As I think I mentioned in an earlier blog, a few months ago I joined a review site for writers. The idea is that you post the first few chapters (6000-10000 words) of your novel and other writers on the site (mostly unpublished) review them. They give you a score out of 5 on each of 8 categories. On the basis of those scores, you go into a chart. The Top 5 each month (those there on the first day of the month) get a professional review from a published writer (Michael Legat features fairly regularly). For the past five months a publishing company have also been giving reviews to the Top Ten, so competition has been fierce.
I originally put up the first three chapters of my fantasy novel. It did reasonably well at first, staying in the top 20 for quite a while. But then one particular review wrecked my average and I couldn’t get it back again. In the end I took it down. I also posted the first four chapters of my children’s novel. It came into the charts at No.11 but went down from there. Again, one particular review (from the same man!) wrecked my average and I sank to 19 or 20. I began to feel very despondent and questioned my ability as a writer (whilst feeling very unchristian towards that one man who insisted on giving me 3/5 for everything).
In a last ditch effort, I rewrote the first chapters of my children’s novel and reposted it. You have to have five reviews before you can get into the Top Ten and I waited ages for that fifth review. The chapters came in at No 11 again. But this time I knew, from something someone had said, that I had the same average as at least one person in the Top Ten. Unfortunately you can’t enter the Top Ten in the last week of the month, so I had to sit there on No.11 until August 2nd. I expected to maybe get to number 8 or 9, then fade out. So it was a bit of a shock to find myself at No 1!
It’s a fickle game. The scores are controlled by standard deviations, something I’ve never understood. I do know that the person who gave me nearly all 2s made no difference to my overall scores because everyone else has given 4s and 5s, but if Mr Threeforeverything gets hold of it again, it will sink fast. The different categories are weighted too, so what you get for each makes a difference. I’ve been up and down between first and fourth since then, even though I’ve not changed overall score.
Am I exultant, ecstatic, excited? In a word - no. I was for a little while, but not now. Oh, it is nice to have got there (albeit at the wrong time for the professional review), but I’m not counting on it making any difference to my future. The best thing I’ve got out of it is that I’ve finally got a version of those early chapters that actually works - for me. It feels right. The first version was way too slow, the second draft too confusing. Now I think I have something I could actually send to an agent…with just a little more polishing. For the first time in months I feel motivated to get something done.
Now where was that wireless switch again?