afghan Winter, which is an evocative study of life in contemporary Afghanistan. (Remember, you don’t need to submit work to be able to read author’s submissions. Just sign up as a free-reader.)

But one stands out for its huge commercial potential. I’ve mentioned Equilibrium in my previous blog, but make no apology for doing so again. I’ve since been privileged to have seen further chapters of this work beyond the introduction on youwriteon and can confirm its initial promise is exceeded as it goes on.

Just when you think the whole vampire thing has exhausted itself and it’s time to move on, along comes an original writer with a distinct narrative voice and a new take on the blood-sucking theme. This is Twilight for grown-ups, and is sure to find a loyal audience in the young-teen Stephenie Meyer fans as they come-of-age and look to more mature reading. The author now has her own blog dedicated to the novel (go to http://wp.me/p10v7v-y for the latest instalment – God knows how she finds the time!) and apparently a presence on Facebook too, so expect to see a lot more of key characters Jess and Gabrielle as time goes by.

July 26, 2010

Getting started.

Filed under: Uncategorized — miltonkeyneswriter @ 3:21 pm

Milton Keynes.

You either love it or you hate it. And for me it’s been a love affair ever since I was a kid, although I’m now actually living here for the first time.

It’s probably not everyone’s (or indeed anyone’s!) idea of a writing retreat, but having been brought up in the idyllic, Blytonesque setting of a farm by the sea, where imagination and inspiration abounded, I bizarrely find the concrete, glass and steel quietly reassuring, a protective barrier against the elements, that provides a perfect writing environment.

Yes, I’m talking about the now Grade II listed The Centre: MK, God’s greatest gift to Middle England. And in particular the solitude of the first floor of the Sunset Walk Costa bar, where I now while away the daylight hours pursuing every writer’s dream, to write next year’s best seller.

Admittedly this is more due to an insidious addiction to a frothy latte than a desire to emulate the venerable JK, but it gets the job done, and provides endless amusement for fellow coffee-lovers when I curse the keyboard for not knowing which letter I meant to press, or when it maliciously turns on the capitals lock and doesn’t tell me for half a page.

Of course it’s not just the amazing Ms Rowling who trod the cafe boardwalk to success, as witness the August Writer’s News. Young mother Marina Fiorato’s first book The Glassblower of Murano was rejected by every major British publisher. Well we’ve all been there!

But Ms Fiorato somehow managed to secure a print-run for it with a small, independent publisher, Beautiful Books (http://beautiful-books.co.uk/). Apparently it has since sold in 21 languages! Her follow-up novels have just secured a quarter million pound advance.

Jealous? Moi?

I was halfway through changing my name to Marina Fiorato by deed-poll and sending out my entire back-list to every publisher when I realised Writer’s News had published her photo too. Damn! Another cunning plan bites the dust.

What’s worse, it seems that Beautiful Books publish beautiful authors. Guess I’d best look elsewhere…

Meantime I take heart from the fact that Marina’s had more rejection slips than me. My latest submission has only had one rejection so far. Admittedly it’s only been submitted once, so it is a 100% failure rate, but no point being mathematical about it.

Actual it was a rejection to die for. Broo Doherty of the Wade & Doherty Literary Agency, was kind enough to commend the work as well-written and compelling, but felt uncomfortable with the subject matter.

It’s now with another agent and I’ll keep readers updated on the good or bad news in due course. I’ve also put the first seven thousand words on youwriteon (www.youwriteon.com) where I got my first (and complimentary!) review last night.

The book is called Sugar & Spice. It’s a psychological / crime thriller and is about a hunt for a child-killer. If that sounds like your cup of tea then have a view and maybe write a review.

I had mixed feelings about youwriteon at first, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to review other wannabe-authors’ work and have already found some works in-progress which are worth commending.

One is Equilibrium by Sarah J Griffiths. If dark fantasy is your genre but you find Stephenie Meyers just a little too teen-orientated, then this is for you. More in due course!

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