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.


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