Thursday 7 June 2012

Writing Websites I'd Like To See

While there are a million websites, blogs and forums offering advice on writing, publishing and what to read, I feel there are some areas of the writing experience that are sorely underrepresented on the interwebs.

The following are some suggestion for anyone out there looking to start the next must-visit website for writers, but just can’t think of what to base it around.
We already have numerous critique sites where people put up chapters or short stories. What we need is a site where people can put up a couple of pages of story outline and then readers can identify weaknesses without having to read thousands of words .

Ch1. Mark meets Kevin at work. They don’t get on.
Ch2. Kevin accidentally kills Mark’s wife.
Ch3. The police arrest Mark...

That’s all it would take to give an idea of how the story develops.

What’s that? You don’t like outlines, they stifle your creativity? No worries, just finish your first draft and then reverse-engineer it into an outline. Everyone’s a winner.
There are, of course, various bits of software for you to design book covers. Most of them are very expensive and extremely complicated. I spend sixteen hours producing a cover for my WIP, which I should have been working on, and then when I render it everything moves out of place for some unknown reason.

Why not have a site where you can easily put together various pre-designed artistic elements into your perfect book jacket? Maybe you want to see what your horror book would look like designed for the Romance market. Press the button and your design changes to a pink, yellow and sky blue colour scheme.

I’m already wasting most of my life on the web, why not give me something I can pretend is work related?

X-Factor For Books
If they can create umpteen shows for karaoke singers, surely they can come up with one for writers.

The format is a no-brainer. Everyone who enters puts up a chapter of their book. People read and vote for a week, then the 50% with the lowest votes get dumped. The remaining contestants put up chapter two. The 50% who survive the vote put up chapter three etc. Eventually, we have a winner based on a popular vote. Reader’s have clearly stated an interest and still have more than half the book to read.

Wait, I hear you say. What will stop people using their twitter armies and FB friends to rig the voting system? Absolutely nothing! The potential for disaster is what will make this site a huge page-view success. Forget the writers, think of the advertising revenue!

If the Big Six aren’t already working on this idea, I’ll punch myself in the face.

The Original Plots Database
There are no new stories, as we all know, but there are variations on a theme. Why not collect them all in one place. Do it as a Wikipedia-style user-added entry system. Readers add the genre and what they consider the main plot points of whatever they’re reading. The writers can search for their approach to see how many matches there are.

You choose your genre, let’s say ‘Boy Meets Girl’ and then you enter your special twist: He’s already married.

Database says: 6 million matches.

Maybe that’s not the angle you want to take. Would save a lot of time.

Second Hand Ebook Store
You’ve read a book. Not likely to read it again, but there it is cluttering up your Kindle (other e-readers are available). Why not sell it on at a reduced price, or give it to your favourite charity’s website to sell?

We do it with regular books, why not with ebooks? 

I can’t envision anyone having a problem with this idea. No one at all. Why would they? More books out there being read. Who could possibly take issue with that?
If any of these sites already exist, please let me know.

Do you have any ideas for writers’ websites that aren’t out there yet?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The database one would be funny. Or depressing!

Daisy Carter said...

A few bloggers and agents recently got together for The Writers Voice contest. It only ran for a month, but it was very successful (already match ups being announced). I bet they run it annually, at least.

Ted Cross said...

Heh! America's Most Read. That would be kind of fun.

Althea said...

They are some very good ideas, particularly the Original Plots Database! :) x

Jenna Cooper said...

I've been thinking the same thing about why every profession has a show except for writers. That contest would be a cool idea.

Yesenia Vargas said...

Love these ideas! Especially the X Factor and Book Covers.

Nicole Pyles said...

Oh the e-book think MIGHT exist. It's called...hang on while I google it to be sure...okay here it is:

And you basically offer up books that you are done with and in return you can borrow others that people can fling.

The x-factor for books may not exist completely but I have heard of a couple of sites similar to that.

First - (you can post short stories on here and people can critique them and even some can be "voted" up or something like that).

The other - is run by HarperCollins and supposedly they also publish the more popular books that are posted on the site. (I have not used this, but I've heard of it).

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Ha! I can see us all wasting countless hours on that book cover website.

McKenzie McCann said...

"I'll punch myself in the face."

I shouldn't have, but I chuckled when I read that. No, I bet you're right. They probably are working on something like that. ABNA sort of works like that.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I've not used the critique sites you've mentioned - is it not possible to post outlines there? My critique group routinely posts outlines for review before writing the novel.

mooderino said...

@Alex-might even be useful.

@Daisy-Hadn't heard of that one (late to the party as usual). Will keep an eye out for it in future.

@Ted-Book Idol!

@Althea-Well, I don't know about good. They're certainly ideas.

@Jenna-I would assume the effort required to read so much bad writing is what puts people off.

mooderino said...


@Nicole-not sure how zoetrope works, but the problem with Authonomy is that it's terrible. Easy to game the system. And they never publish any of the books, just give them very blandly encoraging 'critiques' from lowly editors. Awful.

@KarenG-if only I knew how to build a website, I'd be dangerous.

@MCKenzie-I think ABNA relies too much on a small group of readers to choose books to go through. Their reports tend to be all over the place.

@Ciara-you can but there would need to be more of a concerted effort to get people to post them I think. Writers get very nervous putting up their whole idea for people to see, and they shouldn't be.

LD Masterson said...

I think the Outline idea could be quite useful. But I'd spend hours...days...playing on the bookcovers site. Someone needs to invent that now.

Tara Tyler said...

love these ideas! i am actually going to do a series of simple book cover how to's this summer...just for fun

mooderino said...

@LD - Moody Zuckerberg at your service.

@tara - consider me there.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

The book cover site does exist. Or did. I'm not sure which, but I know I've seen it. Alternatively, folk post their covers on the Kindle Boards for feedback.

As for selling e-books, it's actually quite frowned upon and considered akin to piracy, mostly because it is so easy to copy an e-book and share it. Authors can lose thousands in royalties just from one good-natured attempt to share a book with their ten best friends.

Rachna Chhabria said...

You have some great ideas Mooderino. I like the one for selling e-books.

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

You made my day with these suggestions. Some ideas would definitely work. I look forward to a site for book cover designs.

Jason Runnels said...

Great post! I agree, while there is always more to learn about writing, most of the online resources rehash most of the same info and advice.

I have found there to be similar gaps even within my local in-person writing community. At one end of the spectrum you have numerous groups focused on getting together for the act of creation. Working on your WIP or writing to a prompt. At the other end of the spectrum are groups who meet for hard-core critiques.

There is nothing in between.

I started a small group similar to your first suggestion. It's sort of like a beta reader group to flesh out ideas before they are fully formulated. I like the idea to minimize reading of everybody's work.

It would be great if more on-line sites sprung up like this. So you're starting a petition, Moody?

Sandra Tyler said...

good points. from a writer who just started up, a writing workshop hop. One more.

mooderino said...

@susan - you'd have to share a lot of books to cost someone thousands in royalties.

@Rachna - I expect that one would be the least likely to succeed.

@Gail - thanks, me too.

@Jason - not really sure where I'd send the petition too.

@sandra - what would a workshop hop entail?

Missy Frye said...

I've nominated your blog for the Sunshine Award: Congratulations and thanks for providing interesting and useful information for writers.

MKHutchins said...

As for the database of plot ideas, there's this place called TV Tropes (it does books, movies, etc. too). Though I should give the standard disclaimer that TV Tropes can suck time like nothing else.

As for the X-factor thing, I'm not sure, but isn't that similar to how the Amazon breakout novel contest goes?

Shannon Lawrence said...

Now, if you want to do the X-Factor show, you'd have to get celebrities to read the chapters so people could listen. Expecting people to read for themselves...gasp! Oh, wait...

Shannon at The Warrior Muse, road tripping through the #atozchallenge participants!

cleemckenzie said...

I'm partial to the book cover idea. First, I'm a real sucker for the visual. A good cover lures me in really fast, and being able to "play" with ideas would be fantastic.

Look forward to seeing what you decide to do.

Make Your English Work said...

Funny and insightful. You may not want to promise to punch yourself in the face though. I also believe that the ebook idea exists, with the "secondhand" books shared free of cost :)

mooderino said...

@Missy - thank you!

@MK - TV Tropes isn't really searchable in that way. ABNA is not based on a popular vote.

@Shannon - JK Rowling as teh Simon Cowell figure?

@CLee - I'm pretty sure I could waste a lot of time messing about with book covers.

@Make-what's the site called?

Unknown said...

What a GREAT idea! Especially the original plots idea. How fantasic it would be to learn the plot of your next best thing had 6 million matches before you write the book. Funny clip art too!

Ms. Wilson said...

I've thought about the X-Factor idea. It's the same reason prose writers don't enter talent contests at school. It's just not as entertaining to watch as singing or dancing or even painting. Even the training and practice for a singing show can be recorded for some entertainment value, but what are they going to do for writers? Film them typing away at a computer? I hate it, but that's the way our society is...

I could see poets getting some recognition because they're quick, easy reads, but not prose writers.

Anonymous said...

this just gave me a brilliant Idea

Judy Pokras said...

Loved reading all of the ideas. Thanks! I'm especially interested in the book cover one, as I'm having a hard time figuring out how to add a spine and vertical text to it for an e-book cover, in Adobe InDesign, and it's holding up my e-book. I also love the database one. It would be a great thing for non-writing readers, too. Sometimes you feel like reading a novel about [fill in the blank] storyline, but don't know which ones fit the bill.

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