WriteOn Right On?

So I’ve been playing around on Amazon’s “WriteOn” this week (thanks Andrea!) and here’s my first blush opinion: It has the same feel as software projects I’ve worked on in which graphic artists are put in charge of design. Graphic artists are great. I know some graphic artists who are wonderful, sweet people, and they make things shiny and beautiful. But that’s not what software is about, it’s about getting work done, and confusing “functional” for “pretty” is a costly, usually fatal design mistake.

WriteOn is an online critique site, but it doesn’t call itself a critique site. It calls itself a “story lab,” which is not what you call yourself if you are trying to serve people who know what things are called in this business–which is clue #1 that something isn’t quite tuned correctly in the old whatthehellometer. The site itself is pretty, and pretty odd. The main menu looks like a storefront, with lots of “covers” which I initially confused for Amazon advertising, but no, these are (randomly selected?) story posts presented as if they were published works. This is clue #2 than something wicked might this way may just be a coming.

A critique site is where WRITERS go to get and give feedback on WRITING and the business of WRITING. Writers work in standard manuscript format–occasionally with some accommodation to online presentation. IF a work makes it to publication, IF the author is self-publishing, he or she MIGHT become involved in cover design. But at this stage, presentation is (or should be) far from a writer’s mind. Which is clue #3, and a very big clue indeed, that you got trouble, my friend, trouble I say, right here in River City.

WriteOn offers a simple little wizard that allows–nay, REQUIRES–you to create “covers” for your uploaded works. The uploaded works, themselves, are presented in a virtual reader designed to look something like a printed book or e-reader. Why? There are only two possible reasons. Either the creators of WriteOn don’t know that real writers deal in raw words and mostly find all this presentation stuff a distraction and waste of critically valuable time, or they are trying to feed the publication fantasies of the unwashed masses.

If the former is the case, it’s a bit annoying. Since these covers exist, making them attractive becomes a critical, time-consuming, unproductive step in attracting critiques. That’s annoying, but critiques are so valuable, we’ll go along with it if the feedback is worth it. But if the later is true, then that’s unlikely.

We’ll see. WriteOn may turn out to be the greatest thing since sliced Linotype, or it may be a fool’s errand. Time will tell. In the meantime, here is my first cover: