I have recently joined an online organisation called Writing.com, or WdC as its members like to call it. I write a fair bit; I would admit mostly self-indulgent drivel, and my ratio of draft/published is about 60:40. I just thought that this might be a way to get some of my talented output in front of an audience. I’ve now found myself so intrigued by the workings of this site that I’ve taken on a serious case of writer’s awkwardness and stopped producing any work.
The ‘sponsor’ of the site is a company that somehow promotes self-publishing. I haven’t gone into this, so I can’t say how they make their margins. I do know that the odds are pretty well stacked against any one who aspires to be a published author. You are up against tens of thousands of people just like you, similarly scribbling away in the small hours. You may have the right looks, a popular genre, be presentable to the chattering classes, yet still find the smart money goes to a footballer with brains in his feet. It is a tough racket.
So self-publishing is an option. Through a company beginning with A, you can get yourself on a device that starts with K, and earn mere pence per download – it’s not a living, but it’s undoubtedly gratifying to the ego. I’m sure there are other organisations that allow you to publish online, though they must gain their revenue via some mechanism. If it floats your boat – go for it. Don’t expect altruism and you can then always be pleasantly surprised if you find it.
Back to WdC. It is presented as a writing community, where people are supported in their writing and encouraged to take part in activities such as reviewing their fellow authors works. All very egalitarian.
For your first month you are a ‘newbie’. Yes, it is a US site. The nomenclature and grammar reflect this, but we Brits are used to this by now. We have long since learned to accept that despite living in or close to England, we actually speak British. The US speaks English. Go figure. American is what the rest of the world speaks, presumably. At least you aren’t called a ‘rookie’. Anyway, newbies are paraded and given special means to have their work reviewed.
If I made one tentative suggestion at this stage, it would be that they change the name of the site to Reviewing.com. This is what most people seem to do, and you get accolades for nicely formatted reviews. Niceness is encouraged. So is honesty, which can sometimes make niceness hard to achieve. I know a good piece of writing when I see one, but I haven’t got the killer instinct of the critic, so when it comes (again and again) to reviewing works involving blind faith, or fairies, or dragons, or vampires (you get the picture), I find myself moving swiftly away and pretending that I haven’t seen it.
After graduating from Newbiedom, you drop off a cliff. I’m a natural born sociopath, so I haven’t yet figured how to claw my way back to the light. As with all good networks, there is a number after your nom de plume, which denotes how many ‘community recognitions’ you have. You get community recognition for contributing and taking part. Sweet! The theory is that if you write a lot and review a lot then you get recognised and your rewards push you up the tree towards enlightenment.
That makes sense until you meet up with a Newbie with just 3 pieces of work and umpteen recognitions, or find that the Support person has 178 of the things just for fulfilling a role, and you realise that you are entering a popularity contest where the right people get to bathe in showers of rose petals. I’m too much of a rebel for that and I’ll always be perversely happy with my single recognition.
I have read some fantastic work, but I would doubt that this site is going to throw out many authors of the calibre of say, Philip Pullman or Neil Gaiman. I recall one contributor describing the best-selling multi-millionaire J K Rowling as ‘not a good writer’, which is about as far up ones own as one can get. True progress in writing is achieved by people who view the world askance, not by people desperate for friends and certainly not by those who can churn out 50,000 consecutive words in a single November.
All in my humble opinion obviously. I suspect I will be thrown out of the club eventually, or find people in sunglasses and dark suits following me in the streets.