A website called YouWriteOn.com was mentioned in the Times the other day, so I went over to have a look, despite the offputting title (what self-respecting writer would call a site that?).
The promise of the site is to help "new writers develop and talented writers get noticed and published". It is "sponsored" by the Arts Council, so I presume it is kosher, but it seems to be a sort of Connotea/Delicious for writers, rather than the writer’s X-factor (as the site claims) or anything else. The homepage says that you review and rate other members’ opening chapters, and then (upon completion of your task, preumably) your opening chapters are sent randomly to another new member to review and rate. The highest-rated chapters receive a "free critique from our literary professionals, who include established authors and a literary agent". The site says it will publish the highest rated book of the year — however, this book will be "available to order from Amazon, WHS, Waterstones" et al., which makes it sound to me like a print on demand operation rather than a conventionally published book. Seems like a lot of effort to go through for something you could do yourself anyway.
You can’t seem to do much without actually becoming a member, but there is plenty of information on the site, so it should be fairly easy to find out if it is really offering nascently publishable writers anything useful, or not.
In looking for YouWriteOn (ugh), I mistyped the url I had jotted down from the Times and arrived instead at YouWrite.com, a completely different site. YouWrite is not yet operational, but will be an exercise in global writing: "Welcome to YouWrite.com, an exciting new concept for people interested in reading books and in writing them. With YouWrite.com you will soon be able to join people from all around the world to write a book together. We will start the story and then you take over. Alternatively, if you have a great idea then submit it to us and we may choose your contribution as a starting point."
At this stage, you can’t find out much, but you can register and they will email you when they get to the next phase. This activity (group writing) is as old as the hills; my children do it at school sometimes, though via pen and paper, not on the web. There must be other websites around that are doing this kind of thing, but somehow I can’t imagine putting the proposed output very high on my reading list.
What is it with these websites and running together words with captial letters in them?
(Spell-check suggestion of the day: "worried" for "YouWrite".)