National Railway Museum
A trip to York has been an excellent excuse to neglect Authonomy where The Water’s Edge is now sinking down the rankings. And if I am ever to get on with my rewrite project I’m afraid that sink it must. Even maintaining its current position requires too much effort in finding and swapping reads. But I have made some good writing friends on Authonomy and hope I’ll catch up with them when the novel is put back together again. (Ali, Jane, Diana, Elinor, Lellie and Sandrine – this means you!)
Ironically, as I withdraw from the fray, I am just starting to understand some aspects of how the ranking system works. It turns out that points allocated to a book when it’s backed vary according to the ‘reviewer rank’ of the backer. Reviewer points are allocated depending on the progress of a book after you have backed it, i.e. backing a ‘best seller’ book will do little for your own reviewer ranking; backing an ‘unknown’ that subsequently shoots up the charts will boost your own rank – and consequently makes you a more effective backer of other books. Very cunning, methinks, and does something to mitigate the idea that it’s purely a numbers game.
If anyone is still paying attention, I can tell you that The Water’s Edge has been backed by three ‘top reviewers’ so far. More perplexing is that while my book rank is hovering just outside 600, my reviewer rank is a tidy 375. Okay, I think it is a numbers game after all. Or does this mean I should give up writing and become a professional editor?
While ignoring my read/review duties I also found a useful article on writing historical novels, which makes a clear statement that the story, rather than the research, is the thing to get right So all that research, however useful, is just a way of putting off the inevitable.
I think I knew that really.
Reading and wRiting that is. Two things I seem to have been neglecting of late that left undone will cause the creative spirit to wither and die (or at least go a bit sickly). But last both have happend – and in the same week – funny that, isn’t it?
The book I picked up (in this respect I’m afraid authonomy reading doesn’t count) is by Anita Shreve, an author I have for some reason been avoiding, although I don’t know why. I think I may have picked up Fortune’s Rocks and disliked the cover or the opening page. (Aspiring writers note how these things matter!) and there she was, condemned for all time, or until last Friday when I picked up A Wedding in December in the local library. This is a slow burn of a book with a leisurely pace and no style or plot acrobatics , and the idea of a reunion of school friends is hardly a new one. But I found it immensely satisfying. Characterisation was subtle but telling. The plot unwound iteslef almost imperceptibly. Was there a denouement? If so I felt I knew it already.
Isn’t this how books used to be?
Since the ‘A’ word has already come up, I have to say it’s an object lesson in how quickly a reader (agent/editor) makes a decisions about a book. With my ‘watch list’ (aka slushpile) always beckoning, I am becoming adept at judging a book if not by its cover, certainly by a few opening pages. Because it’s embarrassing to offer to read and then find little to say that’s constructive, I now accept a ‘read swap’ only after reading the other writer’s pitch and the first page. If I’m completely turned off, I decline. This happens quite often if the writing just feels weak or undisciplined. In those I do read, I often find that a shaky opening is followed by something much better, but for those I’ve aready declined, their subsequent pages will never be seen – not by me, anyway. Interesting, though, how decent writing leaps off the page, regardless of genre.
Last week This week
My book rating: 1298 1096 10641
Bookshelves I’m on 1 4 5
Watchlists I’m on: 9 8
Comments in (reads): 8 10
Comments out: 4 5
Hours spent: 10 too busy to count!
Nice to see The Water’s Edge rising in the ratings at last, and I’m grateful to everyone who has read and commented. Now, despite my best efforts, I am falling behind, with seven books on my watchlist all waiting to be read (i.e. the authors have already read mine!)
With my new set-up (all sorted now with a big screen for desktop work and lap-top for evening browsing) I can read from the comfort of my favourite armchair. Only the cat, ousted from his favourite place on my lap, disapproves.
Photo of family cat by family photographer.
Writing less than ever (a current life theme) seems to mean blogging less too. But at least I have come to a decision on where to go next with the writing – or rather where not to.
Basically it’s too soon to write novel 3 (which was in danger of foundering on the rocks of biography – no, that’s not what I mean to do). Nor do I have the mental space right now (blame the day job – I do) to embark on editing Ailsa.
But I have decided during this apparent lull in creativity to post The Water’s Edge on Authonomy, Harper Collins’ so called ‘alternative to the slush pile.’ Authonomy and other peer review sites are the subject of some controversy (here and here), and their unique selling point (a publisher may come by and snap you up) seems to be the least likely outcome. Bearing that in mind, I think it will do no harm to get some new feedback on the opening chapters .
But these sites are notoriously time-consuming. It’s already taken me several hours just to format the test and rewrite my pitch to the required 200 words. A couple more hours have been spent responding to a flurry of messages and working out which books I am prepared to read. (Only by reading other writers’ work am I likely to get reviewed and rated). It’s all a bit of a game, and having played it before on You Write On, I know what to expect, but what’s really bugging me right now are the technicalities of the site, particularly the difficulty of printing (what’s wrong with a print version of pages with text, or a pdf equivalent?) and the stupidly slow search function.
If I can get over these teething troubles, I’m looking forward to giving my first review of a book called ‘Something You Should Know’. Stand by for further updates, and in the fullness of time, a decision on whether this game is worth the candle.
I ran out of energy (and patience) some time ago with peer review sites. You Write On was fun for a while, but eventually I felt reviewed out – both as reviewer and reviewee. Since then I have given Authonomy (horrid name!) no more than a passing glance, and although there are other worthy contenders, I haven’t felt tempted. The latest to cross my radar is Completely Novel. This isn’t just a peer review site, but like Lulu (and now, controversially You Write On) C.N. also offers a self-publishing (i.e. print on demand) service.
In its favour, Completely Novel – if all claims are true – does not claw back any commission. It also offers the ability to review ‘unpublished’ works for those who haven’t yet committed to the POD offer. Its community elements, although still under development, have a good feel, and I like the way that conventional books are reviewed alongside those of the site’s own authors. Worth keeping an eye on, I think.
Meanwhile in my never-ending quest for conventional publication, I’ve booked my place at Winchester and requested interviews with two agents (including one who blogs here) and an author who has adult and children’s books to his name as well as historical T.V. documentaries. Should be interesting.