I have never been much of a ‘joiner’. I lasted about two months in the cubs, much to my parents’ chagrin after having bought all the kit. A couple of months ago I joined HarperCollins Authonomy website and put one of my novels ‘Playpits Park’ up on it. It got some excellent reviews, and advanced from 6,000th place to 230th. The aim is to end up on the ‘Editors Desk’ but with no guarantee of getting published (fair enough – especially when you learn that the fastest way to get there is to spam other contributing authors). Rather like the cubs, it was not for me. Two days ago I zapped the lot.
With the cubs it was too much ‘dib-dib-dib’ and woggles. With Authonomy it was too much ‘I am close to the top, so if you back me then I’ll back you’. I also found that my writing output (my new novel and also this blog) dropped close to zero. Stephen King is right. In his 2002 book On Writing, which I have only just read – shame on me – I was reminded that I should be writing for myself, not writing for others. Leaving Autonomy reminds me of George Melly’s remark that it was like being unchained from a lunatic*.
Spending so many hours on the site reading budding authors’ works (a few good, some bad and some extremely bad) has made me sympathetic towards agents and publishing staff whose daily task is to plough their way through the slush pile. In the last couple of months I have read the first pages and chapters of several hundred novels and commented on many. In the end I simply switched off.
*Though he was talking about something entirely different, and apparently Sophocles said it first (I’m no classics scholar – I Googled the Melly quote, just as you are about to do…)